Simplify your life before busy season

By Hugh Duffy, MBA

You don't want to wait until you're in the thick of tax season to think about how you can simplify everything. You want to be prepared ahead of time and take the time to simplify your life to improve your productivity and provide some peace of mind.

If you want to reduce the stress in your life, you need to simplify your office environment and home life. Yes, simplify both worlds for peak performance.

How to simplify your office life

  • Process all of your clients the same way each time. A really good business uses a "cookie-cutter approach" for processing clients and executes this flawlessly. While this might sound impersonal, you cannot customize things for each and every client. Yes, some will get small portions that are customized for their particular situation, but most get a standard, one-size-fits-all production process. As Henry Ford used to say, "They can have any color they want as long as it's black."
  • Plan your day the night before. Your day should be planned the night before. This eliminates wasted time in the morning used to prepare your day.
  • Declutter your space. Get rid of stuff that's sitting around your office. File it, approve it or shred it.
  • Learn to pass on clients who don't meet your minimum expectations. Just say no to clients who do not fit your practice. They multiply like bunnies after you let them in.
  • Don't sacrifice your hiring standards. A bad hire can make your entire office miserable. Pay at, or above, the market and treat proven employees well. And pick up a copy of the book written by Robert Sutton titled, "The No A----- Rule." He's a Stanford professor that illustrates the importance.
  • Delegate more. Delegate more of the work on your plate to your staff. More than likely, they can handle more than you think.
  • Stop wasting time on small tasks to save money. Start spending money to save time. Time is your most precious resource, especially during busy season.
  • There's no such thing as perfection. While we all strive to do our very best, we need to make a conscious choice about doing what's "good enough." That's right, move towards doing things that are fundamentally right rather than perfect.

How to simplify your home life

  • Let go of an activity or commitment. Step back and look at all of your commitments in your life. Let one go that is consuming too much time and not critical to your life.
  • Turn off the TV. We all waste too much time in front of the tube. Establish a budget of how many hours per week is acceptable and stay beneath the hourly amount. This will free up time to do much more important stuff in your life. You will feel relieved and get more done.
  • Learn to say no. Learn to say no, especially during busy season.
  • Get rid of stuff. Stop collecting stuff along the way. If you haven't worn an article of clothing in a year, toss it or donate it. If an item is broken and hasn't been repaired by now, pitch it or get it fixed this weekend.
  • Cancel a couple of subscriptions. If some magazines are not getting read, do not renew them. If your regular phone line at home is not necessary because you have a cell phone with decent reception, cancel it.
  • Do something spontaneous. Do something that's out of character for yourself. It doesn't have to be an item on the bucket list, but it should be a treat for someone close to you. Put some extra thought into it so it's memorable.
  • Schedule a vacation. Make the commitment now to schedule that vacation. Delegate if need be, but commit now.
  • Live beneath your means. If you want to achieve economic independence, learn to live beneath your means. Reduce your credit card debt and avoid buying a new car. Remember that most of America's self-made millionaires are frugal.
  • Go to bed early. The vast majority of adults do not get enough sleep each night. Make a plan to hit the hay at the same time each night and get up early each day. You'll be surprised how much better you'll feel by getting a quick start to each day.

Stop working so hard to make a living, and start savoring life's precious moments. It's not as hard as you think.

Hugh Duffy, MBA is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Build Your Firm Inc., a website development and marketing company for accounting firms. With more than 30 years of marketing experience, he has been coaching accountants on how to improve their marketing and make more money from their accounting practice since 2003. Find him at www.buildyourfirm.com.