Setting Realistic Turnaround Times

Setting Realistic Turnaround Times

As a bookkeeper, you're no stranger to the pressures of tight deadlines and client demands. One of the most challenging aspects of our profession is determining realistic turnaround times for the various tasks we perform. Let’s look at the process of setting turnaround times that accurately reflect your workload, capacity, and the complexity of the tasks at hand.

Assessing Your Workload and Capacity
Before you can set realistic turnaround times, it's essential to have a clear understanding of your current workload and capacity. Take stock of your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, and consider how much time you need to complete each one. Don't forget to factor in time for administrative tasks, client communication, and other responsibilities that are part of your role as a bookkeeper.

Additionally, be mindful of your capacity. Are you a solo bookkeeper, or do you have a team to support you? Your capacity to handle tasks will directly impact your turnaround times, so be realistic about the volume of work you can take on without sacrificing quality.

Factors to Consider When Setting Turnaround Times
There are a few factors we need to take into account when determining turnaround times for your bookkeeping tasks. Some of these factors include:

  • Complexity of the work: More complex tasks will naturally take longer to complete. Take into account the level of detail required and the expertise needed for each task.

  • Available resources: Your available resources, such as staff, software, or outsourced services, will impact your turnaround times. Be sure to consider how these resources can be utilised to increase efficiency.

  • Client expectations: It's essential to manage client expectations when it comes to turnaround times. Be transparent about the time required for each task, and set expectations accordingly.

Techniques for Estimating Turnaround Times
Once you've considered the factors that impact turnaround times, it's time to estimate how long each task will take. Here are a few techniques to help you do this:

  • Use historical data and benchmarks: Review your past projects to establish benchmarks for similar tasks. This can help you get a better idea of how long it typically takes to complete specific tasks and set more accurate turnaround times.

  • Break tasks down into smaller components: Divide complex tasks into smaller, more manageable parts. Estimate the time needed for each component, then add them up to determine the overall time required for the task.

  • Apply the 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle): The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort. Apply this principle to your workload planning by prioritising the most impactful tasks and allocating your time accordingly. This approach can also help you account for unexpected issues, as it acknowledges that some tasks may take longer than initially anticipated.

Planning for Late Paperwork and Unforeseen Delays
Even with the best-laid plans, late paperwork and unforeseen delays can still occur. To minimise the impact of these challenges on your turnaround times, consider the following tips:

  • Build in buffer time: When creating your schedule, add some buffer time to account for unexpected delays. This will give you the flexibility to handle last-minute changes without compromising your other tasks or deadlines.

  • Communicate with clients: Keep an open line of communication with your clients about the importance of timely paperwork submissions. Explain how late submissions can impact your workflow and the quality of work, and encourage them to set internal deadlines for providing you with the necessary documents.

  • Create a contingency plan: Develop a plan for handling late paperwork or other unforeseen delays. This might include delegating tasks to team members, outsourcing specific tasks, or adjusting your schedule to accommodate the extra work.

As your business grows and evolves, it's important to regularly reevaluate your turnaround times to ensure they remain accurate and realistic. Factors such as an increased workload, new clients, or changes in your resources may require adjustments to your existing turnaround times. By regularly reviewing and updating your estimates, you can continue to provide your clients with accurate expectations and maintain a manageable workload.

Communicate Turnaround Times with Clients
Once you've established your turnaround times, it's essential to communicate them clearly to your clients. Be transparent about the time required for each task and set expectations accordingly. This open communication can help prevent misunderstandings and disappointment down the line.

Remember that it's crucial to manage client expectations while also being honest about your capacity and the quality of work you can provide within the given timeframe. If a client requests a faster turnaround time than you can reasonably accommodate, it's better to be upfront about your limitations rather than overcommitting and compromising on quality.


In short, setting realistic turnaround times is an essential aspect of managing your workload as a bookkeeper. By assessing your workload and capacity, considering various factors that impact turnaround times, and employing techniques for estimating time requirements, you can establish turnaround times that accurately reflect the scope of work involved. Additionally, planning for late paperwork and unforeseen delays, regularly reevaluating your turnaround times, and communicating them clearly with your clients can help you maintain a manageable workload and strong professional relationships.

By implementing these strategies, you'll be better prepared to handle the challenges that come with tight deadlines and client demands, ultimately leading to a more balanced and successful bookkeeping practice.


There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!

Leave a comment