[IMGCAP(1)]There are a myriad of different things that you can do with LinkedIn—most of which will require a lot of your time for very little return. Let’s face it: as a busy young accounting professional, you just don’t have the extra time to burn!

So what are the “critical few” things that you can do to get the most mileage out of LinkedIn?

Here are five simple best practices for you—in fact, I’d imagine these five will take you further than the next 95 things you could do combined, so I’d suggest just focusing on these five for starters, call it good for now, and and get on with life.

1. Get your profile up-to-date, with all of your work history and job/role descriptions. This will take 30 minutes or so to do right, but it’s well worth it. Do it once, and you’ve got it on autopilot for the next year.

2. Upload a picture to your profile—put a human face on it.

3. Recommend a colleague or two, and in turn, get a connection or two to recommend you. This just looks good to visitors checking you out, and shows you’re a good guy or gal.

4. Build your network out as you meet people. Have a follow up “nice to meet you” email to send? Why not ping out a LinkedIn connection request at the same time. This is a great way to stay on the other person’s radar screen.

5. Join a couple of relevant groups, and answer a question or two every week or so. Sharing your expertise helps you establish yourself as a thought leader while connecting with folks who could potentially do business with you.

While we’re at it, here are the top three time sinks I’ve found on LinkedIn, which have yielded little or no marketing return for us:

1. Don’t get email updates from too many groups—I’ve found three to be my limit. Pick one, two or three key groups and focus on those. Otherwise there’s too much information and chatter to keep up with.

2. I’ve joined too many groups in general for my own good. Again, you can spend all day on these discussion boards, and it’s not the best use of your time.

3. Don’t spend too much time with the app plug-ins, such as Wordpress, Amazon, etc. While they are nice, potential clients don’t really care what you’re reading right now. Just get them interested enough with your profile to click over to your website.

LinkedIn is a very cool and useful tool for business development—and I believe the 80/20 rule is definitely in play here. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the information, possibilities and complexity…so don’t. Most of your value will be achieved by a small percentage of your actions, so I’d suggest focusing on these high-value-add LinkedIn activities for starters.

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.