The Top 12 Time Management Strategies for Tax Season
Tax season brings opportunities for financial advisors and their clients. It also brings a tremendous time crunch. Between helping clients navigate upcoming life changes like retirement or empty nesting, calculating how recent legislation affects their finances, reviewing retirement account withdrawal strategies, or weighing the tax implications of selling property, realizing gains, or withdrawing from a traditional IRA or 401(k), tax season unearths critical questions. Although financial advisors address many of these issues year-round, the January - April time crunch can be especially hectic.
It doesn’t have to be. If you want to know how to be a better financial advisor by optimizing your time, start here.
How to Manage Time Well: Take Control of Your Schedule
With a few powerful time management strategies for financial advisors, you can better serve your clients needs by using your time more efficiently and effectively. Here are our top twelve for tax season 2022:
- Be smart about what you take on
- Make a list
- Schedule it
- Use Sundays for Scheduling
- Manage Each Task's Time
- Take it one thing at a time
- Delete distractions
- Build and breaks and rewards
- Practice self care
- Be intentional
Be Smart About What You Take On
The best way to protect your time is to prioritize what’s important—and know when to say no. You can acknowledge requests and give yourself time to check your overall objectives and your schedule to ascertain if added work will be helpful during this time or cause unnecessary stress. Don’t be afraid to say no if the task does not align with your priorities.
Make a List
The act of putting a task in writing (or on an audio recording) relieves your brain from the constant burden of remembering. When you construct a list of to-do’s, you can also see all tasks for the day, week, month, and more, and you can prioritize the most important. When you write a list, you have about a 40 to 50 percent chance of getting it done.
If you schedule the listed items, your chance bumps up to around 70 percent. Whether you use paper or a mobile app, you can review the list as you move through the tasks because they will change and you’ll likely be adding more. Build in re-energizing breaks to keep yourself more productive. Create the next day's list the night before so you can start the day ready to accomplish something.
Use Sundays for Scheduling
Better yet, since it kicks off the work week, take the time on Sunday to assess the upcoming week by considering your workload and energy. Plan lower energy tasks for lower energy times and higher energy tasks for higher energy times. View the week as a whole and set aside time for heads-down work, meetings, and even breaks.
Eat the Frog! As Mark Twain tells us, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” If you complete your most challenging project first, you’ll be motivated to do the others too.
Manage Each Task’s Time
Our belongings often fill up the space that we have. According to Parkinson’s law, tasks often fill the entire time we allot for them. By setting strict timelines and monitoring them, you’ll know if your tasks are taking longer than anticipated. Consider a productivity app like Clockify to track your time so you can see where you spend it and make smart adjustments. Schedule meetings back to back (with a small refreshing break) since that time is often wasted checking email or other menial tasks. Spend it taking a brisk walk through the hall or taking some deep breaths to regroup.
Take it One Thing at a Time
Studies have proven that the human brain is not built for multitasking, unless it's pairing a thoughtful task with a mindless one like talking on the phone while cleaning up your desk. Unlike a computer, the brain cannot perform two cognitive functions simultaneously. This doesn’t stop us from trying, but it makes us far less productive and mistake-prone. By focusing completely on one task at a time, you’re more efficient AND effective.
Notifications for email, communication apps, social media, and phone calls can be a constant disruption. Studies show that on average it takes about 25 minutes to return to the task at hand after a distraction and you usually have only eleven minutes to work between distractions. There’s an easy fix. Turn it all off while you’re focused on a task. While you can’t ignore clients, you can get back to them in a timely fashion in order of priority as soon as you’re done.
Build in Breaks and Rewards
For a number of reasons, breaks are important to your physical health. Look away from a computer for twenty seconds every 20 minutes to avoid eye fatigue. Get up from your chair every 45 minutes to an hour for the sake of your back and your overall health. These quick breaks will make you more productive in the long run and let you reward yourself for completing the more difficult tasks so you’re motivated to keep moving. Take a walk, have a snack, pet the dog. These renew you for better work.
Practice Self Care
It’s tempting to bulldoze your way through a hectic season, giving up sleep for “productivity.” As you know, the opposite happens. Stay well-rested, well-hydrated, well-fed, well-exercised, well-mentally and well—period. You don’t want a health issue to derail your work and make it even harder to keep up. It’s also important to avoid being “all work and no play.” Even though tax season is busy, you can enjoy your life outside of work at this time too. It’s a huge productivity boost.
You can’t do it all; the more you pile on, the more you’re asking for a health crisis or the inability to even complete your tasks. Turn to trusted team members to help spread out the work during this busy time. They’ll benefit by growing, and you and your clients will be happier.
Think about your greater goals in life. Recognize that this time is temporary and will soon pass. When you take a step back, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed and instead try to enjoy each task. Be mindful and grateful for the important work you’re doing, and it will be done well and on time!
While tax season is a critical time to apply these financial advisor time management strategies, they are also helpful throughout the year. Commit to any that seem helpful to you and you’ll not only be more productive, but you’ll have the time and energy to enjoy the process too.