Art of Accounting: ‘Too much’ good information

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I received an unusual call last week. Somebody who bought my recent 101 Q&A book complained there was too much information and he didn’t know what to use, so he was not doing anything.

This is not the first time I’ve been told this. I also feel that way occasionally with books I’ve read or MAP CPE course I attend. I now have a simple way of handling it—actually two ways.

One way is when I have a specific question or issue I want to resolve. I find the right book (or speech handout), or what I think is the right book, and look for how the author suggests handling that situation. I stay focused, zero in on the problem and see what is recommended. Those times it is easy and I can move forward with the solution I want to apply. Because there is some time pressure—there always is time pressure—I have no problem being diverted or noticing other situations that are helpful to know about but do not let myself get sidetracked.

The other way is when I get a new book (or read an article or attend a program), I usually read it. If not, then I skim through it slowly to get an idea of the contents and areas of concern where I could refer to in the future if I need to. When doing this, either reading or skimming, many ideas—sometimes dozens—jump up, and it can be overwhelming because it is not possible to adopt every one. Instead, I make it a goal to select one item that I could start using. There is a temptation not to limit it to one, but I have learned I can do one new thing at a time but rarely can accomplish three or four new tasks at a time. Sometimes maybe, but as a rule, it doesn’t work.

With that one new idea I can move forward unencumbered by the many I have left behind. Once a new habit develops I can go back to the book, or article or notes from the presentation, and select another new idea to start working on. In this way I can perhaps adopt 10 or 15 new ideas a year out of possibly hundreds I’ve come across. I feel guilty passing up the hundreds of “great ideas” but also pretty satisfied that I’ve moved forward with a dozen or so new ideas. Over five years this accumulates and has me performing 60 or so new things I would never have attempted if I tried to do every new thing I came across, heard or read about. The one at a time works well for me. I get less frustrated in what I cannot do and happy with forward movement with the one at a time.

So, my dear reader, thank you for the compliment about the many ideas you get from my books, but try the one at a time and I will feel what I did was worthwhile if I could help you grow with a few things a year.

By the way, the two books he was talking about are Volumes 1 and 2 of 101 Questions & Answers for Managing an Accounting Practice, published by www.cpatrendlines.com. If you want to buy the books, or any books published by them (not just mine), you can get a 25 percent discount by using the code: EdSentMe.

Enjoy! And grow! One at a time!

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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Continuing education Practice management Ed Mendlowitz