Chartered Accountants, as a tribe, are workaholics. Whether one is in practice; or in employment. It is not unusual to see a Chartered Accountant put in twelve hours of work everyday. Six days in a week.Fifty two weeks in a year. Perhaps some of them put in even more.While many are effective, some are not. Being busy does not necessarily mean being effective. Some put in fewer hours and are effective. Others may put in long hours and are far from being effective. With today’s frenetic pace, it makes good sense to utilize a rare commodity – time – effectively.   

Perhaps one of the best ways to utilize time effectively is to avoid falling into time-traps. We are all trained to audit the financial transactions of our clients. Let us, for a change, audit the utilization of our un-stretchable resource – time.

After this audit, we will soon realize that we are not using our time effectively. By a survey conducted amongst executives and professionals, there emerged interesting results – the various time-traps that most of us fall into. A little effort to be wary of these traps, and avoid falling into them could open up a new world for us.In terms of quality of work, better organization and effectiveness.Paving way for quality time in our lives for important priorities -such as family, social, spiritual development, contemplation,introspection, creativity or just plain leisure.

Of the many time-traps that emerged from the survey, let us look at ten of them that affect us as Chartered Accountants.

01. We fear to delegate: We keep work close to our chest and refuse to delegate our professional work. With a fear that the quality of work turned out by the delegatee is inferior to our own. This is baseless. In theinitial stages we need to have patience to train up our delegatee to discharge their assignment as per our satisfaction. We should not be surprised when our delegatee has turned out work of a higher order.This can happen on account of three reasons. First – they work under our instruction. Second, – they have the aptitude. Third – their minds are less cluttered than ours.

02. Encourage visitors without appointments: This is a common failing in the Indian ethos. We have always been told to be nice to people. It is true on a personal or social note;but not on a business note. And therefore we create a condition for visitors to walk in at their convenience, and not ours. Actually, it should be at the convenience of both. In the business environment,there are innumerable pressing deadlines. And a visitor without appointment or a walk-in visitor can play havoc on our performance.Upsetting schedules, appointments, meetings and a host of other things. Therefore we have to discreetly discourage them when they visit us without prior appointment.

03. Permit telephone interruptions during prime time : A telephone is a good time-management tool – if used wisely. There are certain hours in a day that can be considered as prime time. Our efficiency and productivity level is at the highest during our prime time. Telephone interruptions during prime time can be disastrous.Therefore we have to identify our prime time and guard it with greatest care. Voice-mail, telephone answering machines or a good secretary are good foils for interruptions during our prime time.You can always respond to them after the prime time has passed.

04. Conduct or attend ineffective meetings: Meetings are necessary to take important decisions. But ineffective meetings are a great waste of time. Conduct meetings effectively;and attend meetings that are conducted effectively. Rudderless meetings are not only time wasters but also destroyers of planned schedules.

05. We don’t say no, when we ought to: We can do this much in a day and no more. Similarly, we can handle ascertain amount of work and no more. But we accept assignments that are beyond our threshold or competency. We are thus straddled with tons of work, and beyond our delivery capabilities. And these assignments can become the proverbial “monkeys on our shoulder”.This leads to unfinished work and stress. That ultimately leads to shoddy execution of the work already on our hand. And to frustrated and angry clients.

06. Have incomplete information: We sometimes tend to forget the importance of information for our decision-making and documentation. A good filing system, organized paper (and computer) work and valuing every piece of information on our hand can help us take better quality decisions and execute good documents.

07. Make faulty communication: Faulty communication – written, oral or otherwise results inconsiderable waste of time. First to do it. And next to undo it. It certainly is worth the while spending extra time on communicating effectively. To ensure the message is clearly understood. And the resultant action is as per what is in our mind.

08. Break our own rules due to lack of self-discipline: We make rules to improve our effectiveness. But, sometimes, we are guilty of breaking them. Great care should be taken to follow it. If we talk of punctuality, commitment, and delivery schedule – we should mean it. This not only indicates professionalism but also serves as an example to people around us.

09. Habit of postponing things – procrastination:Procrastination is a great time waster. Due to innumerable pressures, we are tempted to procrastinate. It soon develops into a habit. And we know that habits die-hard. If we have already formed a habit, let us make a conscious effort to break this habit. We can then do our today’s job today. This will enable us to do our tomorrow’s job, tomorrow.

10. Trying to attempt too much: We should know our capabilities and limitations. And we should also assess how much work we can handle effectively. Once we do that, we should refrain ourselves from accepting work or assignment beyond this threshold. We know the effects of overdoing things. Like the proverbial “last straw on the camel’s back”.For us, Chartered Accountants, time is a greater resource than most other resources. It should therefore be used well. And the secret to make the best use of time – is to avoid falling into time-traps.Especially, these ten deadly ones.

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