Time Tracking Tips for Tax Season

Tim Sines

Tax season is here, and for us accountants, it means our days are filled to the brim. You’re balancing a mountain of client files, ticking off tasks against looming deadlines, and ensuring every digit is exactly where it needs to be. Now, add to this mix the critical task of tracking every minute of our work during this busy tax season.

Adding one more task can feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s yet another task in an already packed day. And when every second counts, the thought of pausing to log our activities can seem like a frustrating interruption. This is why it’s so tempting to say to yourself, I’ll just log it after doing this other task.

But we all know how that goes, right? "After this task" turns into "at the end of the day," which then somehow becomes "first thing tomorrow morning." Before you know it, you're playing catch-up, trying to remember exactly how long you spent on each task, and guessing is never as accurate as knowing. This cycle can lead to underreporting hours, missing out on billable time, or even overestimating how much we can handle, which isn't good for anyone—not for your tax preparation business, and certainly not for your clients.

The thing is, time tracking shouldn't be a chore. It's actually your secret weapon. Knowing precisely where your time goes gives you the power to make informed decisions and to communicate more transparently with our clients about how their tax returns are progressing.

Why is time-tracking important and how do we make it less of a headache and more of a habit? Let’s discuss.

Why is Time Tracking Important for Accountants?

Let’s start by discussing why accurate time-tracking is an essential practice for tax preparers:

Enhances Productivity

It helps identify how time is spent on various tasks and highlights areas where efficiency can be improved, especially during the busy season.

Ensures Accurate Billing

If you bill by the hour, time tracking ensures that every minute spent on a client's tax return is accounted for.

Improves Profitability

By distinguishing between billable and non-billable hours, tax professionals can increase your billable tasks and boost your firm's profitability. Time tracking also helps you set realistic rates based on the actual time spent on services.

Reduces Stress

By setting realistic goals based on historical time data, tax preparers can better manage their workload and avoid over-commitment, especially when the busy season ends.

Reduces Stress

How to Set Up Your Time Tracking System

With tax season upon us, your workload is undoubtedly becoming more demanding. Now, more than ever, efficient time tracking is your lifeline to managing this hectic period with grace and profitability. This is where Mango Practice Management steps in. It transforms the way you track time, manage billing, and interact with your clients.

Let's explore how Mango can revolutionize your approach to time tracking and elevate your practice:

Why You Should Choose Mango for Your Time Tracking Needs

When selecting a time-tracking tool, the goal is to find a solution that blends seamlessly with your daily operations while providing substantial value. Mango Practice Management is that solution. Designed with accountants in mind, Mango provides a robust set of features to enhance your practice:

  • Comprehensive Time and Expense Tracking - Easily record every minute spent and capture all billable opportunities.
  • Streamlined Invoicing and Reporting - Quickly turn time logs into professional invoices and access in-depth reports to gauge your financial performance.
  • Client Portals and Convenient E-Payments - Boost client satisfaction with personalized portals and make payments hassle-free with electronic options.
  • Efficient Scheduling and Deadline Management - Keep your team aligned with integrated scheduling tools and never miss a deadline again.
  • Simplified Document Management - Manage documents efficiently and share files securely within a unified platform.

With Mango, you can move beyond traditional spreadsheets and manual tracking and manage your practice from any device, anywhere.

Sign up for a free demo of Mango to see how our software can streamline your time tracking.

Effective Time-Tracking Strategies

Effective time management isn’t just about using the right software. You should also incorporate time-tracking techniques to enhance your productivity. With the right time-tracking strategies, you can meet your business goals and deadlines with confidence. Let's explore two cornerstone strategies: Prioritizing tasks and batch processing.

1. How to Prioritize Tasks

The ability to distinguish between urgent and important tasks is crucial. High-impact tasks directly contribute to your most critical goals, such as client satisfaction, regulatory compliance, and your firm's bottom line. Deadlines, on the other hand, impose necessary time constraints that can affect prioritization. Here’s how to prioritize your tasks effectively:

  • List All Tasks and Deadlines - Start by listing all your tasks and their deadlines. This overview provides a clear picture of what lies ahead.
  • Assess Impact and Urgency - Evaluate each task based on its impact on your goals and its urgency. Use a simple system to rate them if necessary.
  • Rank According to Priority - Arrange your tasks by priority, considering both impact and urgency. High-impact tasks with looming deadlines should rise to the top.
  • Review and Adjust Regularly - Priorities can shift as deadlines approach. Regularly reassess your list to ensure it reflects current priorities.

2. How to Batch Process for Efficiency

Batch processing involves grouping similar tasks and tackling them in dedicated time blocks. This approach minimizes the mental load and inefficiency of constantly switching between different task types. Here’s how to do it:

  • Identify Batchable Tasks - Look for tasks that are similar and can be completed together, such as responding to emails, client consultations, or data entry.
  • Categorize Your Tasks - Break down your tasks into categories based on similarity. Categories might include client consultations, tax filing preparations, research, and administrative tasks.
  • Allocate Specific Time Blocks - Dedicate specific blocks of time to each category. For example, you might reserve mornings for deep-focus work like tax preparation and afternoons for client meetings.
  • Minimize Interruptions - During each time block, focus exclusively on the tasks within that category. Turn off notifications and inform colleagues of your focus periods to minimize interruptions.
  • Evaluate and Optimize - As you practice batch processing, take note of what works best for you. Some tasks may be better completed at certain times of the day, or you might find certain batches require more or less time than initially allocated.

Prioritizing tasks ensures that your efforts are always aligned with your most critical goals, while batch processing allows you to work with greater focus and efficiency. By integrating these strategies into your daily routine, you'll enhance your ability to manage your time effectively during tax season and beyond.

Grab your free guide to time management tips for busy accountants here.

Avoid These Common Time-Tracking Pitfalls

Avoid These Common Time-Tracking Pitfalls

Effective time tracking is crucial for maximizing productivity and ensuring profitability. However, even the best intentions can be undermined by common pitfalls. Here's what to watch out for:

1. Inconsistent Tracking

Not keeping track of your time properly can lead to mistakes in billing, guessing wrong about how much work you have, and messing up project schedules. To avoid this, make sure you track your time every day. Use tools like Mango Practice Management that let you easily start and stop timers, so you can accurately record every minute you work, even during phone calls or brief consultations.

2. Overlooking Non-Billable Hours

Focusing only on billable hours and ignoring the time spent on non-billable tasks, like administrative work or learning new skills, can cause you to misunderstand how you're using your time. To prevent this, use a time tracking system that records both billable and non-billable hours. This complete overview can help you find ways to work more efficiently and make sure every part of your job is considered important and kept under control.

3. Underestimating Tasks

If you often guess wrong and think tasks take less time than they do, you can end up with too much work at once and miss deadlines. To fix this, look at your past work times recorded in your time tracking tool. Tools like Mango Practice Management have analytics to review your previous work and help you make more accurate guesses about how long tasks may take so that you’re better prepared for the next tax season.

4. Multi-Tasking Inefficiency

Trying to do several tasks at once might feel productive, but it usually lowers both the quality and amount of work you get done. Instead, concentrate on doing one thing at a time. As mentioned earlier, group similar activities to cut down on the need to switch gears, and use your time-tracking software's features to plan and prioritize tasks more effectively.

5. Neglecting to Set Time Limits

Not setting clear deadlines for tasks can lead to them taking up more time than they should. To prevent this, assign specific time limits to tasks to create urgency and help you stay focused. Use your time-tracking software to set deadlines and reminders so that you stay on schedule.

6. Failing to Account for Personal Time

Not scheduling personal time for breaks, exercising regularly, or simply unwinding can lead to burnout, especially when the busy season ends. It's important to remember to log and value this time too, as it contributes to overall productivity and well-being.

7. Ignoring the Importance of Time Management Tips

Neglecting time management tips and strategies can leave you scrambling in the last few hours before a deadline. Incorporating time management practices into your daily routine can significantly improve how you manage workloads and client expectations.

By being mindful of these pitfalls and adopting strategies to avoid them, you can improve the accuracy and effectiveness of your time-tracking efforts.

Don’t forget to download this free guide to time management tips for busy accountants here.

Time Tracking Tips for Working with Clients

When it comes to working with clients, especially during the busy tax season, clear communication and boundary-setting are essential. These practices not only help in managing your time effectively but also in ensuring client satisfaction. Here are some tips on how to achieve this:

Communicate Deadlines and Expectations Clearly

From the onset of any engagement, be clear about what your clients can expect regarding deliverables and timelines. Use your initial meetings to set realistic deadlines and explain how prompt cooperation from the client can lead to a successful tax season.

Keep Communication Open

Regular updates can help keep everyone on the same page and avoid last-minute surprises. Consider using client portals, like those offered by Mango Practice Management, to ensure smooth, secure, and timely communication with your clients. These platforms can serve as a centralized location for sharing documents, updates, and deadlines.

Establish Your Availability

Communicate your working hours and availability to your clients. Let them know the best times to reach you and how long they should expect to wait for a response. This sets a precedent for respecting your time and helps in managing expectations.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Leverage technology to manage client interactions efficiently. Mango Practice Management, for example, includes features like team scheduling and due date management, which can help you keep track of all client-related deadlines and appointments. This visibility allows you to manage your workload and client demands more effectively.

Learn to Say No (When Necessary)

While it's important to be as accommodating as possible, there are times when client demands may be unrealistic or interfere with your ability to serve all your clients effectively. In such cases, be prepared to say no or negotiate deadlines. Offer alternative solutions where possible, and explain the reasons for any limitations on your availability or resources.

Prioritize Based on Urgency and Importance

Not all client requests have the same level of urgency or importance. Use your judgment to prioritize tasks. Focus on deadlines and the impact on your client's business or personal tax situation.

Set Clear Expectations for Last-Minute Requests

Make it clear that while you will do your best to accommodate last-minute requests, there may be limitations based on your current workload and previously set deadlines. Establish a protocol for handling such requests, including any additional fees for expedited services, to ensure that your clients understand the implications of late submissions.

By applying these tips, you can maintain a productive workflow and positive client relationships throughout the tax season.

Final Thoughts

Time tracking is more than just a means to an end for billing clients. It's a comprehensive approach that involves understanding and optimizing your greatest resource: Time. By selecting the right tools, like Mango Practice Management, and employing effective strategies for prioritizing tasks, you can transform the daunting tax season into a period of productivity and professional growth.

Here's to a successful tax season, powered by the strategic use of our time!

Sign up for a free demo of Mango Practice Management to learn more about our time-tracking feature.

Unlock your accounting firm’s potential.

Save time, streamline workflows and get paid faster with Mango’s all-in-one Time and Billing Practice Management software.

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