As every finance professional knows, our working lives are demanding.
Often, the response to the workload we experience is to work harder and put in more hours. But I think, deep down, we all know that’s not the best solution. Working too hard, struggling to cram 25 hours of work into a 24-hour day leads to overload, stress and, if left unchecked, burnout.
And you are no use to your finance team or company if you’re burnt out and need time away from work to recover.
Time management shouldn’t be so much about making time to do more: you should not be burning the candle at both ends to accomplish your tasks. While CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, may get up at 3.45 am, most people don’t have his level of responsibility – or indeed the capability to be functional at this time every morning. I know I wouldn’t.
Time management is about using the time you have in a more productive way; reclaiming time to do the essential tasks. In this article, I’ll be looking at how to set yourself some ground rules to ensure you get the crucial things done while maintaining your sanity and enjoying a work-life balance.
But before we dive into how to manage your time more effectively, let‘s take a minute to look at what you spend most of your working hours actually doing.
What Takes Up Your Time?
In their book, Make Time, Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky describe how to make space and energy for the essential things. They divide the things that generally take up most of our time into two categories:
- Busy bandwagon The expectation that you need to be always in meetings, on top of your inbox and filling every single minute being ‘productive’. But just ticking off items on your to–do list doesn’t mean you‘re doing a great job. More is not always better. Are you doing the right things?
- Infinity Pools This is the reward you get for being on the busy bandwagon. It’s the time you spend negotiating your way around Instagram, Twitter, Netflix, Facebook and games. Those many hours you spend glued to a screen because, as everyone knows, once you’re on the Internet, it’s like going down the rabbit hole!
So, how do you make the most of your time, balance the work that needs to be done, and still manage to clock off at a reasonable hour and have the right work-life balance?
It can be done! You just need to follow this plan.
1. Divide and Conquer Your Tasks
Firstly, what is the root cause of your overwhelm at work?
It could be those financial projection figures you need to complete. Or it could be notes you need to write for the next SMT meeting. Maybe it’s a dispute between team members you need to manage?
If you could delegate some of the tasks, how much would that alleviate your stress?
If you’re the Financial Controller, is it a good use of your time to be mediating between individuals? Could you ask another colleague to try to sort the issue out first?
If it’s something you have to do, such as the preparing notes for upcoming meetings, box off time and get it finished.
If it’s a massive task or project you are working on, break it down into manageable chunks. A colleague of mine used to refer to this as ‘nibbling the elephant’.
So, whatever your tasks, ordering them in terms of importance and relevance will help you manage them better.
Think about short tasks you can do now, longer jobs you need to ‘chunk up’ into manageable bites, and tasks that can be delegated to others.
2. Set Boundaries on Your Time
Timeboxing projects is the best way to manage your time. So, making sure your calendar is blocked off to allow you time to get to grips with essential jobs without interruption.
It’s worth remembering that tacking your least favoured task (often the most complex) is best done first thing.
Getting it out of the way not only allows you more freedom to concentrate on other things afterwards without the thought of your unfinished building contract paperwork looming over you, but it also gives you a feeling of accomplishment, taking a weight off your mind.
Additionally, we tend to work better in the morning on detail, so by tackling it early on in the working day, you won’t be left having to deal with it during the mid-afternoon productivity slump that we all sometimes feel.
3. Keep a Good Work-Life Balance
Staying late regularly is not an efficient way to manage your workload and home-life.
Although there will inevitably be the odd time when you will need to stay, for example, to finish a vital HMRC submission or deal with external agencies, you should plan to leave the office at a reasonable hour.
If you need to work from home, set yourself a time allowance for that work, and keep your work materials in a separate area such as a home office – ideally. If this is not possible, try not to let them encroach on your main living space, as if you can see them and reach your work laptop you’re not going to mentally switch off anytime soon.
Additionally, unless it’s critical that you are contactable, leave your work at home when you go on holiday.
Maintaining a good work-life balance is crucial to maintaining good mental health. The resilience and positivity that good mental health brings are pivotal to ensuring you remain at the top of your game as a finance professional.
4. Learn When Good Is Good Enough
Many finance professionals are perfectionists – it comes with the territory.
But perfectionism comes at a cost and can often lead to procrastination.
So, if you’re pouring over a project or document multiple times, tweaking it here and there and spending hours ruminating over whether it‘s ‘done’ you need to remind yourself that sometimes, as Sheryl Sandberg famously said, “Done is better than perfect.”
In other words, sometimes good is good enough.
Will that cashflow report be any better if you leave it another day to revisit the details, or should you send it now? Revisiting it is a manifestation of your lack of confidence. Know that you have done an excellent job and that the facts are all there, and then draw a line under it and move onto the next task.
Keeping a balance between knowing you have done something well, and striving for absolute perfection will enable you to manage your time and energy levels more efficiently.
By approaching your time as a project in itself, that is, as something you can plan and determine, you can begin to alter your default setting. Adopting new habits and mindset will enable you slowly to be doing the things you want, rather than constantly firefighting your workload.
It will take time to make the change, but you will realise that being able to manage your workload, rather than have it control you, is the best way to make sure there’s plenty of time for the fun things in life.
Contact Rebus Financial Recruitment or call us on 01282 930930 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, you can achieve great things.
About Rebus Financial Recruitment
Rebus Financial Recruitment provides a specialist and focused recruitment service to its customers, which historically range from a wide variety of organisations including SME’s to large PLCs.
We strive to offer both the client and candidate a seamless recruitment experience. Using our expertise, we get to the heart of employer and employee needs; and, in doing so, we match the two perfectly. To find out more, get in contact with one of our team today, or you can call us on 01282 930930.