When it comes to employment, the emphasis is often on training, ability and specialist knowledge. As a result, by 2020 over half a million UK workers will be significantly held back by a lack of soft skills. You can super charge your accountancy skills with these six habits for accountants – and have a little fun while you’re at it.

What soft skills do accountants need?

As an accountant, you need to be focussed, organised, and have good communication skills. You also need to be adept at problem solving, time management, decision-making, and analytical thinking. This may seem like a tall order, but honing these skills is equally as important as developing your professional knowledge and business acumen.

Gaining the soft skills you need to propel you further in your career doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, making just a few small adjustments to your daily routine can make a big impact. Adopting one or more of these six habits will not only help you professionally, it can enrich your personal life too.

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1. Manage your day the Kanban way

Even the best laid plans fall to the wayside when we get too busy. We’ve all found ourselves in a frantic panic, surrounded by sticky notes and half finished lists. Often, this is simply because we try to pack too much into our day. We don’t plan efficiently enough, and we’re not methodical in working through our plans.

To plan effectively, have a set mission for each day. What’s the one thing you want to achieve? What potential barriers can you see? Now, write down the tasks needed to achieve this goal.

Once you know what these main tasks are, you can create sub-tasks for each. What do you need to achieve for each task to be complete? How long will each of these micro-tasks take? What is their order of priority? Now add up how long your tasks will take. This’ll help you to know whether they’re achievable. If they’re not, defer or delegate.

Using a project management technique like Kanban can also help you with your daily tasks. Kanban suggests you create three lists divided by ‘tasks that need to be done’, ‘tasks in progress’ and ‘complete tasks.’

Colour code tasks based on their urgency and ensure you start with the most pressing, or complicated task first. Alternatively, tackle the task you least want to do. This is known as ‘eating the frog first’ – and makes everything else seem easy!

2. Hack your way to success

Creativity is the number one factor for business success, according to a survey by IBM of more than 1,500 CEOs. Practising creativity will make you more adaptable, and better at problem solving and decision-making.

Give this a try by organising ‘hack days’ in your office. During hack days, members of different departments come together to find a creative solution for a problem that is affecting the business. Not only does this process hone your and your team’s creative skills, you’ll also develop better communication, leadership, and problem-solving abilities. Plus, driving initiatives like this forward will help you to stand out as an exemplary employee.

3. Develop your brain with strategic game play

Problem solving boosts productivity by up to 12%. It will also make you a better accountant. According to a recent survey by Robert Half Management Resources, 86% of CFOs said that strategic-thinking skills are important for accounting and finance professionals.

Engaging in strategic game play is an ideal way of developing different brain functions. Regular gamers display improvements in both sustained and selective attention, and their brains require less activation to stay focused on demanding tasks. Fortunately for finance professionals, there are a range of video games incorporating accounting themes.

Alternatively, give yourself a break from the screen and invite some friends round for regular games nights. Playing recall and recognition games such as Charades, Articulate, and Scrabble increases Theta Waves in the brain. Known as the “super wave”, this brainwave pattern influences memory, creativity, communication, and relaxation.

4. Focus your mind with daily meditation

Meditating for 25 minutes a day has been linked to significantly improved concentration, communication, and creativity – all essential skills for successful accountants.

fMRI scans show a reduction in beta waves and an increase in alpha waves (those associated with creativity) while meditating. This allows the brain to better process information and encourages higher levels of creativity. Still not convinced? Meditation is regularly linked to reduction in stress and anxiety.

If 25 minutes seems like a big commitment, don’t worry – you can start small. Just three minutes of meditation a day will have an impact, and you can gradually build up over time. This video, by physician Deepak Chopra, will take you through a simple three-minute meditation. `

5. Power up with the Pomodoro Technique

How many times have you had a looming deadline that requires some serious concentration, yet found your mind wandering? You’re not alone. Here are some time management techniques that will help:

The Pomodoro Technique: Known as a “time management philosophy”, the Pomodoro Technique aims to provide you with maximum focus and creativity, allowing you to complete projects faster with optimum concentration. The process is simple. You split your working day into 25-minute bursts with a five minute break in between. Once four ‘Pomodoros’ have passed, you take a 15-20 minute break. This process continues throughout the day.

The Power Hour: This is a catch up technique that’s perfect for those tasks you’ve been putting off. It also helps you to train your brain to work intensively for short periods of time, which would be very useful in the run up to HMRC deadlines. Find one hour where you won’t be distracted and focus all your energy on just one task during this hour. Do this everyday and you’ll soon find you’re making significant progress where you’d been procrastinating previously.

6. Identify and change bad habits

Around 40% of our daily actions are not conscious decisions, but habits. In order to progress in your personal and professional life, it’s important to identify the habits that serve you well and those that don’t. Once you know which, if any, of your habits are holding you back, you can work to change them.

One of the key ways to change your habits is to mix up your routine. Each of the actions on this list will help you to do that. Changing your routine is important, as it’s only through change that we’re able to develop and grow.

Change doesn’t have to be extreme to be effective. In fact, small changes in our daily lives have been linked to more flexibility, greater focus, and new opportunities. Studies suggest it takes anywhere between 18 to 254 days to change your habits, so don’t give up if you’re serious about making any element on this list a part of your daily routine.

In case you missed it, take a look at these 8 Gmail plugins for accountants and bookkeepers that will help you tackle the clutter in your inbox and improve productivity.

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