Are you looking to improve your time management skills? Do you want to know how to assess your time budget, prioritize time, and invest it well?
Gusto is committed to helping you excel in every aspect of business, which is why we partnered with CPE Academy to show you how a professional coach approaches time management, and how you can also benefit from their method.
Our webinar “How to Get Your Time Management to Thrive This Busy Season” featured a new take on time by the insightful Amber Setter. You can view the full webinar here. In the webinar, Amber expertly blended coaching principles with accounting industry know-how to deliver a brand new approach to productivity.
Amber Setter is a consciousness coach who helps individuals and groups cultivate awareness and expand what is possible in their professional and personal lives. A natural intuitive, she brings insight and compassion to all of her offerings. She is a certified, non-practicing CPA who worked as an accounting recruiter before pursuing her coaching business.
How to prioritize time, according to a professional life coach
Amber shared a powerful metaphor for time during the presentation: She views time like money: a currency that can yield high returns or losses based on how you invest it.
In our last article, we asked you to do a few exercises to track how you spend and manage your time. If you did the time prioritization exercise, you would have listed and ranked, in order of importance, the different things in your life that require time, indicating how much those things mattered to you. For example, you might have listed time for yourself, your spouse, your work, your family, and your friends. In your list, where would work fall in order of importance? How about family?
Amber says taking time for ourselves should be the most important thing.
“We take care of ourselves first. The reason for that is to give our best, whether it’s giving our best to our clients or … giving our best to our families. We need to be filled up, right? We need to be taking care of ourselves for the long-term, either to be a provider of financial security for children [or to provide] emotional support.“– Amber Setter
As accountants, you are used to performing critical and complex services for others. Amber shared that this service-oriented mindset, which is a core part of what you do, often leads accountants to place themselves last. Yet, you can’t help anyone if you aren’t well-nourished. Just think about how you feel when you haven’t slept well, are feeling stressed, or haven’t had a break in a long time. You probably didn’t do your best work.
Amber suggests that our partner or spouse should come next in our list of time-priorities:
“This relationship really serves as a foundation for many … it fills up your emotional energy tank.”– Amber Setter
Whether you have a spouse or not, the underlying message is important: intimate relationships, including those we have with friends, are a key resource when it comes to helping us maintain healthy, productive, stable emotional energy levels.
The next time-priority, says Amber, should be work, followed by family and friends. But why should family and friends come after work? She explains:
“Sometimes people initially struggle when they hear this because they think ‘Well, I don’t want work to come before my family.’ But the point of that is not [that] work [should be at the] expense of your family, but that you should work enough so that you have the basic fundamental pieces in place that your family needs. If you think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and actualization, it starts off with having that financial security.”– Amber Setter
Amber’s bottom line: Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish; emotional support is the foundation for success at work; and work is critical to your ability to take care of family and engage with friends.
How to make yourself a priority in your time budget
So what if you’ve examined and analyzed the ways in which you prioritize your time, and you still don’t believe you can find time for yourself? For your health and wellbeing, you’ll have to cut out other activities, no matter how challenging it might be.
“I’m sure some people … are thinking, ‘But I don’t have time to take care of myself. Who has time for going to the gym? Not me.’ And I get it. [But] it’s not about finding time, it’s really about making time.”– Amber Setter
So now we know it’s mission-critical to prioritize self-care, but what does self-care look like? How do you know when you need to invest more time into yourself, and what should you do when you realize you need more time for yourself? Unfortunately, many people aren’t trained to monitor and take care of their own well-being.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if your energy levels were like your cell phone battery and you could see it and think ‘Oh, 20%, getting low, need to plug in.’ Or, ‘Ooh, 10%. Things are getting critical. It’s really, really getting low. Red bar, uh-oh.’ That would be nice to know. The good news is you actually can start understanding yourself a little bit better … by becoming more conscious, becoming more self-aware, by paying attention to [your] inner self.”– Amber Setter
Tuning into yourself requires patience and practice. You may start off by simply reflecting on what you are thinking or feeling at any given time. You may wish to have an intention to observe your physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual states. Meditation, journaling, and talks with trusted friends can all help support this awareness.
Why you should prioritize investing activities
Consider why some activities are a higher priority than others. What is it about a spouse’s emotional support that merits prioritizing it? What do time and emotional support have to do with each other? Where does the concept of time as an investment play into all of it?
“With your life energy, you can’t create a more balanced budget by increasing your sales. … I haven’t found a way to create more time in a day. … So what I do instead … is look at investing activities. How can we create more capacity to meet all the demands on our time? Investing activities are those activities that generate interest and dividends by keeping you balanced, increasing your happiness, and ultimately enhancing your productivity. So this isn’t just for intrinsic rewards necessarily. … It’s really important to manage your energy so that you can produce greater results.”– Amber Setter
Amber shared interesting research from a book called The Energy Project. The author of this book describes four domains of energy: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Let’s break down what they are and why they are important.
Physical energy refers to our physical health. In order to support this energy, we of course need to take care of our physical needs. This includes getting proper nutrition, getting regular health check-ups, sleeping and exercising. It’s pretty basic, but not everyone can say that they take good care of their physical energy. This will undoubtedly affect your work.
Mental energy is particularly important for accountants. Your job includes complex problem-solving, interpersonal skills, mathematics, and awareness of government regulations. You really cannot afford to be lacking in mental energy, yet many everyday things can greatly deplete it. Amber described a study indicating that people who are distracted by something take 25 minutes to return to the performance level they were at pre-distraction. If you’re constantly being interrupted or distracting yourself through emails, social media, or social interactions, you’re depleting your mental energy. Focus is the biggest part of mental energy.
Emotional energy is what sets you up for success at work. Your emotional energy will impact your ability to work on a team, to manage a team, and advance in your profession. The emotional energy you give off can be unconsciously felt by others. To make a positive impact at work, you should be able to gauge the quality of your emotional energy and take steps to improve it. Amber explained:
“Emotional energy sort of refers to the climate within oneself. So are you stormy and moody or are your skies clear? When people are able to take more control of their emotions, they can improve the quality of their energy, regardless of external pressures that they face. And to do this, you really need to become aware of how you’re feeling in different moments, and then understand what triggers you, and why it triggers you. … I always go to the Maya Angelou quote, ‘People will forget what you said, they’ll forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.’ Emotional energy is critical when it comes to being effective as a leader.”– Amber Setter
What can you do to support your emotional well-being? Maybe it’s taking vacations when you need it, delegating when you’re overwhelmed, reaching out to friends, and learning new emotional regulation skills. You may wish to spend more time in reflection, journaling about various triggers and ways you can overcome them. Learning how to take care of your well-being is an art that takes practice, but it’s great for your career—and even better for you.
Finally, spiritual energy refers not to religion (although that can be a part of it), but to the bigger picture of life. It’s about being aligned with something greater than you, such as universal values and ideals. It’s what drives a sense of meaning and purpose. This could be to empower businesses financially, help organizations tackle complex challenges, or to use your greatest talents to serve others. To gain awareness of the quality of your spiritual energy, reflect on whether you are feeling in alignment with your values in your job and life.
Gaining insights and taking action to improve time management
If you haven’t already done so, consider doing the activity Amber described in our previous post on this webinar [link], where you map out all of the places that your time is going. Amber says it’s common for people to be shocked at the results.
“We have this awareness like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m struggling with time management. But if I’m really honest with myself, I’m not being intentional about my time at all. I’m just on the proverbial hamster wheel; I keep going and going and going and [with] more complexities layered in.’ And we don’t always just stop and pause and say … ‘What’s going on with the way I’m managing my time?’ … One of the things I might do with people that work in public accounting is to encourage them to ask, ‘What’s going on with my client load?’”– Amber Setter
Amber shared that accountants might want to take a look at their client load—and even at specific clients. Certain clients might be a drain on the accountant, or need services at a level of complexity that is below the accountant’s skill set. Consider the types of clients you’re bringing on, and what kind of return-on-time-investment you’re getting from them. You can then pivot to new types of clients in the future.
In addition, when assessing your time spend, begin to start considering alternatives and goals:
“I would love for you to … actually map out how you want it to be instead. And in doing that … you’ll see a lot of the deficit. … people have this idea, ‘Well, I’d love to exercise twice a week, but when I put that in, I don’t have time, and I have to make some trade-offs.’ But thinking … “Well, what is the value? What is the value if I layer in that investing activity? How might it fill me up and change my performance, and change my level of happiness?’”– Amber Setter
Amber also discussed the importance of accountability. Once you’ve gained insights and decided on your action steps, you might then enlist a friend, colleague, or even a coach to help keep you accountable.
Learn more about enhancing your energy to strengthen your time management skills
Time-management tips typically don’t advise people to prioritize time for themselves, but this is actually the most important step towards better use of your time. This is because when you invest in yourself, you improve your overall happiness and health, which leads to you being a more effective accountant.
The long-term effects of how you spend your time are the basis for determining its value. Activities that enrich you are good investments, while those that deplete you are bad investments. You can think of these in terms of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual investments.
Once you’ve determined where you’re dissatisfied with your time management, it’s important to create goals and actions to take. Insight without actions will not yield results. Having an accountability buddy can help keep you on track.
Gusto’s mission is to create a world that empowers a better life. We understand that professional aptitude and personal fulfillment go hand in hand. Don’t forget to check out our other articles based on this webinar, “Using Time Management to Improve Your Accounting Abilities” and “How to Sharpen Your Time Management Skills,” if you haven’t already.
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