4 ways to build your business, not your workload

When you're firefighting through your days, it can be difficult to imagine taking some time to actively build your business. After all, it feels like you don't have any time to do anything. You spend so much of the day putting out fires that you end your days with an uncompleted to-do list and a million and one other things still running through your mind.

Now, we've all been caught up in the day-to-day running of our business; we've all been guilty of becoming busy fools. That's not something to beat yourself up about. With that being said, however, if you do want to grow your practice, then you need to change these habits and fast! Here is how to build your business, not your workload.

Invest in the right practice management tools

a tortoise to represent working faster to build your businessTo build your business (but not your workload), you first need to improve your existing processes. In a nutshell, you need to identify any bottlenecks, eliminate inefficiencies, and start working a lot slicker. To do this, you need to look at practice management tools and invest in the right ones for you and your practice. (Need help? Here's our guide to choosing your practice management software).

Practice management is where you manage your clients' work. It is where you produce, collaborate, and track the progress of both upcoming and past work. Put simply, it is the management of daily operations to run your practice more efficiently.

Think of it as your administrative hub where you can:

  • store and manage your client data
  • manage your workflow
  • manage your documents
  • keep track of and manage your sales
  • facilitate accounting, reporting, regulatory training and competence logs
  • track your progress of both upcoming and previous work
  • streamline your schedule for the whole firm
  • communicate with your clients
  • perform a plethora of other tasks

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Prioritise effectively

a planner with a coffee on it

This is an important piece of advice as we have all been guilty of being 'busy fools' at some stage or another. If you're finishing the day feeling like you haven't had a second to spare, yet your to-do list doesn't look any smaller, it may be because you're not prioritising effectively. What we mean by this is that you're most likely spending the majority of your time on unimportant tasks rather than those that will grow the business.

One of history's most “efficient” US Presidents, Dwight Eisenhower, famously quipped “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” Sound familiar? A lot of us get caught up in those urgent, yet not important tasks throughout the day (those fires that need to be put out). However, if you want to build your business, and not your workload, you need to prioritise those important tasks. If you don't, they will never get done as they will never be urgent.

The Urgent Important Matrix

The Urgent Important Matrix or the 'Eisenhower Matrix' is one of the easiest time management strategies to implement. A simple yet effective tool, you can use it to prioritise your to-do list based on the level of urgency and importance of each task.

When you're working with limited resources (usually, time), you can't just focus on getting a lot of work done; you need to be focusing on getting the right things done.

To quickly identify what you need to prioritise, draw out the Urgent Important Matrix and group your tasks into 4 quadrants. For each task, you need to ask yourself: is this important and/or is this urgent?


Q1. Urgent and important (CRISES):

Emergencies that arise (e.g. missed deadlines, client complaints, pressing problems etc) are usually due to two reasons. Either, something has happened that you couldn't predict or someone has dropped the ball or left something until the last minute and now it's reached crisis point.

Many accountants spend a lot of their time in this quadrant and it makes them feel too busy to invest time in quadrant 2. The reality is, if more time is spent in Q2 (developing strong systems and plans), you increase efficiency and can eliminate any potential crises.

a wall full of sticky notes to represent improving your workflow with accounting practice management softwareQ2. Important, but not urgent (PLANS):

These activities are the ones that will help you achieve your mid- to long-term goals and objectives. E.g. longer-term planning, networking and relationship building, training and development, and business development tasks. They are very important, yet we put them off as they are never necessarily pressing for attention.

To better manage your time (and prevent many of the urgent tasks/demands arising), invest more time in this quadrant.

Q3. Urgent, but not important (INTERRUPTIONS):

Interruptions such as phone calls, texts, emails, invaluable meetings and reports, and requests from others, all sap our time and energy, yet they don't contribute to the longer-term benefits of the firm. This is when we are being busy fools!

Limit these activities as much as possible! They are of no real value. To make sure that you're prioritising the most valuable tasks, delegate where possible, challenge the way "things are usually done" if they aren't efficient, renegotiate deadlines, and communicate which meetings you don't need to be a part of.

Q4.  Not urgent and not important (DISTRACTIONS):

You may think that you don't waste your time doing non-urgent AND non-important tasks, but you may be surprised. Activities such as excessive or irrelevant emails, personal phone calls, social media, unproductive meetings, and anything that causes you to procrastinate, these are just distractions.
Avoid these at all costs! These tasks don't contribute at all to your long-term goals, they only serve to delay you spending time on the tasks that are important, but not urgent. Drastically reduce your time spent in this quadrant so that you start to naturally avoid it.

Once you've drawn out the matrix and assigned your tasks to each quadrant, you need to:

  1. DO - those important tasks that need to be done today.
  2. SCHEDULE - the important but not so urgent tasks, so that they will get done.
  3. DELEGATE - the urgent but not so important tasks.
  4. AVOID - the non-urgent, non-important tasks.

Useful resources:

Delegate effectively

a pyramid to represent delegating tasks so that you can build your businessAs we mentioned above, to prioritise effectively, one of the things you need to do is to delegate effectively. If you do this, then you will have the time and energy to build your business (because you won't be building your workload).

The most important thing to know when delegating is that you can't just delegate tasks. Well, you can, but this won't be effective. What will most likely happen, is that employees will get stuck or they'll need to come to you for certain decisions or to sign off work. As you can already see, this isn't saving you much time or headaches at all.

To delegate effectively, you need to delegate authority, not just tasks. You need to outline processes and assign responsibility to the people or person who is accountable for getting those tasks done. You then need to build trust, trust in your team to make decisions and to take initiative, and for your team to trust you.

A productive and effective team is one that feels 'safe' to think outside the box, to voice different opinions, and to take risks that may work but which also may not. (Read Psychological Safety: The game changer when you are leading a high performing virtual team)

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Schedule time for business development

a sandtimer to symbolise scheduling more time for the tasks that will build your business

To build your business (but not your workload), you must invest more time in quadrant two. The more time you spend on the non-urgent but important tasks, the more efficient and effective your practice will be. (Need help with these tasks? Here's our guide on How to create a 3-year growth plan).

Like everything else in our work life (and even personal, sometimes), if it's not in the diary, it won't get done. To make sure that you are spending enough time on those business development activities, start scheduling them in your diary.

What days and what times are you working at your best? What days or times do you have a solid block where you're unlikely to get interrupted?

If it's scheduled in the diary, you will get it done and it will soon become a habit. A very positive habit that will directly result in the growth of your firm.

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Build your business, not your workload

You don't have to firefight through your days. If you invest in the right practice management tools, prioritise your work and delegate the lower value tasks effectively, and schedule time for business development, you can take control of your time. You'll soon see that you can start building your business without being a busy fool.

Learn How to create time and headspace to grow your practice

Download (for free) the workshop recording of 'How to create time and headspace to grow your practice' and you will discover:

  • How to use the Blue/black/red model in order to carve out valuable headspace time for you.
  • 4 research-backed ways to get valuable headspace to become more productive, focused and creative.
  • 4 proven and practical ways to find 8 hours to work ON your business.
  • How to routinely delegate effectively to your staff, even if you are a control freak

Ready to kick-start the growth of your firm?