If you are like most tax preparers and reviewers then you cringe at opening Microsoft Outlook during tax season. You spent the previous evening working overtime trying to get returns off your desk because you wanted to spend today catching up on things you need to do.
But you open your inbox and you find 20, 30 or 50 e-mails from
- other staff,
- your boss,
- headhunters (who want to lure you to another firm while you are frustrated), and
- others who want to take up your time.
You want to address the e-mails quickly so that you can get them out of the way and not forget about them. However, anyone who has worked in a public accounting firm tax department knows that sending a group of e-mails in the morning to people inside and outside the office can create a problem.
The people who receive your e-mail responses now know that you are in the office and are thinking about their issue. They might decide that they want to talk about it now even though you still have twenty other things to do. You were trying to respond to these e-mails to get them out of the way. But instead you now have additional e-mails (or phone calls) that you have to address.
In effect, the other person has turned your e-mail system into an instant messenger or chat system. You have allowed everyone else to manage the priorities of your tasks instead of you.
In addition, you now have less time to address the follow up e-mail or phone call. Most people that send an e-mail in the afternoon or evening understand that you might not respond until the next day.
But many clients expect that if they send you an e-mail in the morning that you will respond by the end of the day. Therefore, instead of being ahead, you have been working for two hours and not made any progress on your tasks for the day. Let’s not forget that you also have to figure out how to account for all this chaos on your timesheet.
The Microsoft Outlook Solution
But Microsoft Outlook’s Delay Delivery option can solve most of these problems. Using this option, you prepare each e-mail the same way that you would as if you were going to send it immediately. But you click the Delay Delivery option in Microsoft Outlook before you hit send (located under the options tab when you are writing an e-mail). This option allows you to choose when the e-mail will be delivered.
For example, you could write an e-mail response at 8am to a client, but tell Microsoft Outlook to delay sending the e-mail for an hour, until noon, or until the end of the day. Once you hit the send button, there is nothing else you need to do. It will send the e-mail at the time you requested.
If you decide later that you want to edit or delete the e-mail that will be sent you can click on the outbox folder in the left-hand column of Microsoft Outlook. At that point, you can edit or delete the e-mail or change the time you want the e-mail to be sent. If you change your mind and want to send the e-mail immediately then you can simply remove the Delay Delivery option and it will be back to a regular e-mail.
The Delay Delivery option is a great feature because it allows you to take back control of managing of your priorities instead of others determining your schedule.
During tax seasons, I regularly divide my e-mails into the following categories using the Delay Delivery option:
- Send immediately
- Send at lunch
- Send at 3pm
- Send when I leave the office (heh)
My guess is that once you get the hang of this option that you will use it in and out of tax season on a daily basis.
Let me know in the comments section (or through my contact page) what you think about the Delay Delivery option and what tips and tricks you use to manage your time during tax season.
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