It wasn’t planned this way but to find myself covering Productivity as the subject of this week’s email was incredibly apt.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the 31st January is the self-assessment deadline so the last week of January is our busiest month. The pressure builds slowly from October onwards until we are flat out. There is no week busier than this for any practicing accountant.

The routine is well-rehearsed even including the pizza order for all those filing the remaining returns in the evening.

And then we breathe a big sigh of relief at 11pm when its all over.

Of course, this year, HMRC have confused it all by saying that they won’t raise penalties for anyone who files their return in February. That sounds great but unfortunately they’ve also said that you can’t use the “Time to Pay” helpline to spread your tax bills if your return is late.

And we know that many of you are relying on that concession where your business has been hit badly by The Pandemic.

But enough of our busiest fortnight. Two weeks of the year when we are working towards a clearly defined deadline are not going to define the success or failure of our year. It’s sustained productivity on all aspects of our business that will achieve our goals.

Productivity is a combination of volume of work and making sure it’s focussed on the right things.

Ever been to a gig by a relatively new band you’d heard on the radio and really liked? You go along and have a good night. But you only knew two or three of the songs. Then compare that to going to see one of those music legends with 20 albums and a shedload of massive hits to their name that you’ve loved since your childhood. You’ll sing every word, and you’ll have a great night.

Whilst driving home, you will recall a whole load of other hits that they never got time to play. Volume matters!

A friend of mine told me about one of his relatives who is probably in the “legend” category. It’s someone you will probably have heard of. One evening, he had a gig at a private party. He had dinner with his wife, jumped in his car, drove to the party where everything was already set up for him, performed for everyone there and was back home by 10.30pm £25k better off. Nice work if you can get it.

He doesn’t have to be particularly productive anymore because he was incredibly productive in his earlier years.

But the rest of us on Planet Normal are building up our own back catalogue in terms of creating a business that will hopefully one day function without us. We’re all on the same journey as each other albeit one which is very personal to us.

We started off in education, then got a job and became employed. Then we became self-employed doing the things we did when we were employed but for ourselves instead. Then the turnover grew and what was self-employment became a business.

One day you will cease to be an owner-manager of a business and become an “investor”. You may well be in that phase of your life where you view your business as a cash cow that meets your income requirements whilst building up a savings pot inside a pension, LLP or investment company.

Eventually your aim will be to be the sort of investor with a portfolio of properties and investments generating sufficient income to give you the retirement you dreamed of. Or you might be living off the state pension that your National Insurance contributions entitled you to.

Along that journey, the volume of work you are able to do will have a big impact on the outcome.

But there are only 24 hours in the day and only 7 days in the week, so you need to maximise the productivity from the time you have available.

All successful people have their own techniques or combination of techniques. These might include:

  • Remaining focussed on why you need to do whatever it is that needs to be done
  • Set yourself targets for what you want to achieve today and create an incentive to do the one thing that you have been putting off
  • Gamification of your day or task lists. Keeping score (whatever the score is for you) even if its some artificial meaningless scoring system can keep you going through those days when your motivation is low
  • Understand when you work best (Morning, afternoon or in the case of our Inbound Marketing Manager midnight) and organise your work pattern around that. This has become much easier since we’ve all been working from home!
  • Do the hardest thing first. If it’s a big project break it down into small chunks. Starting early allows your back brain to start engaging with the project early.
  • Keep a to do list and update it at the end of the day or the start of the next.

But also remember that many of the tasks that you have to do can be delegated. One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to put a sign on my desk which said, “Are you the only person in the world who can do this task?”

And finally, if you’re wondering where the video with Steve and Roger is, they’ll be back next week for Productivity part 2 where we’ll be talking about ways of working smarter not just harder.

Right, that’s it. I’m off to find my credit card and pay for the pizzas for my hard-working tax team. Two ham & pineapple, one marguerita, garlic bread x 3…..

Have a good weekend.

Contact me today!

Malcolm Palmer


Managing Partner

01474 853856

Send me a message

Share this article