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Firm Management

Do Your Best Time Management

While thinking about the time management theme of this issue, I believe my favorite quote about time was used by my Mum that, “We all have the same amount of time in the day, and we have the choice of how we use it.” While I know that’s not quite true ...

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From the March 2019 issue.

As we approach basketball’s March Madness, the quote, “If You Don’t Have Time to Do It Right, When Will You Have Time to Do It Over?” comes to mind. This quote belongs to Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden. Certainly, in the CPA profession, doing things right is part of the culture. If you haven’t thought about time in a while, consider one of the sixty-six quotes from this reference by many wise and well-known people. Other collections of time quotes are here and here.

While thinking about the time management theme of this issue, I believe my favorite quote about time was used by my Mum that, “We all have the same amount of time in the day, and we have the choice of how we use it.” While I know that’s not quite true because of the amount of sleep required by different people or having enough financial resources to have free or flexible time, the sentiment of making our own choices is the key. Many of us are frustrated by time management. Those of us who were lucky enough to learn techniques to manage time early in our lives and careers have benefited from learning so soon.

People frequently ask me how I get so much done in a day, and the answer for me is simple. Like Fred Rogers, I try to slow down to reflect on what is most important and focus every day on the most important things first, which to me are always people, particularly young people. Certainly, one of my biggest shortfalls is not saying “no” often enough, but whenever I say “yes” you can plan on it being so without a contract.

I reflected on sharing time management techniques with you in this column, but there are so many well-known professional resources, I concluded that was not a wise use of your time today. While I don’t agree with many of the most popular authors or experts in the time management arena for several reasons, I’m going to assume that you’re bringing your own style of time management to our conversation. And now it’s time for several other experts to disagree with me.

While I’m a proponent of value billing, I’m not a proponent of throwing away the time sheet. While keeping track of fractional hours isn’t a great use of professional time, knowing how you spend your time helps you understand the cost associated with an activity. Then you can reflect on the benefit and profit from that activity. I can readily look up the amount of time I’ve spent in reading and research, writing, speaking, consulting, travel, or with clients for the last 10+ years. These facts have helped me choose the things I do for both strategic and tactical reasons. For me, it is about doing the right thing all the time. While I don’t think this is a function of getting older, I can’t recall a time when I’ve seen the right thing done less than now. But I do have to remind myself that the right thing for me or my spouse or my children or my clients is not the same. Everyone decides their own “right thing.”

Finally, we choose where we invest our time. While people enjoy watching television, participating in sports, social media or many other activities, each one takes time. If you reflect on the time investment of one activity versus another, which is the best choice for you?

So, Should I Measure Time?

I leave the answer to that question up to you. For me, it is yes. Further, I prefer to keep a list of the most important things to do next and I need an easy way to manage multiple priorities. I’ve found that it is easier for me to review my main priorities multiple times per year. I sort the key items to the top daily. Major items are blocked on my calendar with an appropriate amount of time assigned to complete the task. I’ve gotten better through the years at estimating the right amount of time for a task, but every once in a while, I still make major errors in my estimates.

At other times I make errors in prioritizing items or choosing to do the wrong thing first, but with the daily review of the list, that doesn’t happen too often. While Exchange/Outlook can help with blocking the calendar, the Outlook task list is only marginally effective at keeping track of things that need done. While an “app” will rarely make you more effective, certain apps like Wunderlist, can certainly make keeping and prioritizing a list easier which is one of the best apps I’ve seen for this task. Other options include: Todist, Trello, Things, Google Keep, Omnifocus, Habitica, Remember the Milk, as well as Zoho Workerly, Slack, Microsoft OneNote or Evernote.

Remember in this area, less is more and for years, I simply used OneNote because it was one of first available and the integrations to the Microsoft Office suite proved valuable to me. Because most of us need to work with others to accomplish an engagement or project, coordination tools like Slack, Trello and other project management tools have become much more popular. Because of coordination with my Network Management Group, Inc. team, I keep my primary task list in a Professional Services Automation software tool called ConnectWise, which unfortunately won’t work for many of you. On the other hand, many of you choose to use Microsoft Office 365. With the maturing of Microsoft Teams, we are beginning to conclude that using Slack and other popular tools makes less sense.

In last month’s column, I suggested it is best to manage your actions in a system. As a reminder, practice management solutions include: APS, STAR, Practice Engine, CCH Practice Management, CCH Axcess Practice, Thomson Reuters Practice CS, TPS, OfficeTools, BillQuick Core, and other similar products which are the most popular places for CPA professionals to record and bill time. For clients, apps like Intuit’s TSheets, BigTime, TimeSheets, Toggl, Journyx, HubStaff, and ClickTime may be a better fit.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose” – Ecclesiastes

While software and applications don’t create more time, they can help you use time effectively. You still need to choose to do the right thing at the right time. If you are managing a team, you need to encourage everyone to move the same direction on the same initiatives. When you have a team of people with a common mission, this is a very powerful tool for client service.

As many of you know, I’m from Kansas and historically have been pleased to say I’m from the “Great State of Kansas.” While some public figures from Kansas as of late certainly don’t represent my values, one native son certainly did: Dwight D. Eisenhower. He used the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to make decisions, noting that what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important. While authors like Stephen Covey may have popularized this method of decision making and time management, they certainly didn’t create the technique. You’ll need to ask me about my Stephen Covey story sometime… You may already be familiar with the Eisenhower Decision Matrix:



Not Urgent


Crises, Deadlines, Problems

Relationships, Planning, Recreation

Not Important

Interruptions, Meetings, Activities

Time Wasters, Pleasant Activities, Trivia


As some time managers say: What is urgent and important? As some life managers say: what is important? Be like Ike and choose the important tasks. If you need an app for that you could choose Eisenhower.

What is most valuable to you and your team members? Family? Clients? Friends? Integrity? Money? Power? This column is not trying to provide guidance in these areas, but you should consider the impact of time on the most important things to you.

We are all only given a certain amount of time on this earth, and it is probably best we don’t know exactly how much. However, my hope for you is that you are choosing to do the right thing with your time every day.


See inside March 2019

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