When it comes to time management, for busy finance professionals, it can feel like there are never enough hours in the workweek.
From data analysis and detailed forecasting to long group meetings and pressing questions from trading partners, Finance is always needed by someone to do something. And as soon as your team finishes a task or feels like they’re caught up, a new assignment’s ready to be tackled.
The truth is, time management, though easy to understand, can be quite difficult to master. And that’s especially true in 2020. Amid an international pandemic and a highly dispersed workforce, finance teams have to continually figure out how to navigate new waters and keep efficiency high.
Luckily, there are some simple steps and concepts your finance team can start implementing today to get more done each day. Check out and share these four time management tips from business leader, consultant and corporate trainer Joan Burge:
1. Recognize work styles
It’s important for each team member to step back and really think about at what time of the day he or she is most productive.
Is Sara on top of her game first thing in the morning, with a cup of coffee in hand? Does Steve do his best work midday, after a lunch break? Is Meredith in the zone late in the afternoon, when the rest of the workforce is starting to slow down and fewer emails enter her inbox?
Once each team member identifies their optimal work time, encourage them to save their most important, strategic tasks for those hours.
2. Gather info before diving in
How many times has someone asked Finance to take part in a project or task with vague or very few details? They probably promised to “get you all more info later.”
As CFO, you can step in and help gather more info for your team upfront, before they begin, to eliminate back-and-forth exchanges later or a misunderstanding of what Finance is actually supposed to deliver.
For example, Payroll doesn’t want to spend hours putting together a report only to later find out what HR really wants isn’t exactly the same as what your team’s been dedicating their valuable time to. So, if you’re able to get more info and pass it to your team early on, you’ll set them up for success.
3. Improve prioritization skills
Since many finance assignments are time-sensitive and mission-critical, it’s sometimes hard for Finance to decide which to prioritize. To help your team handle conflicting priorities, Burge recommends:
- Ask for specific deadlines. “As soon as possible” doesn’t cut it! To get a more definitive answer, have your team replace “How soon do you need this by?” with “When is the latest time/date I can get this to you?”
- Clarify with others. What was a priority in the morning could easily shift by midday, depending on what comes up (e.g., rush checks). If others are inundating Finance with pressing tasks, your team should clarify with them (or you) what should take precedence.
- When all else fails … and a team member can’t decide between two important tasks, encourage them to ask, “What is the impact of not getting this done today?”
4. Focus on results
One last key to keep in mind is that lots of activity, hard work and hours spent don’t necessarily equal results. Your finance team could be running around, working their tails off – and still not achieving their desired outcomes.
So, have your department leaders (e.g., A/P manager, Payroll director, A/R supervisor) keep a pulse on if your team’s working hard – perhaps too hard – and seeing less-than-stellar results. If they bring concerns your way, you can tackle them together with questions like, “Is X the best use of our time? Is there a better process that would yield more positive results?”