Simon Chaplin has some top advice on how you can get organised and improve your fortunes in the New Year.
It’s that time of year when most people start to think about what happens after Christmas and the New Year period – or in some cases, the tax return season!
As we reflect on what we have achieved in the past year it is often with a sense of having missed opportunities, not being as far forward as we wanted to be and with knowledge of things we should have done but just didn’t find the time for.
Frustrating, isn’t it?
But it doesn’t have to be like that at the end of 2018. You see, with a little bit of simple planning now, in early January (or even early February, if that is more achievable for you), you can make a massive difference to what you achieve in 2018. All it takes is a little bit of time (maybe an hour), some clarity of thought and a little bit of commitment.
Try this experiment
If you don’t have a to-do list all in one place (apps like Toodledo or Wunderlist are great for this) get one now! Start writing down those things that you would like or need to do. Get them all in one place.
Once you have compiled your list, give each item on it a number (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) until they are all numbered. Then pick up a blank piece of paper, turn it landscape (I find it works better that way) and draw a graph the full size of the paper. Label the horizontal axis ‘Time/Cost’, with ‘Low’ at the left-hand side and ‘High’ at the right-hand side. The vertical axis should be labelled ‘Benefit’, with ‘High’ at the bottom and ‘Low’ at the top. The result should look like the table below.
Now go back to your to-do list. Consider each item on the list in turn and plot its number on the graph, depending on how ‘expensive’ it is resource-wise on the horizontal axis (low to the left and high to the right) and how much benefit it would offer to you on the vertical axis (high towards the bottom and low towards the top).
You might have to have a couple of goes at doing this depending on how many things you have on your to-do list, as some things you initially thought were important end up not being quite so important once you have everything on there.
Once you have completed the task it is just a case of prioritising what you need to do first. Obviously, the closer a number is to the bottom left of the graph, the easier it is to do and the higher the return you gain for your effort. Those things should be done first.
As you move away from the bottom left-hand corner, the things on your to-do list become more expensive to do while offering less benefit in return. You would do those things later.
Find the time
I have covered productivity ideas in previous articles – if you can’t find them in your back copies email me and I’ll send them on.
But for this exercise I’ll make one suggestion: for each item, put time in your diary straight away for when you are going to do it. It doesn’t have to be instantly, but if you allocate time in your diary for them all (or at least the ones that offer the most benefit) over, say, the first quarter of next year, you’ll be amazed at how much more likely you are to achieve them than if you just leave them on a piece of paper gathering dust!
One further thought…
You might be thinking, that is all well and good, Simon, but all it encourages me to do is action the quick wins. The big stuff, the stuff with high resource costs, gets pushed to the back of the queue and might never get done, even though it could be important.
This can never be the only tool you use to plan what actions you will prioritise. So, in a future article I will share a brilliant tool you can use to plan that bigger, life-changing stuff, to make sure that gets done, too.
But for now, let’s get organised and make sure we get 2018 off to a flying start.
- Simon Chaplin, AKA Socks Up Simon, Inspires, Challenges and Supports accountants and their teams to be the best they want to be. He is also the author of ‘My 21 Tip Top Pieces of Savvy Software to Help Accountants Save Time, Money and Face!’ – you can get your copy at www.socksupsimon.com/AP1
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