If you find yourself seven hours in on a two-hour budget, you may need to assess your time management skills. Managing my time on projects has been a real struggle. I have gone over budget more times than I like to admit. In assessing my own time management skills, I realize where I’ve been going wrong and want to help you avoid making the same mistakes.
- Understanding the Budget
The easiest way to go over budget on a project is when you have no idea what the budget is. Ideally, the individual assigning the work will give you a budget and take the mystery out of things. However, there could be times when the client’s circumstances have changed significantly over the prior year and the budget could simply need adjusting. It is important to go over all of what will need to be done at the start of the project to be sure that the budget provides adequate time to cover everything. You may also find an unexpected road block in project that will significantly change the budget. It is important to point this out immediately to your team. Making an executive decision to increase the budget when you are not the execute who is billing the client can have its consequences.
- Mapping Out a Plan
Having a routine helps to keep things flowing smoothly on projects. When sitting down to begin a new project first take a look at everything in the client’s binder and/or work papers to assess what needs to be done. Look for what type of journal entries were made in the prior year, any asset acquisitions or dispositions to consider, and so on. Once you determine how much work you have cut out, try to come up with a reasonable set of mini budgets for each part of the project. You should have a breakdown of how much time you will spend on journal entries, fixed assets, and so on. If you are unsure how much time you should be spending on each section it helps to ask your senior for guidance. Stop when you are halfway through the budget to determine if you are on track. If you’re halfway through the budget, you should be halfway through the work. In the event that you are not, figure out how much more time you believe you will need to complete everything and speak with your team. Check-in to let them know if you are running behind so that together you can come up with a plan for moving forward. Communication is an essential part of every project and alleviates the anxiety that budgets can bring.
- Knowing When to Let Go
Surely, there are legitimate circumstances that arise during projects that will cause you to go over budget. However, spinning your wheels on a single concept should not be one of them. If there is one mistake I made on projects (there is more than one but I digress) it is not knowing when to move on. If you find yourself struggling to understand something on a project, be honest with yourself about your ability to figure it out on your own. I relate to the desire to be the little accountant who could, but going significantly over budget to make it happen is never a good idea. When you find yourself stuck after mulling over it for an extra 15 minutes, go ahead and ask for help. You would be surprised how many times that work paper you are struggling with is one that does not apply in the current year and should be deleted altogether. Determination is a beautiful thing that your team will appreciate you for, but efficiency is also important so find your balance.