7 Tips to Improve Time Tracking for Accountants

Looking for tips to improve time tracking for accountants?

Managing your own work schedule is one thing, but managing your time and your team’s time in a remote environment– potentially filled with distractions and less-than-ideal working conditions – is a completely different beast.

The issue of time management is not unique to accountants, but it is a crucial one for those of this profession to master (quickly). Accountants generally work under strict deadlines and often deal with the timely delivery of important documents such as taxes, forms, applications, monthly billing, etc. Needless to say, it’s important to accountants (and their paying customers) that they learn to manage their time effectively. Otherwise, key deliverables could fall through the cracks.

Use these tips to improve time tracking for accountants to help yourself and your team stay on deadline and maximize your billable hours, all while maintaining some semblance of sanity.

#1 Get Organized

Whether you’ve got a busy day ahead or simply need to knock off a few admin tasks, it’s helpful to organize your to-do list and get a visual of what you want to accomplish.

We recognize that “create a to-do list” isn’t exactly revolutionary advice. But the manner and consistency with which you create and maintain these lists can make all the difference in how effective they are.

Here are some tips for maximizing the common to-do list:

  • Set self-imposed deadlines– even if no one’s looking but you
  • Prioritize daily tasks, attacking in order of importance
  • Block time for important tasks each week, scheduling them in your calendar as you would a meeting or appointment
  • Beware of “task creep”– if you’re adding tasks to your daily to-do list everyday, you’ll never get done and you’ll always feel behind. When a new task pops up, unless it’s truly urgent, add it to the agenda for another day.
  • Every Friday, jot down a few notes on what you’re working on and what needs to get done the following week. That way, you can pick it right up on Monday.

If you’re managing employees, you’ll need a process for keeping them organized as well. This is particularly important if your staff are working remotely, as you won’t be able to stop by their desk or shoot them a stern look to ensure they’re on target.

Check in with your employees regularly, and set clear expectations and deadlines on their tasks and projects. Consider having weekly or bi-weekly meetings to keep everyone on the same page. Take the guesswork out of delegating tasks by communicating effectively and ensuring your team understands their priorities. Then– back off and let them get the work done. Micromanaging helps no one.

#2 Don’t Go Down Rabbit Holes

One obvious, yet elusive way to improve time tracking for accountants? Stop wasting time.

Whether it’s searching for a specific file, emailing an in-depth explanation, or browsing click-bait articles online, avoid spending hours getting sucked into any one thing.

Sometimes, these rabbit holes are entirely accidental. You click one article and 40 minutes later find yourself wondering where the time went. You might think yourself too disciplined for such nonsense, but it happens to the best of us. News websites, social media, and other online arenas have become extremely adept at stealing – and keeping– our attention.

Other times, intentions are more honorable– you want to get the tone just right in that long email you’re sending a client. Or, someone’s screwing up and you really want to let them have it. Even when the task seems important, it’s not worth spending your entire day on it. Set a time limit and stick to it– or, if you find that you can’t, choose to come back to the task later when you’re in a better headspace.

We know, you’re an accountant, and you inherently enjoy being organized and solving problems, but sometimes the best thing you can do is drop a task and continue with an otherwise productive day.

This is one reason why time tracking for accountants is so important. When the clock is ticking (literally), you’re less likely to spend time goofing off or getting distracted. Many accountants find it helpful to keep their time tracking tool within view on their desktop at all times, making it all but impossible to forget that the clock is ticking.

#3 Use a Time Tracking Tool Like Cloud Axis

You can try to improve time tracking for accountants all you want, but without a decent time tracking tool you probably won’t get far.

Some firms figure they can get away with tracking their time manually, whether with pen and paper or their own spreadsheet. Unfortunately, this just opens the door for human error. Even with the best intentions, people are, at the end of the day, exactly that– people. Accountants tend to juggle a lot, and it’s only a matter of time until you forget to jot down when you started, finished, or took a well-deserved break.

So set it and forget it. Don’t think of time tracking as just another task on your to-do list, but a helpful assistant in the background that’s keeping track of all your working hours for you.
Plus, with the right tool, time tracking is a cinch. Find a time tracking tool made specifically for accountants, like TPS Cloud Axis. It’s built and maintained by people who know accounting and accountants– including the needs, challenges, and preferences of accounting firms.

This technology makes tracking time as easy as clicking a button on your screen. It’s user-friendly and adjusts to your needs/preferences, making it easy for you to keep track of your own work without having to backtrack and check your calendar/call log when trying to justify time and productivity patterns throughout the month.

Whether you bill clients by the hour and need to justify your schedule, or have a few work from home employees that seem to be spending far too much time on certain projects, time tracking tools create a verifiable record of the time spent on accounts.

#4 Invest in Tools You Can Use Remotely

The COVID-19 pandemic forced remote work upon industries and employees who might have otherwise never worked from home. Even if your firm is slowly returning to the office, or you fully expect to once the pandemic has passed, we all know that the nature of work has changed.

More companies than ever will offer partial or fully remote working opportunities, and more employees than ever will come to expect it. Having the ability to work remotely at least a few days a week will be a major consideration for many employees when deciding where to work or whether to stay. Even if you can’t wait to get everyone back into the office, it’s highly probable your firm will need to offer remote working capabilities to some extent over the long-term.

As a result, it’s smart to invest in tools you and your team can use remotely, including (or especially) time tracking software. A program like TPS Cloud Axis offers secure and 100% remote access to all of its components and features.

The goal here is to improve time tracking for accountants wherever they are– not just from the office. In fact, it stands to reason that a strong time tracking for accountants is even more important in remote settings, where working conditions may be less than ideal.

At the end of the day, if you can trust your remote workers (and yourself) to be as productive from home as you were from an office, you can save a great deal on overhead costs like office space, supplies, and even liability insurance. As an accountant, we know you can appreciate that. As long as you have admin rights, this accountant time tracking software provides a tidy record of your employee’s work as well. TPS Cloud Axis makes it easy to see where your company hours are going, by date, client, employee, and even by project.

#5 Use Dual Time Tracking

Another way to improve time tracking for accountants is to use a tool that provides dual time tracking options. Everyone has their own time tracking preferences– whether that’s keeping track of time throughout the day and entering at the very end, or using a start-and-stop timer during active work periods.

We typically recommend using the start-and-stop timer method for the most accurate time tracking results. As discussed above, human error is all but inevitable when it comes to manually tracking and entering time. There are, however, times when it may make more sense to use manual time entry. For example, if a client calls unexpectedly while you’re away from your computer, and you need to take a half-hour to talk with them.

For this reason, it’s helpful to use a tool that offers dual time tracking– the ability to automatically track by the use of times, or manually enter time into the system. Of course, this is a feature that TPS Clous Axis includes.

#6 Workflow Makes The World Go Round

One unexpected way to improve time tracking for accountants is to optimize your workflow. Optimized workflows enable firms to take recurring tasks and break down the process, making them as easy as handing over a sheet with instructions or a YouTube video link.

Time is money, especially when talking about accounting, so taking tasks like monthly invoicing, onboarding new clients/employees, and sending deadline reminders out, and turning those into automated processes can be a huge time saver. TPS Cloud Axis saves its users hours thanks to online tutorials, on-call support specialists, automated billing processes and more. In addition to time tracking software, Cloud Axis also generates workflow tracking and reports to help monitor and justify your team’s time.

#7 Don’t Let Clients Push You Around

All clients like to feel like they’re at the top of your priority list, but that just isn’t realistic. Investing in accounting software that helps you communicate openly with your clients and set realistic expectations can be a huge time saver.

Setting boundaries on what is and isn’t your accounting firm’s responsibility is the first step towards a healthy client relationship. Setting deadlines for delivery and ensuring your clients know how much of your time they get each month is a close second. Especially when you bill by the hour, your client needs to know what number they can expect to see (trust us, no one likes getting a bill over three times what was estimated!).

Don’t be afraid to tell clients you have a hard stop. Unless they want the bill for the extra hour spent on the phone, you’ve got more important things to do, so ensure you’re not losing money while chatting about the weather. This is why time tracking for accountants is so important. No matter the client or the employee, time tracking will help keep the work on track and show your clients exactly where it was spent.

To sum it up, as an accountant, you must recognize the benefit of staying on track with your work. Get the most out of your day, your employees, and your software by implementing these tips to improve time tracking for accountants.

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