Time – no matter what you do, it seems like there’s never enough of it. Fortunately, there are small things that you can do to make the most of your time and improve the efficiency of your accounting department. Here are six of our best pointers to help accountants save time and be more productive.
1. Set agendas for meetings and stay on task
According to a recent study, 45% of employees say that meetings get off track because of side discussions about other projects.
In every meeting invite, include a high-level overview of the outcome of the meeting (e.g., Streamline processes for gathering budget data from each department). This ensures that everyone attending arrives prepared and stays on task.
It’s also a good idea to create a schedule for your meetings. This is especially important when attendees are expected to present information. Giving them a time frame will keep them from wandering off topic.
When the right intentions are set and communicated before the meeting, you’ll find that your meetings are more meaningful.
2. Find ways to reduce interruptions
Interruptions are a major drain on productivity. A productivity researcher found that we lose up to 28 billion hours each year due to interruptions, at a cost of $1 trillion to the US economy. There are steps you can take to minimize interruptions in your workday. Here are three that may help:
Make your accounting software accessible to your auditors
One of the most time-consuming aspects of the auditing process is responding to requests for information. Digging through files to find a document that you feel like you’ve already provided is a pain in the neck.
Give your auditors access to your business’s accounting software. If they can pull their own reports and access data themselves, then they won’t need to ask you.
Check your accounting systems on a regular basis
Another way to minimize interruptions is to check your accounting systems proactively. We advise that you check your general ledger at least weekly, and your specialty accounting software tools (such as LeaseQuery) at least every other week.
This will reduce the odds that you’ll find unexpected changes, like new information entered by your colleagues or updates made to the software, when you’re in the middle of other tasks.
Use your calendar to your advantage
Do you find yourself checking email in the middle of projects? Do you regularly have one-off conversations with certain colleagues? Do yourself a favor and schedule time for those tasks. If they’re blocked out on your calendar, you’ll be less likely to interrupt yourself because you have a planned day and time to address them.
3. Learn from your cyber security training sessions and take them seriously
Anyone who’s had a hands-on experience with ransomware can tell you that you won’t be very productive with a compromised computer. Additionally, human error is still one of the biggest causes of ransomware attacks, data breaches, and other similar threats. That means that your cyber security training and awareness sessions are not just something that you have to get through in order to make your IT department happy. According to Curricula, a provider of cyber security training software, they are your organization’s most effective protection against ransomware attacks.
Learn from your training sessions and take the lessons to heart by taking precautions when opening emails and visiting unfamiliar websites. It will save you time in the long run. In the case that a ransomware attack does occur, your IT department will have to get involved and you may even lose important documents that haven’t been backed up. Imagine losing all of those Excel spreadsheets you’ve been preparing.
4. Take (Excel) shortcuts
As an accountant, Microsoft Excel is one of your most valuable software resources. Most of us have go-to shortcuts that make using Excel easier. Here are our top ten favorites:
Ctrl + ; (semicolon) to insert today’s date
F2 to edit the selected cell
Ctrl + Backspace to show the active cell on a worksheet
Alt + Enter to add a new line to a cell
Ctrl + End to go to the last cell of a document
Ctrl + PageDn and Ctrl + PageUp to switch between workbooks to the right and left respectively
Right-click + D to delete a row or column
Ctrl + Arrow Keys to skip to the end of a row or column
Ctrl + Shift + Arrow Keys to skip to the end of a row or column while selecting all cells
After copying and pasting cells with formulas, tap Ctrl, then Shift + V to paste all cells as values
Bonus: If you close a tab that you meant to leave open (like one of our awesome blogs), use Ctrl + Shift + T to reopen your last tab. This works in any browser!
Journal of Accountancy has a few more shortcuts that we like to use in this article.
5. Pay attention to ergonomics
Workplace safety is often associated with blue collar jobs. But accountants spend a lot of time sitting, often hunched over their keyboard staring at screens. Everything from screen height to the way your chair is built can impact your health, especially during the long days (and nights) of the busy season.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders (such as carpal tunnel, muscle strains, and low back injuries) account for 32% of “days away from work” cases in the private sector.
That means nearly one-third of workplace injury cases that require time away from work are completely preventable. Ergonomic keyboards, chairs, and monitor risers are widely available and worth the investment. Regularly checking your posture and taking periodic stretch breaks will also help.
6. Be ready for the new lease accounting standard
For non-public entities, the compliance deadline for the new FASB lease standard is quickly approaching. The more time you give yourself, the smoother your transition will go.
Allow for ample time to build your lease inventory, determine your internal policies, and evaluate lease accounting software. You’ll be glad you did come January 2020.
You may already be looking at lease accounting software options as a way to ease the transition to the new standards. Or, you may just want to lighten the load of managing and accounting for leases in Excel. If either is true, download our free software comparison guide. It provides all the information you need to navigate software demos with confidence and ask the right questions.