Your 2016 To-Do List

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Staring at the blank expanse of your brand-new 2016 calendar, it’s easy to be daunted by the prospect of filling in all that time with worthwhile activities. What to do? Where to start? To help, we’ve selected 12 items to put on your to-do list — one for each month. Go ahead and slot them in on the 1st of each month!

  • January: Go through your financials with a fine-tooth comb and find out which clients and which services provide the most revenue — and which the least. Then see if you can find more of those kinds of clients who’d like more of those kinds of services. Repeat.
  • February: Test your data backup. Do a spot-check to make sure both that information is actually being backed up, and that you know how to restore it. All too many firms go to the trouble of setting up a system and going through the motions every day, only to discover that nothing was backed up, or that no one on their staff knows how to access it. (What’s that — you say you don’t have a backup system? Then go back to January and make “Set up an offsite backup” your to-do item.)
  • March: Exercise. Go outside once in a while and take a walk. Eat more fruit than donuts. Take a Saturday off, even if it’s just to sleep. Take care of yourself — and encourage your staff to do the same.
  • April: It’s tax season, so we’ll make this one easy. Post signs reminding yourself and your colleagues that the federal tax deadline is actually April 18 (and later, in lucky Maine and Massachusetts).
  • May: Schedule an hour a week to think about the future of your firm. We’re stealing this from the Maryland Association of CPAs’ Anticipatory Organization program, but they won’t mind: Whether it’s long-term blue-sky thinking or nitty-gritty planning for the next six months, it’s critical to start shaping your future. You’re going to live there, after all.
  • June: Take a CPE course that’s not on a technical subject. Aim for one that teaches a soft skill in areas like communication or leadership. A course called “How to give effective feedback” may give you some ideas for July.
  • July: Seek out some feedback — real, useful feedback, whether from clients, employees or colleagues. Bonus points if you use a formal mechanism, like a survey. Then spend the rest of the year acting on it.
  • August: Promote a woman to a management position. Or mentor a woman so she’ll be ready for management in the future. Or just remind a young woman that there’s absolutely no reason she couldn’t run a firm some day.
  • September: Check your Web site to make sure that it includes a phone number and an e-mail address where potential clients can reach you. (What’s that — you say you don’t have a Web site? Then go back to January and make “Set up a professional Web site” your to-do item.)
  • October: Look at the Web sites of five accounting practices that are similar to yours. (You have one now, right?) Note all the ways in which their sites are exactly like yours, and how they all make the exact same claims — then go change your Web site so you stand out.
  • November: Vote. (We thought we’d make this month easy, even if the candidates won’t.)
  • December: Identify five clients you’d like to fire — then fire them. Take a moment to appreciate how good it feels. Then set up a system to regularly evaluate the rest of your client base, and ditch the ones who aren’t providing a similar level of value to you as you provide to them.

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