It’s a stressful time of year for accountants, auditors, and tax professionals – and staying focused on everything is far more easily said than done.
But getting through the season is vital, and the only way to do it is to keep on task. Read on and we’ll take you through our experts’ seven top tips for staying focused that actually make a difference.
1. Work with your brain
Everyone’s brains are different, and that includes when they’re at their most productive. The trick is figuring out what time of day you’re best able to concentrate – perhaps mid-morning, or right after lunch – and work around that.
Save any boring admin or repetitive work for when your brain is working slower. Maybe the mid-afternoon slump.
2. Stick to your schedule
Resist the temptation to burn the midnight oil. Fix your schedule, and stick to it. That means keeping set hours, leaving home at home and work at work, and taking your full lunch break away from your desk.
This way, you can truly switch your ‘work brain’ on and off again. It allows you to get in the right frame of mind and focus better – and you have time to relax and come back refreshed, avoiding burnout.
3. Switch off notifications – for now
You know it works. Get rid of those distracting notifications. Shut down Outlook, switch off your phone’s 4G, close those browser tabs.
But at the same time, there’s no need to turn everything off permanently – especially if you have important emails and client communications to keep on top of.
Instead, experts reckon it’s better to schedule specific ‘dealing with notifications’ time into your day. It could be a solid block of time after lunch to handle emails, or a quick check every half hour. The rest of the time, switch it all off so you can focus.
4. Double-screen it
Give your IT department a shout, because the more screens your computer has, the more productive you can be. In fact, the Journal of Accountancy has proved it.
Tabbing between windows over and over is a massive time-suck, not to mention simply inconvenient and annoying. Having multiple things open on that extra screen real estate, on the other hand, lets you refer to more things at once – making life much easier.
5. Make your to-do list at the end of the day
We all know the power of starting the day with a good to-do list. And the sheer joy of getting to tick things off it.
But many of us are discovering that creating an exit list at the end of the day is just as helpful. Jot down where you’re at with your projects, what you need to do next, and your priorities for the next day.
This way, you purge your mind of all the ‘work thoughts’ hanging around. You can go home and switch off, knowing that everything you need is written down – and can plunge right into your work again in the morning.
6. Stay healthy
It’s an obvious one, but far too easy to neglect: the best way to stay productive and focused is of course to keep healthy.
In the office, that could be as simple as going for a walk at lunchtime, or snacking on fruit instead of biscuits. At the very least you’ll avoid a sugar crash.
7. Keep the whole team motivated too
You’re not the only one struggling to focus – believe me. If you have a team to manage, they’re likely having a tough time too.
But a happy team is a productive one, and as their leader you’re able to make a difference to morale. Anything helps, from openly acknowledging hard work, to bringing in some treats for everyone (or a fruit basket, if you’re heeding number six above).
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