How to Be Better at Time Management, and Good Reasons to Say No

By Emily Truong, Citrin Cooperman – May 17, 2016
How to Be Better at Time Management, and Good Reasons to Say No

You haven’t been with the firm for very long — a year, perhaps two. You are still trying to demonstrate your value to the firm, but your workload continues to increase. This scenario prompts most people to say “yes” to every request from their managers. (How could you say “no” to your boss?) So how do you cope with the increasing workload?

Your managers may have taught you the technical aspects of your job, but are unlikely to have taught you how to effectively manage the heavy workflow. As a relatively new employee, you may be uncomfortable addressing this issue because you're afraid of appearing incompetent. But, time is a scarce asset. It is in your best interest to proactively learn the skills required for effective time management.

You don't need to be inherently organized to manage time well. With practice, time management is a skill you can learn.

Plan Your Day With Achievable Objectives

People often say “I’m too busy to spend ten minutes planning my day.” In reality, spending 10 minutes at the start of the day to put together a list of tasks will save you time throughout the day. Making a list forces you to think through all of the tasks you need to complete. Without a plan, you have no clear path to reach the end goal. As you cross off the items on your checklist, your mind is also processing this progression. When you review your list at the end of the day, you feel satisfied and motivated by your accomplishments.

Prioritize Your Work

Confirm task deadlines with your boss so you can prioritize tasks correctly. If you have two tasks, with one being due at the end of the week and the other due at the end of the month, it makes sense to first focus on the task due at the end of the week. It sounds simple, and it is. But under time pressure we sometimes don’t make clear, effective decisions.

Tackle the Tough Stuff First

People generally work on the “easy” tasks first, and procrastinate on the “boring”, “tedious”, or “difficult” tasks. Tackling difficult tasks is best done first thing in the morning when you are fresher and are likely to have more patience if issues arise.

Take a Break

If you need a break, take one. It's pointless trying to “push through” a task when you are not making progress. Taking a five or ten minute break will help break up the monotony of a task and allow you to feel recharged and refocused.

Pace Yourself

Resist the natural impulse to rush if you feel time pressured. In reality, rushing tasks is likely to lead to errors in your work and to wasting time down the road. Like the old expression says, “slow and steady wins the race,” and so does effective time management.

Saying No to Your Boss

It’s difficult to say no, especially for newer employees. You don’t want to come across as not being committed to the team, or your boss, and you don’t want to appear lazy. This is when open and honest communication becomes critical in the workplace.

If the quality of your work might become impaired because of the quantity of work you are assigned, it is worth arranging a chat with your boss. Outline the reasons why your work might become impaired, and tell your boss that you are open to suggestions on the best approach to completing required tasks in a timely manner, without compromising work quality. For example, ask: Is it possible to shift the deadline of one of the tasks by a day or two, or get an additional pair of hands to help out on a task, even for a few hours?

Feel comfortable speaking to your boss about the workload. If you don’t ask the question, you’ll never find a solution that works for both parties. At the end of the day, the best scenario for your boss is to have employees consistently producing high quality work.

Emily  Truong

Emily Truong

Emily Truong is a Manager within the Transaction Advisory Services practice at Citrin Cooperman, a full-service CPA firm, and presently the 22nd largest in the United States. Emily has more than seven years of experience specializing in financial / operational reviews, project management and restructuring, process improvement and financial due diligence.