[IMGCAP(1)][IMGCAP(2)]Too many CPAs begin the day reading through their email inbox. No doubt, reputations depend on near instantaneous client service. But let's face it—if the only value you're providing for your client is rapid response, you'll eventually be replaced by someone in Mumbai, Shenzhen or some other time zone who can respond even faster.

Moreover, that level of service comes at a cost: CPAs become reactive rather than proactive. No matter how quickly they respond, they are always fighting fires, always behind the curve.

You can focus instead on “living in the calendar.” Rather than vainly hoping for a free afternoon for business development, carve out time for it. Structure your schedule each day so you stay on top of ongoing commitments while still allocating appropriate time to forging relationships with prospective clients.

Additionally, set Outlook or Lotus Notes to open in the calendar, rather than the inbox. This one adjustment will keep you focused on daily and weekly plans. The first thing you'll see each morning is your schedule, not the avalanche of emails that poured in overnight. Of course, you still must respond to those messages, but at least now you’ll be more cognizant of your daily priorities.

Living in your calendar also helps you delegate work more effectively. As you become better at tracking client commitments, you can hand off work to associates with clear check-in dates and deadlines—and that means more time for business development.

The final step is creating a clearly defined plan of action. When it comes to biz dev, most CPAs don’t know precisely what they’ll do or when they’ll do it. That’s because business development is a squishy concept comprising many different activities. It’s hard to make progress when you don’t have specific tasks to complete.

After just a few months of structured activity, you will begin to see results. I have personally seen junior partners at a large firm increase their average promotional time by almost 25 percent. Although there are no guarantees, creating clarity in your workspace—both physically and mentally—will make you more effective at developing business.

Brett Owens is chief executive and co-founder of Chrometa, a Sacramento, Calif.-based provider of time-tracking software that records activity in real time. Previously marketed to the legal community, Chrometa is branching out to accounting prospects. Gains include the ability to discover previously undocumented billable time, saving time on billing reconciliation and improving personal productivity. Brett can be reached at 916-254-0260 and brett@chrometa.com.

Dan Markovitz is the president of TimeBack Management.