[IMGCAP(1)]After watching a weekend of football, it is obvious how important the fundamentals are to success. The teams that rely on the big play are inconsistent. Basic blocking and tackling aren’t that interesting, but without them, they will prevent teams from winning. The same is true with your performance as a professional accountant.

If you ignore the basics, you will find yourself losing—losing energy and losing focus. And eventually it translates into losing engagements and losing clients. In the end, you lose your professional stature and career fulfillment. And to think it all started with ignoring the fundamentals. So let’s review the three essential practices that will ensure success.

Fundamental #1: Always have your goals, targets and priorities in place before you begin. One of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people is to begin with the end in mind. If you don’t, you’re too easily drawn off course because you don’t have a clear direction.

• What do you want to accomplish before this week concludes?
• From what will you refuse to be distracted?
• What do you need to complete by the end of the week so you can feel like it was a success?

Fundamental #2: Plan your work and yourself. Both of these are critical because, as a knowledge worker, you are your work. Knowing what you want to achieve but not having a plan is simply a wish or a dream. There is nothing real about it. The plan becomes the vehicle you use to get to your destination. Without it, you can only look from afar at where you want to go.

• When will you schedule your challenging, high-concentration work?
• When will you take care of the administrative tasks that take little creativity?
• What markers (time, day of week, percent complete) will you use to gauge your progress?

Fundamental #3: Anticipate by looking ahead. Unforeseen circumstances tend to arise in the midst of executing your plan. Name the last time you completed an engagement that went exactly as planned. I know the answer: never. It never works our perfectly. So why do you expect it? Rather, think ahead, look ahead and stay ahead. Recognize, adjust and stay in front. Otherwise, you’re left reacting from behind, which is precisely where the wheels fall off.

• What has changed from when you planned your week?
• What is moving more quickly or bogging you down that you didn’t count on?
• Who is likely to be the wildcard in executing your plan?

Returning to the fundamentals will keep you on top of your game—your “A” game.

Fundamentals will separate you from the others, make your clients love you, and bring a sense of professional fulfillment. It’s yours to pursue, achieve and enjoy. Make it happen.

Guy Gage is the owner of PartnersCoach, a coaching and consulting firm to professionals in private practice. He recently launched Partner-Pipeline, a new program for professional development that is designed to cultivate and develop the characteristics of high contributing partners.

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