Archive for May 2017

Productivity techniques to conquer your to-do list

Productivity techniques to conquer your to-do list

Productivity techniques to conquer your to-do list

When feeling overwhelmed by an ever-expanding to-do list, many of us make the mistake of trying to plough through as much as we can, without pausing to think about how best to use our time.

Rather than simply firefighting, it’s worth taking time out to consider what is preventing you from being at your most productive and developing a strategy to overcome these obstacles.

Are the distractions human or technological? Is the part of the day when your concentration levels are highest regularly spent sitting in a meeting, leaving you struggling to complete higher-priority tasks during an afternoon energy slump?

Get planning. Setting aside time to plan your week around your own goals and priorities (rather than those dictated by your email inbox) is an essential investment, says Hayley Watts, a trainer with Think Productive. Create a structure for your week, month, and quarter, especially for repeating tasks. Identify the times in the day when you are most able to focus, block them out in your calendar, and defend them so you have that time to tackle things that need your full concentration. The more mundane, administrative work can be accomplished at your less focused times of the day.

Three “must dos”. Before you open your email each morning, identify the three most important tasks that you really want to accomplish that day. From there, match tasks to your energy levels through the day. Batching similar tasks together to do in one session – such as a series of phone calls or pieces of research – can also help you retain focus and concentration. Similarly, if you are going to be spending time travelling that week, keep a list of jobs you can get done that don’t depend on things like internet access or having a second screen.

Don’t overlook the long term. Set out time in the weekly plan to chip away at medium- and long-term projects as well as tasks with closer deadlines. Even 40- or 60-minute sessions on a big project will make a difference. Be ruthless about what tasks and deadlines you choose to commit to, Watts advises. Weigh the impact each project or task would make towards your overarching goals. Being at our most productive involves choosing where to deploy our available capacity and energy to get the best results.

Shut down distractions. Protect your most productive times of the day by eliminating the most common sources of disruption. Turn off email notifications, sign out of instant messenger, and switch off your phone’s ringer. Watts suggests setting particular times to check email, such as five minutes at the top of each hour, or a few 20-minute sessions per day, then closing the inbox, or at least shutting off the notifications. During your dedicated email time, if the response to an email, or the task required, will take two minutes or less, complete it straight away.

Splendid isolation. It’s important to strike the right balance between being available to your team and your colleagues and having the opportunity to focus and meet your own work commitments. Set some expectations about when you will be available, whether in person or on instant messenger, and when you would rather not be disturbed. If non-urgent interruptions or the noise of an open-plan office hinder your concentration, try a new base for part of the day. This could be a break-out area, your home, or a café. Watts also suggests trying to swap desks with a colleague from another floor for a few hours.

Review your progress. Review your progress at the end of each day, and take a moment at the end of the week to see what you have achieved, as well as what you are falling behind on. Unlike a to-do list, looking at a list of things you have accomplished during the week is quite motivating. Arrange to swap your “done” list with a trusted colleague so you can provide each other with encouragement or peer pressure, as needed.

Take a break. If you have ground to a halt or are having trouble getting started first thing in the morning, try working in 25-minute bursts, followed by five-minute breaks. Use the opportunity to take a break from your screen, move around, and stretch, Watts suggests. Spending longer and longer in the office in an attempt to get stuff done can offer diminishing returns, Watts says. Wellbeing is an important factor in productivity. To maintain attention and concentration through the week, we need the right nutrition, hydration, fresh air, exercise, sleep, and time dedicated to a hobby or activity that recharges us.

Source : GCMA

4 career steps CFOs can take to be CEO-worthy

Career steps

4 career steps CFOs can take to be CEO-worthy


CFO skills can translate well to the CEO role – and plenty of CFOs aspire to be the boss one day. Yet, not every finance chief is automatically CEO-worthy; some skills must be practised, and others must be learned on the job.

One key step is the realisation that you are in charge.

“That was one of the first things that hit me: I am the one making that final decision,” said Anoop Mehta, CPA, CGMA, who became president of his company after previously serving as CFO. “Previously, you may have input, but the ultimate decision was with somebody else. You always know that, but you don’t feel it until you actually take over that role.”

About two years ago, Mehta was promoted to president at Science Systems and Applications Inc. (SSAI), a US company that competes for government science, engineering, and information-analytics contracts.

In a study of CEOs of FTSE 100 companies by Robert Half UK, 55% of CEOs have a finance background, and 23% are qualified chartered accountants. And that could grow if current finance chiefs get their way. About 86% of UK CFOs are motivated to become CEO. In a recent US survey, 64% say they aspire to the top job.

Preparing for promotion

About three years ago, the CEO of not-for-profit Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas said he would resign. He surprised his finance chief at the time, Stefany Williams, CPA, CGMA, when he said that he was recommending to the board that she take over as interim CEO, a role she eventually assumed permanently.

While some learning has been done on the job, she said that steps taken in advance helped prepare her for the new role. Here are four steps CFOs can take to better position themselves for CEO consideration:

Build relationships with internal and external stakeholders. For several years before he became SSAI’s president, Mehta attended meetings related to business development, and his presence as CFO sometimes surprised potential customers.

“In our industry, it’s rare that financial folks have a lot of interaction with the technical folks,” Mehta said. “I started getting involved in the customer visits. So I understood first-hand what [the customer] challenges were and how the finance organisation could help.”

Develop deeper knowledge of operations. Research from Robert Half and others shows that operational expertise is a must for potential CEOs. The careers of Mehta and Williams bear that out. Williams said that “an intense curiosity for how things work” has served her well.

“I’ve never been content to just sit there and read the numbers and only analyse the numbers,” she said. “It’s been about asking questions, talking with subject-matter experts about what’s going on, asking follow-up questions, ‘And what if you press lever B instead of lever A?’ That’s always been something that’s fascinated me, and I think that’s served me very well now. I’ve used that skill and learned a lot in a short period of time.”

Mehta added: “Sometimes CFOs get honed in on the internal reporting and the financial aspect of it, but the trend has been being more of an adviser. So in order to be that adviser, you have to have a broader understanding of [operations], and not just the financial aspect.”

Improve communication skills. Williams recognised nearly ten years ago that she needed to improve her ability to speak in public, so she joined a business networking organisation and began teaching classes at a local college. “I worked on those public speaking skills so my fear level would diminish,” she said.

Most of the anxiety over speaking has since gone away, she said. She continues to work on honing the message for different audiences as well as improving how she shares the not-for-profit’s vision – skills that take time to develop.

Expand your network. The involvement in business networking not only improved Williams’s speaking skills but also grew her network. Likewise, Mehta finds value in involvement in outside organisations. In fact, such involvement is a requirement for his senior leadership team. Joining a not-for-profit board, for example, gives budding leaders the chance to effect change.

“It increases your network and increases your ability to interact with CEOs of other organisations,” said Mehta, who is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion on the topic of CFO to CEO at the AICPA CFO Conference on May 4th in Phoenix, Arizona. “That helped me tremendously.”

Source : GCMA