Soon we will be entering my favorite time of year - fall. The steady routine of back-to-school season is a refreshing change after the lazy days of summer. The only difficult part is getting back into that routine! Why is it so tough to return to your normal schedule after summer vacation? It’s always easier to slip out of a routine than to adopt a new one. Summer habits slowly replace school-year habits, and your summer schedule (or lack thereof) becomes the new norm.
The “summer slide” can happen in your work environment too, at any time of year. When I begin working with a new nonprofit accounting client, we both adhere to a strict schedule at first. From daily file uploads to monthly financial reports, we both make a conscious effort to stay on schedule. But as time goes by, we slip into “summer mode.” File uploads become less frequent, transactions are reviewed less vigilantly, and deadlines are knocked down the priority list. Before long, our strict schedule becomes nothing more than a vague outline.
When your routine begins to slip, it’s important to address the issues quickly and get back on track.
First, evaluate the problem. Why did a breakdown occur? When school begins, you bring your children to the bus stop at the bus’s scheduled arrival time. But if the bus keeps arriving 15 minutes later than scheduled, do you keep going at the same time? No, you sleep in and grab a second cup of coffee, because you assume the schedule is wrong…until the day the bus actually shows up on time! This happens with accounting routines too. A breakdown occurs because something is not working - the schedule is wrong, inconsistent, or unclear. Communicate your concerns to your accounting professional, and work to stop problems before they occur.
Second, ask yourself if your workflow makes sense. Create a routine that functions effectively for both you and your accountant. I have some clients who forward bills to me daily, but only approve them for payment once or twice a month. I process these bills as they come in, so they are all properly coded, filed, and ready for payment when the client logs into our bill payment app. Then the client can quickly review and approve them in one big batch. This allows us both to save time while maintaining an on-going workflow. Find a solution that works for your schedule.
Third, make sure you are spending your time efficiently. Do you have any standard monthly invoices that are always coded to the same account? A client and I recently developed a master coding sheet for these items. There was no need to repeatedly communicate the same information back and forth. We found an efficiency that saves us both time.
Finally, develop back-up measures to keep your routine from slipping. Everyone deserves a vacation now and then, so it’s important to have a back-up plan ready to deploy. There should always be someone who’s capable of handling time-sensitive issues in your absence. Your accounting routine shouldn’t grind to a halt every time you leave the office. Work with your accounting professional to establish a routine that works for you. By honestly evaluating your workflow and creating a customized solution for your unique working environment, you can avoid the “summer slide” and keep your organization on track.