This article was first published in the August 2018 edition of Student Accountant magazine.
It’s all about planning, according to James Brent, business director at Hays Accountancy & Finance.
‘Randomly starting tasks here and there can lead to confusion and longer working hours, so before you leave work for the evening, assess your outstanding tasks and plan for the next day,’ he says. ‘It can take just 10 minutes to list what you need to do and then order them from the top priority to the lowest.’
And, as Brent also points out, planning ahead like this can also help you take your mind off work for the evening and you’ll be able to get to work without delay when you return the next morning.
Expectatons and deadlines
For Thomas Jepson, manager, tax at Grant Thornton UK, productivity is all about managing expectations and deadlines confidently, especially in your formative years.
‘Your managers are effectively your clients and, in order to make a positive impression, you need to perform to the best of your ability,’ he says.
But some new starters often feel that they cannot ask the all-important question of ‘when do you need this done by?’ However, Jepson argues that it is a vital question to ask, as it is vital for others to be aware of your workload.
It’s important that ‘ASAP’ should only be a response accepted under certain circumstances. ‘If there is more than one ASAP on your list, you should check what to prioritise with your manager or see if work can be reallocated,’ says Jepson.
Whatever else you do, don’t confuse being busy with being productive, says Rob Sowerby, director of professional courses at the London School of Business and Finance. One way to avoid falling into this trap is by establishing exactly what your role is, he advises.
‘Create an outline and learn it in more detail. There will be routine work and ad hoc work, and by plugging in the routine to a calendar you can see what time you have to deal with other tasks that come across your desk.’
As you grow in your role, you should have a clear understanding of how each task should be handled and the most efficient way to reach the end result.
‘Don’t be afraid to question why a task is done if you feel there are unnecessary steps,’ adds Sowerby. ‘There may be clear reasons why it is done the way it is but, at the same time, it may simply be due to the lack of thought by your predecessor in the role.’
As more complex tasks start getting assigned to you, you may be left wondering where to start, which can lead you to procrastinating.
Break it up
‘Break these into smaller, easier-to-handle steps that make it simpler to keep track of your progress and give you a sense of accomplishment when you complete each milestone,’ says James Brent, business director at Hays Accountancy & Finance.
And finally, don’t try and do everything yourself, says Beat Buhlmann, general manager at Evernote.
‘Being productive involves utilising all the resources you can to your advantage and working as part of a team means you don't have to do everything yourself,’ he says.