10 simple productivity hacks for finance professionals

If you ask finance professionals how they spend their time each day it’s likely many will say “in meetings that do not matter,” “answering emails that do not really warrant an answer” or “performing finance blocking,” and “tackling the financial close and manually creating or manipulating reports.”

Finance teams need to deliver more with less, and “more” often means output that delivers strategic value.

After speaking with hundreds of finance professionals throughout my career, I have compiled 10 simple but effective productivity hacks that finance professionals can leverage to maximise the time they spend each day on activities that deliver the highest possible value of output.

Find a way to effectively manage your email.

Most people waste at least 30 minutes to an hour each day reading, reviewing, deleting or writing emails that offer no value. Investing in email management in terms of sending and receiving email can save you a lot of valuable work time.

Create effective time allocation in meetings.

Choose to only take part in meetings that offer an ROI for your time. Wasted time in meetings can drag down the productivity of your fellow workers. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is famous for not writing down anything in meetings. He believes useful information will be retained and throw away information has no place in a meeting.

Right-sizing technology for effective finance management.

Having access to the technology you need to do your job including effectively collaborating with colleagues across the enterprise is key to productivity. A recent article on Business Insider talks about the importance of finding a “single source of truth” within reporting systems that all members of a company can rely on for reporting purposes.

Automate as many tasks as possible.

Remove manual tasks whenever possible. Take the time to figure out all tasks that take up valuable time on a daily and weekly basis and figure out how to automate as many of those tasks as possible. This doesn’t mean you should stop paying attention to those reports. Instead, find ways to build automatic dashboards and other systems that lead to more time spent on data interpretation and less time spent on data inputs.

If you use Excel, embrace it.

Almost all finance professionals use Excel for something. Excel courses are a dime a dozen so take one or as many as need to be an Excel guru for what you do in Excel. The better equipped you are in the art of Excel spreadsheet creation and maintenance, the less time you will need to spend tinkering with data, macros, and formatting issues.

Only produce internal reports that are actually needed.

How long does it take to create a report? Who uses it and why? Ask these questions for every report you help create and receive.

You can eliminate reports that you personally create by showing certain teams how to pull those numbers on their own. For example, sit down with the sales team and show them how to pull weekly revenue numbers. As technology has continued to improve, it has become easier to teach non-finance workers how to pull basic financial data on their own time.

Workflow, workflow, workflow.

Lack of workflow breeds inefficiency and inhibits business agility. Workflow is the foundation for: Repeatability, consistency, quality, scalability, and flexibility.

Develop consistent processes and procedures.

Inconsistency in process and procedures leads to inefficiency. Most time spent on rework can be traced to ineffective processes and procedures especially in the arena of financial consolidation. Whether you are taking over a new project or merging various reports into a single data set, I highly recommend sitting down and figuring out the entire set of processes and procedures you need to complete the task at hand.

Don’t allow drama to sneak into the workplace.

Accountability mitigates drama. Do not tolerate finger pointing. If you see drama confront it and make it a teachable moment for those employees involved in the drama. Remember that developing the right processes and procedures and teasing all members of your team to follow those guidelines can help reduce finger pointing and therefore stop drama before it occurs.

Make sure your team steps away from work and has some occasional fun.

Morale matters and you need to make it positive.

Every so often buy lunch for your team, take your group for an offsite experience (a movie, bowling, etc.), have casual or dress up days (80’s day).

Learn what makes your colleagues smile, and figure out how to make that happen. Be positive, and bring energy. Always remember that people feed off passion and positive energy.

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