ACCA Practice Room: Exploring tech apps to set boundaries and support productivity and wellbeing
This is a summary of an ACCA Practice Room session, hosted by Heather Smith.
Over the last few years finance professionals have found their working life encroaching on their free time. The pandemic meant that many were working at home and the expectation for them to be constantly available was high. And even though many have returned to the office, that expectation - to an extent - remains. The ability for work to take over every spare minute of the day has been enabled by technology. But technology also offers the solution.
Setting clear boundaries
Burnout during the pandemic was everywhere. Towards the end of the latest lockdown, finance professionals - and their clients - started to work out that long hours wasn’t necessarily delivering the best results. Those who set clear boundaries found that they were more focused, productive, happy, and crucially, less stressed.
Here are some ways small practice professionals can stay on top of their work, but keep their free time fenced off - and some recommendations for tech that can help:
Say goodbye to endless back and forth emails trying to co-ordinate a suitable meeting time by using online appointment scheduling software - like Calendly - where you can block off your time and let your clients know when you’re available and for how long. They can schedule appointments with you and you can set up automated reminders for them that can help them prepare for meetings to make the most of their time with you. Think about carving out downtime, or setting some meetings as walk-and-talks. And try to block off time on Mondays and Fridays to get going and wind down.
You don’t have to respond to your emails instantly. Try asynchronous communication - responding after a set period of time to queries. Few things are actually emergencies and clients will get used to hearing from you after a day has passed - they’ll likely appreciate the additional time you’ve taken to think over their questions. Try batch-responding to emails as well - blocking off time to go through your inbox.
Lots of clients have the same questions or are struggling with the same thing. Instead of responding to them individually, once you can see a trend, you can save time by making a video answering any questions they might have. Using tech like Loom for recording a personalised video message. You can make short videos, including walkthroughs using your screen. And you can post your videos to social media where clients who follow you can find the answer even before they’ve come up with the question!
Help with the stuff you find tough
Some people find writing emails hard - or they’ve got far too many to answer. Using technology like Grammarly can help you write more accurate and effective emails. And a text expander tool can help you auto populate emails with a few keystrokes to save you time.
You can use tech to minimise stress in your environment too. Try using an app like Flux to change the amount of blue light your screen gives out across the day. Maybe set ‘do not disturb’ hours for your phone. And you could try setting up smart lights with a traffic light system for your office availability - green means ‘come in’ and red means ‘please do not disturb’.
If you can think of an app to improve productivity and protect downtime, it probably exists. Open your browser and get searching for ways to be a better, calmer accountant!
Links to useful resources:
Key Take-aways of the Practice Room sessions
Practice Connect - Leveraging Technology Solutions
Passionate Practitioner Report; developing the digitalized small and medium practice
Podcast - Starting your digital journey