7 productivity killers — and how accountants and bookkeepers can avoid them

We’re all trying our best to be productive, get things done and achieve results. These days that’s impossible without technology though, so accounting practices and departments introduce accounting automation and search for the right Xero apps to get their processes running smoothly. But no matter what software accountants use, everyone has their moments now and then, which is absolutely fine — nobody can be productive all day, every day. However, there are ways to increase both individual productivity and the accounting team efficiency as a whole. In this article, we’re going to look at the 7 most common productivity killers that affect your personal productivity as well as the efficiency of accounting processes.

The most common productivity killers

Let’s have a look at what’s bothering us on an individual level, and what can be done to improve this situation.

1. Distractions

Problem: whether working from home or at the office, there’s always something that takes away your focus: notifications from social media apps, your workplace communication tools or professional accounting software, co-workers asking questions or clients calling when you found some time at last to have a good look at that report that’s already been waiting for so long. 

Solution: first of all, deal with notification noise. When you’re doing work that requires focus, lay your phone face down and disable all notifications from email and other communication tools you use for work. Notifications create a sense of urgency even when there is nothing urgent about them. If you use tools like Slack, you can switch it to the “Do not disturb” mode — letting your colleagues see that you’re busy with something important and will get back to them. If something really can’t wait, they can override the “Do not disturb” feature. 

Obviously, you’re not supposed to be offline all the time. Try time management strategies like time blocking or time boxing to schedule focus time for the hands-on tasks that need uninterrupted attention. Having a limited amount of time to finish a specific task also helps with motivation.

2. Multitasking

Problem: the problem with multitasking is that it just doesn’t work. Our brain doesn’t have the ability to focus on more than one task at a time. In fact, it is impossible to do two things simultaneously. Instead, we just switch between tasks rapidly. And when we do this, it takes more time and mental effort to “upload” the information on these tasks. So, the attempt to multitask actually leaves you more tired and makes you less productive.

Solution: quit trying to multitask. To organise your day in a more efficient way, block some time for focused work on the most complex and important tasks. You can also dedicate time to things like answering emails, or grouping similar tasks in the invoice approval process. This way, you won’t have to switch between contexts that differ a lot.

3. Unnecessary or inefficient meetings

Problem: meetings are a great way to collaborate with your team, and there’s no way an accounting or bookkeeping practice can say “no” to client meetings. However, if not managed properly, meetings can turn into a waste of time for everyone involved. This has been proven by multiple research projects, and when the Harvard Business School and Boston University surveyed 182 senior managers across several industries, 71% of them found meetings to be unproductive and inefficient. You might have the same opinion.

Solution: foregoing meetings once and for all is probably not an option, especially if you work with clients. But you should always weigh up if a meeting is necessary. Could you not just send an email to inform colleagues or clients of a status update or a new accounting process being introduced? If it’s about something relatively straightforward which doesn’t require a discussion, then maybe that’s a good idea. If there has to be a meeting, always set a clear agenda, share it beforehand, and stick to it.

4. Clutter

Problem: the term clutter can refer to many things, from disorganised desks to clutter in accounts payable processes and approval workflows. Clutter easily affects your focus and concentration without you even noticing because visual stimuli naturally compete for your attention. With processes it’s just the same: if a process is not properly organised, you spend way too much time searching for relevant information.

Solution: take some time to organise your desk — you could use part of your daily breaks (which are of course essential for productivity) for it. This way, you’ll also get some screen-free time and a work environment without visual noise. If your desk is already minimalistic (which is not surprising if you’re using cloud accounting tools and are 100% paperless) and you’re bothered by cluttered processes, take a look at accounts payable automation software, for example, ApprovalMax for invoice automation.

Productivity killers in accounting and bookkeeping

5. Not harnessing the cloud

Problem: if you’re using a legacy bookkeeping or accounting software because you don’t have time to check out the modern world of automated cloud accounting software, this affects not only your accounting team’s efficiency but also hits your firm with a competitive disadvantage. Doing things the traditional way may be convenient because it’s the way you’ve always done it. But it’s most probably just an excuse for avoiding learning something new and adapting to change.

Solution: any accounting process will benefit greatly from introducing cloud tools. To name just three top benefits of cloud accounting: better control over your financial processes, real-time data accessible anytime anywhere and, last but not least, the possibility to reduce costs. So, the time and effort invested into moving to the cloud will certainly pay off. 

6. Reactive approach to data

Problem: these days, looking back at yearly or quarterly reports isn’t enough for running a business successfully. It can lead to wrong decisions, possibly with long-lasting consequences. In fact, to get efficient, in-house accounting teams as well as bookkeeping and accounting practices need to implement a proactive approach.

Solution: cloud accounting tools give you the power to analyse activities in all business areas in real time. This enables a comprehensive view of the business to make well-informed decisions. Having verified and actionable data prepares you well for cash flow forecasting and understanding the company’s financial health.

7. Paper and email processes

Problem: running accounts payable processes such as for purchase orders and invoice approvals manually is a major productivity killer as it swallows up a lot of time and effort that could be spent on more important tasks. Chasing approvers, carrying papers around or attaching invoices to emails is neither fun nor efficient — and it’s quite a tall order to keep such a process running properly. Despite best efforts, you will still end up with documents that don’t get authorised on time and delayed payments as a result.

Solution: luckily, you don’t have to do it manually! If you’re already using a cloud accounting platform and a data digitisation tool, you’re just one step away from creating a completely paperless automated process for accounts payable. By introducing ApprovalMax as your approval management software, you will free up your valuable time for more valuable work because it does all the rote tasks for you.

Productivity might seem tricky, but the right tools will help you get your work done better and achieve great results. Try our tips to see if they work for you and your team!

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