Jonathan Sears,


Partner, Sears Chartered Accountants

11 years experience as a licenced Chartered Accountant.

Other articles by this author

Time is valuable and money is wasted when time is not used productively.

A lot has been written about time management; most of it focuses on the need for planning budgets, managing tasks and setting time lines for meeting goals. These are all good ways to increase productivity in your owner-managed business; however, these techniques don’t address the prime reason time is wasted: human nature does not easily lend itself to self-discipline.

Establishing good work habits and tweaking existing ones will improve productivity and can be significant money savers. Make your business more productive, and your day less frustrating by trying these time-saving suggestions.


Log the kilometres driven and the destinations every day. Whether you use pen and paper, your laptop or smartphone calendar, this habit will save you time and frustration at month’s end when you have to provide your mileage report. You can print out the calendar for the accounting department. This ensures proper records for reimbursement, allocation to client accounts and calculation of HST and Input Tax Credits (ITCs).


Design a spreadsheet that categorizes expenses and ties them into your general ledger chart of accounts. Enter each expense separately on the spreadsheet under the specific category. Each line should describe the expense and indicate the total of the invoice. Set up a formula that calculates the HST/PST. Have each category total the HST/PST and the expense amount. Print out the summary at the end of the month. Attach the form to an envelope full of receipts and provide it to your bookkeeper. The bookkeeper can post the totals beside the general ledger account number.


Why do you always find what you were looking for in the last place you look?

Searching for misplaced files wastes time. When the task is finished, put the files back where you found them. Create paper or electronic client and sub-category folders so you can search both by client or vendor name and by some other category such as “Invoices”. When documents are received by email, mail or flash drive, file the data immediately. By having all staff follow the same filing system for manual and electronic data, finding and updating the file should be a breeze.

Wherever possible scan hard copy documents and place in the appropriate client folder.


Having to wait for parts or data to complete jobs not only delays other projects but duplicates process when data needs to be rechecked because of the delay. Wasted time can be reduced if the start time can be postponed until all parts or pieces of information have been received. Make comprehensive notes to record what has transpired. Before the project is shelved, make a “to do” list of outstanding work that will need to be done to kick start the project when it reopens. This list may provide evidence in a lawsuit in the event that an important step was missed because someone thought it would be done later.

Save time and make your business more productive.


Open and read all electronic and paper mail when received. Decide what to do with it. Merely looking at the email then closing it or just leaving the paper mail in your inbox mean you have to deal with it again later thus handling it twice. Read it, file it, or trash it.


To reduce the number of times clients or goods don’t show, call the client or supplier to confirm everything is on schedule. Establish when making the initial appointment or placing the order whether confirmation will be by email, telephone, text message or cell phone. This establishes the importance of the client or the urgent need for the part while eliminating wasting time checking email, telephone or cell phone messages.


Single trips to complete just one task are a great time waster. Organize and schedule trips to pick up as many things as possible at the same time. To avoid the “Oh, I forgot to…” syndrome, establish a routine for completing any task. It may, for instance, be better to pick up the mail and do the banking every second day. Make a list of needed parts or supplies that can be picked up in the same locale at the same time.


There are times when we must mull over a project to ensure all issues have been considered before we act. When frustrated with a difficult project, fill the time with mundane tasks that must be done. Catch up on your paperwork or do the maintenance on the front-end loader. The distraction allows you to regroup your thoughts while moving forward with areas that must be taken care of. Be careful not to put off the real task indefinitely, however, by continuously substituting other jobs.


Minimize social interaction with other staff members. Certainly we all want to know “how the weekend went” but those questions should be saved for scheduled break times. Avoid extended telephone conversations with clients or suppliers that have little to do with business. Five minutes lost with 10 contacts every day for 250 work days runs to 208 hours a year — 26 eight-hour working days — almost a month.


Schedule meetings near the end of the work day. People want to leave at a regular time to catch a bus, train or carpool ride on time. The end-of-day time constraint will ensure the agenda is dealt with efficiently. Any unresolved issues can be dealt with at the next meeting.