If you were to ask 100 accountants their thoughts about time, you’d probably hear something like:
- I’m too busy
- I’m not going to get it done
- These deadlines are killing me
- There isn’t enough time to get everything done
- Time is not on my side
- Time just gets away from me
If you were to also Google “accountants and time management”, you’d see over 80 million hits, ranging from workshops, to templates and products, to articles promising to give you the BEST time management tips for accountants. It’s as if the whole world knows an accountant’s achilles heel – time and time management.
Most articles will describe time management for accountants as “crucial” or “challenging”, offering some process or project management software as the solution. They’ll also suggest things like the Pomodoro method, where you schedule 30 minute increments of working, blocking 25 minutes for work and 5 minutes for a break, or they’ll recommend digitizing your files in order to reduce disorganization.
They’ll tell you to be the master of your calendar, to schedule tasks depending on your circadian rhythm, and to only check email at certain times of the day. While I do coach my clients to follow some of these suggestions as well, the best time management system or software cannot outrun one very important thing – time scarcity.
Time scarcity is a term that describes the feeling that you’re racing against a clock that somehow ticks faster every day. The tricky thing about time scarcity is that it might feel like it’s motivating you or pushing you out of procrastination, but it’s actually sabotaging you more than you realize.
Just like a scarcity mindset around money, where you’re concerned that there’s not enough or there never will be enough, the same thing can happen with time. The sneaky thing though, is that you can always make more money than you currently make, but we’re all given 24 hours to spend every day, no matter where we live, what we do for a living, or what our bank account balance shows.
Until I learned the true secret to better time management, I also suffered with time scarcity, believing that time was not on my side or that there weren’t enough minutes or hours to get everything done, creating a lot of overwhelm, stress, and frustration. I took all those continuing education classes, I tried the various software apps, and I read a lot of those articles, trying most of the industry’s BEST tips.
But everything changed for me when I learned why we have time scarcity and what to do about it. Not only did I finally figure out how to better manage my time, but I also learned how to get more done in less time, how to be more productive, and how to actually create more time for the things that are important to me.
This week I’m going to discuss what causes time scarcity, and what you can do to get out of it.
What causes time scarcity
If you’re like most accountants, you probably don’t have difficulty creating a to-do list, putting things on your calendar, and planning out your day, week, or month. We all know how to create a plan or schedule our time, but the issue is when you have to carry out the plan, or do the thing on the calendar – that’s when all the drama comes up.
It’s similar to creating a budget where you plan what you are going to spend money on and what you’re not, but when the time comes to actually follow the budget, that’s when the problems start. The truth is that creating a plan is one thing, but carrying it out is another.
One of the reasons we experience time scarcity is because unfortunately, we’re not taught how to allow urges to do other things without actually acting on them. With all that time management advice accountants get, we’re taught tips on how to prioritize and schedule our time, but not on how to follow through when the time comes to take action.
We have all this advice about how we should spend our time, but then actually following through makes us wish that time wasn’t in such short supply. For most accountants, we believe time is the issue and if we could just figure out how to manage it better, life would be simpler and we’d get that to-do list handled.
If you think about it, in America, time has become a commodity. We’ve invented more and more ways of supposedly saving time, creating entire businesses around the concept of time management, developing software programs and apps to help us better manage our time, yet we’ve also created a lot of ways for us to then spend our time, in essence, creating less time.
But the interesting thing is that what causes time scarcity, isn’t actually time – it’s not how much or how little time you have that causes time scarcity. You probably don’t realize it, but the only thing that truly causes time scarcity is your beliefs about time.
The truth is that time isn’t scarce, because time just is – it doesn’t cause stress, overwhelm, or frustration. It doesn’t cause anything – it can’t. The real reason so many accountants experience time scarcity is because how we think about and relate to time creates our relationship with time. Yes, that’s right, your relationship with time.
Did you know you have a relationship with time? You actually do! So if you think about your relationship with time as if it was a person, what would time say about you? Time would probably say:
- She always complains about me
- She blames me for her stress
- She never thinks I’m enough
- She’s always giving me away
- She doesn’t honor her commitments to me
- She wastes me on things that don’t matter and then thinks it’s all my fault
So if you’re experiencing time scarcity, the best news I can give you is that it’s because of what you think and believe about time. If you are in the habit of thinking about time from a place of scarcity or not enoughness, that is quite literally what you will create.
The reason that this is important is because the key to dealing with time scarcity isn’t another phone app or another continuing education class teaching you how to streamline your work processes – they might help temporarily, but they’re not the solution. The key to dealing with time scarcity is understanding that time management is really about how you manage your mind around time.
The biggest shift I had when it came to better time management and dealing with time scarcity is recognizing that the point was to maximize and optimize the way I thought about and related to time. By working on mind management first, I was able to have the most intentional and abundant experience of time management.
Here’s what I now know about time – how we think about time creates our feelings; how we feel then fuels what we do or don’t do with our time; that then creates the results we experience around time. For example, if I think, “There isn’t enough time to get it all done”, I’m going to feel stressed; if I feel stressed, I’m going to most likely do something to distract myself from the feeling of stress or I’ll put undue pressure on myself, eventually ending up with me not getting it all done or burning out in the process.
Thankfully, since time scarcity isn’t time’s fault, that means you can actually do something to get out of it. The good news when it comes to time is that you can always improve your relationship with it, and when you improve your relationship with it, you definitely improve your life.
What you can do to get out of time scarcity
I think all of us can relate to feeling that time is scarce or that there isn’t enough time to get it all done. This is particularly common among accountant moms because, let’s face it, we really have two full-time jobs – accounting and mothering.
We’ve got a lot of responsibilities as a working mom and the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else. So the question then becomes “How am I going to get it all done when there isn’t enough time?”
Here’s the amazing thing that I learned – the thought “There isn’t enough time” is just a thought, not a fact, even though your brain might want to argue that it is a fact. The fact would be the things that are on your calendar, or the items you have on your to-do list – those things are facts – but “There isn’t enough time” is actually your thought about those facts.
I know this might seem confusing or might seem like semantics, but I promise you that this is an incredibly important distinction – the reason this will make such a big difference for you, as it has for me, is that every thought we have is optional. Every single one. How we describe or think about the facts of our lives, such as the things we have to get done and the amount of time we have, is completely optional.
Unfortunately, as both accountants and moms, we’ve just gotten so used to saying “I’m so busy” or “Look at everything I have to get done” or “There isn’t enough time”, that it’s no wonder we feel so much time scarcity. Every thought we think produces a feeling, which is why the feeling of scarcity isn’t caused by time, it’s caused by how we think about time. Again, time just is – it doesn’t cause feelings like stress, overwhelm, or scarcity.
As I’ve shared before on the podcast, what we think and believe, our brain will look for proof of. This is why it can be so challenging to figure out how to get more done in less time when you believe that time is scarce or that there’s too much to get done in the time you have.
You’re actually using your brain against you by continually blaming time for the feeling of scarcity. Your brain is only going to show you what you think to be true, therefore, if you want to get out of time scarcity, you have to stop telling yourself that time is scarce.
Here’s the key – unless you choose on purpose to think differently about time, your brain is going to always show you more proof of your practiced beliefs. In order to get out of time scarcity, you have to choose thoughts that feel abundant – thoughts that feel like there’s enough.
The remarkable thing about your brain is that by simply choosing to practice a better thought, and it does take practice, your brain will go to work proving that new and improved thought. For example, if you simply started to replace “There isn’t enough time” with “It’s possible there’s enough time”, you actually put your brain to work figuring out how to prove that new thought true, that it’s possible that there’s enough time.
I am telling you, this has made a HUGE difference for me in how I handle time scarcity, especially during tax season. Just because there’s more work to get done or there are more things on my plate, doesn’t mean there isn’t enough time to get it all done. Remember, what’s on your calendar or your to-do list is just facts – what you think about those facts is EVERYTHING when it comes to time scarcity.
The reason this has made such a big difference is that when I think “I’m too busy” or “There isn’t enough time”, I then feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or stressed. Those feelings are definitely not the best use of my energy, especially when I have a lot of things to get done.
This is such a huge problem for accountants – we tend to normalize stress, not realizing that stress is actually optional and is such an inefficient energy to use to get things done. As I said before, time just is, but how you feel about time and then how that affects what you’re able to do with your time, is much more in your control than you realize.
Instead of the typical “I’m too busy” or “There isn’t enough time” thoughts that most accountants have, what I like to do is practice “What if” thoughts – “What if there’s enough time”, “What if there’s plenty of time to get this all done”, or “What if time is on my side” – these are some of the optional thoughts I like to choose from. Sometimes I’ll choose “It’s possible” thoughts as well – “It’s possible that there’s enough time”, “It’s possible I’ll get this all done”, or “It’s possible that time is on my side” – these are also super helpful.
No matter which optional thought you choose, just know that time is not scarce unless you believe it is. When you begin to lessen the grip your brain has on your limiting beliefs about time, you’ll be amazed at how much more energy you have to use time more wisely.
An added bonus – when you change your optional thoughts about time, you’ll also find that your problem-solving brain loves to prove how you can prioritize, maximize, and manipulate time in order to get much more done in less time. Time is on your side when you choose to have your brain on your side.
I promise you that when you understand that time isn’t the problem, you can begin to see and experience time much more abundantly.
- If you were to Google “accountants and time management”, you’d see over 80 million hits, ranging from workshops, to templates and products, to articles promising to give you the BEST time management tips for accountants. It’s as if the whole world knows an accountant’s achilles heel – time and time management.
- While I do coach my clients to follow some of the popular time management suggestions, the best time management system or software cannot outrun one very important thing – time scarcity.
- The truth is that time isn’t scarce, because time just is – it doesn’t cause stress, overwhelm, or frustration. It doesn’t cause anything – it can’t