As an accountant or bookkeeper, it’s your job to make sense of all the financial transactions in a company. Even small businesses require vigilant oversight of everything going out and coming in. The smallest error can result in hours upon hours of scrutinizing data and looking for misplaced decimal points. Additionally, accountants and bookkeepers typically have more complex responsibilities like managing employee payroll and preparing tax documents. These tasks require focused attention and a systematic process, as a slip up could lead to serious repercussions for the business owner.
Whether you’re managing the finances for your own business or a client’s, the key to your success is organization. Unfortunately, accounting and bookkeeping courses don’t place as much emphasis on organization skills as they do on accounting principles and software. So if you don’t already have a knack for keeping things in order, how can you acquire one?
Arguably, there is no “perfect” organization strategy that will work for everyone in every role. Because organization is so closely tied to personal habits and productivity, what keeps one person on track might drive another person to distraction. However, there are a few general guidelines that everyone can follow to keep their workflows in order. Even if organization doesn’t come naturally to you, here are five tips to help accountants and bookkeepers to stay organized at work.
1. Manage Client Relationships
Be honest: have you ever thought to yourself “I could get so much more work done if only these clients wouldn’t take up my all my time?” It’s funny because it’s true…but you also know that without those clients, you wouldn’t have a business. And if your business is growing, you know this means bringing on more clients, which means more meetings and more phone calls.
Knowing how to effectively manage client relationships is a key organizational tactic for accountants and bookkeepers. Using CRM software is a great way to achieve this. A CRM gives you a complete view of each client’s history, allowing you to answer their questions and serve them more efficiently. Logging the details of each meeting makes it easier to pick up where you left off, while tracking customized client preferences allows you to provide personalized service. Your clients can also take advantage of self-service portals linked to the CRM to update information, pay invoices and submit support requests. This lets you develop a more consistent schedule for client communication, rather than being constantly on call.
2. Integrate Your Software Programs
Using CRM software is a great start for managing client relationships, but these relationships aren’t limited to pre-scheduled meetings and phone calls. When a client shoots you a “quick email” with questions, sometimes it’s easiest to answer them right away. But how are you supposed to track these conversations effectively if you receive an onslaught of messages each day?
Not to worry! To keep your email communication organized and accessible, look for CRM software that integrates with common email providers like Gmail and Outlook. CRM email add-ons are simple tools that prevent you from having to flip between your messages and your CRM. Instead, you can save the details of an email conversation directly to your CRM from your email inbox. Not only does this save you time on double data entry, it makes it easier to maintain organized records of your interactions with each client.
3. Optimize Your Workspace Organization
You knew this one was coming. Digital organization is great, but physical organization still plays a big role in your workplace productivity. Maybe you’re working in a corner office, or maybe you’re running your bookkeeping or accounting practice from your kitchen table. Either way, there are some tried and true methods for creating an organized workspace. Here are a few ideas to consider implementing:
- An L-shaped (or U-shaped) desk puts more essential items and files within reach.
- Keep clutter to a minimum. Infrequently used items should go in drawers or on shelves behind or above your main workspace.
- Use organizers to separate small items stored in drawers. Don’t be the accountant who’s always hunting around for a pen or a calculator.
- Use a combination of vertical and horizontal file folder organizers to maximize your available storage space.
- Save your eyesight! Use a combination of overhead and task lighting.
- Double or even triple computer monitors save time and minimize confusion caused by switching between programs (like your accounting software and your CRM).
4. Develop a Streamlined Workflow
If you’re an experienced accountant or bookkeeper, you probably already have a general workflow in place. However, your productivity can easily be thrown out of whack when a new stack of paperwork lands on your desk. This is especially true for professionals who now rely mainly on digital systems. If you’re struggling to keep paper documents organized, here are some tips to try:
- Thermal paper receipts should be scanned and digitally filed in the appropriate client folders, as they will fade over time.
- Standard paper receipts can either be scanned or stapled and filed with the relevant paperwork.
- Although you’re likely using accounting and CRM software, you should still have a paper folder for each client to store any incidental documents they may give you. You can then transfer the information into your software when you have time.
- Some people like to keep an old-school phone message pad on their desk to jot down notes during client calls. If this applies to you, don’t let those notes get lost! Set aside a block of time once or twice a day to log these calls details in your CRM.
5. Schedule Your Day Ahead of Time
Nothing’s worse than getting to the end of your workday and wondering if you even accomplished anything. Unfortunately, this can easily happen if you don’t plan your schedule ahead of time.
At the end of each day, take a few minutes to compile a list of things you want to tackle the following day. For accountants and bookkeepers working in structured office environments, you may be able to create a detailed hourly schedule. For those working for themselves or from home, you may need to leave more room for unexpected interruptions or tasks. At the very least, aim to identify one task that you’ll deal with first thing in the morning. By starting the day off on a productive note, you’ll set yourself up to accomplish other items on your to-do list.
Getting your work done is good, but there’s a huge sense of satisfaction in getting it done in an organized fashion. In addition, staying organized at work helps you provide your clients with better service, maintain a less stressful work environment, and comfortably scale your business. Test out different tools and tips until you find what works for you!