Do you come to the end of the work day feeling like you haven’t stopped but you still haven’t done what you needed to do? Do you find yourself working harder, not smarter but you don’t know what to do to change that? Constant interruptions from clients could be the reason for your lack of focus and productivity and ultimately, the stagnation of your accounting firm. Here’s how to identify if it’s an issue for you and how to minimise client interruptions in the future.
Are constant interruptions from clients eating into your day?
Our clients are essential to our business, so when we are interrupted by them in our working day, we don’t tend to think about how this breaks our focus and distracts us from the task at hand. Instead, they become our immediate priority, whether whatever they are asking for is important or not and as a result, we put our own goals and priorities aside and we let our productivity suffer.
Interruptions are costly. Just the fact that every time we are interrupted, we take around 23 minutes and 15 seconds to re-focus on the task we were working on is a big cost. There are only 8 hours in a day!
If you find that a lot of your day is taken up by client requests or interruptions that unexpectedly demand your attention and that you never seem to find the time to complete the high-value tasks that are truly important to the growth of your firm, then you need to start managing and minimising them as much as possible.
6 ways to minimise client interruptions
Identify if client interruptions are an issue
Keep an interrupter’s log to identify what interruptions you are getting in a day and over the course of a week, noting down what the interruption was, when it occurred and how much time it took to address. Which interruptions are valid and which are not? The non-urgent interruptions are the ones that need to be minimise.
Create a routine
Having specific times for specific tasks helps you to focus, prioritise tasks and manage client expectations, all of which make you less prone to interruptions overall. Never schedule a full day as you need some contingency time for any unexpected interruptions or issues that may arise.
Allow response gaps
Managing your interruptions often just comes down to you setting expectations with your clients early on. For example, stop responding to emails or phone calls as soon as you get them. Instead, give yourself an hour or two to condition your clients to be patient with your response (this also gives you more breathing room so that you can finish your task first before replying).
Schedule ‘available’ and ‘unavailable’ time in your day
In your daily routine, the time where you’re completing certain tasks should be scheduled in as “unavailable” time. This means turn off your phone, minimise your email window and concentrate on the task at hand. In the blocks of “available” time, this is where you can take calls from your clients or answer emails. By designating periods of the day for communication, you’ll soon find that your clients know when and when not to contact you.
Control your communication by narrowing your channels
One of the best ways to manage constant interruptions from clients is to eliminate some of your communication channels. For example, encouraging clients to email you will funnel most of your inbound messages into one channel so it’s easier for you to manage when you schedule in your “available” time.
Learn to say ‘no’ when you need to
If a client request isn’t too urgent or important, explain to your client that you are working on a tight deadline on an important project right now so you won’t be able to help them. Alternatively, you can let your client know when in your schedule you would be available to help them.
Start taking control of your time
A quick question or phone call from a client may seem like only a few minutes at the time, but overall, it can have a serious impact on your focus and productivity and ultimately, the growth of your accounting firm.
When you set aside specific times to communicate with your clients, like many other accountants, you can start minimising constant interruptions from clients so that you can start to prioritise and focus on the high-value tasks that you need to develop your firm.
While it’s not possible to completely eliminate interruptions from your workday, using these tips above will help you to control them so that you can manage your time more effectively.