6 ways to tackle the productivity challenge
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6 ways to tackle the productivity challenge

23 days ago · 3 min read · AICPA Insights Blog

Those who would most benefit from proven time management techniques hardly have time to research the topic. Many CPAs likely fit into this category, especially during busy season when you have multiple competing priorities.

There seems to be an endless supply of productivity hacks promising to ward off procrastination and restore balance to busy lives. While some of these techniques can be life-changing, how do you choose the best one for you?

Here are six different scenarios and a time management technique that may help in each situation:

Scenario: You are at risk of burning out

If you’re the type of person who will force yourself to power through a project to the point where you forget to eat lunch or take a bathroom break, you might benefit from trying the Pomodoro Technique.

This technique involves setting a timer for a pre-determined chunk of time (say 25 minutes) and focusing on the task at hand until the timer goes off. At that point, you would take a short break of 3–5 minutes. After completing four intervals, take a longer break of around 20–30 minutes.

The idea behind this method is that it motivates you to resist distractions and get as much done as possible during those 25 minutes. And by forcing yourself to take regular breaks, you can allow your brain time to rest and reset, helping prevent burnout.

Scenario: You need to focus on the urgent and important things

Nearly everyone wastes some time each week performing tasks they could have either delegated or avoided entirely.

The Eisenhower Matrix is a four-square quadrant with urgent and important tasks listed in the top left square, important non-urgent tasks in the top right, unimportant urgent tasks in the bottom left, and unimportant non-urgent tasks in the bottom right.

Assign each of your tasks to one of the four quadrants. Focus on the urgent, important tasks first, then work on the important non-urgent ones.

See whether you can delegate the unimportant urgent tasks and consider eliminating the unimportant non-urgent activities.

Scenario: You’re juggling several competing priorities

This scenario likely applies to everyone, but especially working parents, students, and teachers. How do you prioritize your work when every task seems important?

If you’re juggling competing priorities, consider trying the time-blocking method. This time management technique involves assigning blocks of time throughout your day to each thing you want to get done, which includes personal and professional priorities, such as going to the gym, playing with your kids, and completing CPE.

Make sure you’re leaving buffer time between each block to allow for flexibility.

Scenario: Your tasks are vague or unwieldy

One reason people procrastinate is because they’re overwhelmed by large, ambiguous projects with no clear starting point.

The Getting Things Done (GTD) Method, created by author Dave Allen, is a time management technique that involves taking vague or unwieldy goals and breaking them into actionable steps.

This five-step method suggests starting by capturing all the disparate priorities and ideas darting around your head and putting them on paper. Once everything is down on paper, organize items into categories such as one-off tasks and projects, break unactionable items into doable steps, engage with the actionable steps, and regularly review and update your list.

Scenario: You lack purpose or inspiration

Another common reason for procrastination is a lack of motivation. If you don’t see a point in completing a task, why bother doing it?

The Rapid Planning Method (RPM), created by Tony Robbins, is similar to the GTD Method in that it involves capturing and organizing tasks. The main difference is that the rapid planning method suggests pinpointing the purpose and desired result of each task on your list.

Once you have figured out your “why” for each task it should be easier to find the motivation to do it.

Scenario: You have a dreaded task that hangs over your day

Motivational speaker Brian Tracy claims that Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

This quote is the basis of the “Eat the Frog” technique, which involves getting your most dreaded task out of the way first thing in the morning. For this method, start by writing your to-do list for the day. Select the hardest but most important task and focus on finishing it right away. Once that’s done, your day should be a breeze!

If you’re a CPA who feels there isn’t enough time in the day, you’ll want to try CPExpress. For 20 years, CPExpress has been a comprehensive and convenient source of CPE for accounting and finance professionals. Content is updated regularly and is available in a short-duration format, covering essential accounting topics, such as tax, assurance, ethics, employee benefit plans, not-for-profit, fraud, and forensics.

Hannah Pitstick

Hannah Pitstick is a content writer at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, representing AICPA & CIMA.

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