The holidays are winding down, the decorations are getting put away, and you are recovering from your food/sugar coma. January is here, and any CPA (or the loved one of a CPA) you know this means you are headed into tax season (insert doom music here).
There is no getting around it; January to April is stressful and busy and sometimes just plain hard. Working six days a week and up to 60 hours a week is not unheard of in the industry — time to hunker down and bust out those long days and weeks. Often a large portion of revenue is made during these months, so it is also a very crucial time of the year.
There are many ways to make sure no one gets overwhelmed, overstressed, and burnt out. There needs to be a balance in all things and priorities set beforehand to keep morale up and possibly even thrive during this time.
Let’s go over a few we have learned from experience and other’s experiences to not only survive but thrive this tax season.
Advise family and friends about your work schedule.
I read this advice everywhere and heard it from just about every CPA I asked. Let your friends and family know you will be working longer hours for the next few months and, therefore, less available. Doing this ahead of time can help avoid hurt feelings and disappointment when you need to say no to lunch dates and weekend plans.
No one wants always to be saying no to others, so advanced notice can go a long way in reducing those time requests. Just remember when your busy season is over, to take the time to reach out to those you may have ignored. Call your mom, go out to dinner with friends, reintroduce your self to your spouse, and spend time with your kids.
Maintain a healthy-ish lifestyle.
I know, easier said than done. During this busy tax season, stress levels are elevated, which is often a trigger for stress eating. Add in long hours at your desk, and physical activity will decrease. Together you have created a nasty combination. Get outside, take a walk, or go for a run, meditate, play with your kids, find a yoga class, eat carrots instead of chocolate. Build these activities into your daily schedule, literally block out the time on your calendar. It is THAT important to your physical and mental health. Maintaining good health will give you more energy and focus on accomplishing all you have on your plate.
Burning the candle at both ends accomplishes nothing except exhaustion. Yes, this is a busy time, and sacrifices need to be made, but your physical and mental health should not be sacrificed for the bottom line of a company.
Plan a reward for yourself for after the busy season.
Go big or small as a personal reward for a job well done! How about those shoes you have been eyeing? A day at the spa? What about a weekend away with your buddies? Plan a summer or fall vacation by yourself or with your family. It’s a perfect time for great weather, and plan on unwinding with whatever activity you love most. A holiday will be something fabulous to look forward to and serve as a great reward.
Anytime I am working toward something, I feel more motivated. Dangle that carrot to keep you going!
If you are the boss, do not forget to plan a reward for your hard-working staff! Maybe an extra day off, a nice catered lunch for everyone, or a gift card for a night out. The options are endless to show your appreciation. They have also spent less time at home and more time at the office during tax season. An employee who feels appreciated will go the extra mile for you with a smile on their face.
Schedule fun activities.
Schedule in your calendar time for fun activities, don’t just assume you will find “some time” to relax. Block out time and keep that date with yourself, your friends, or your family. Set aside Saturday evening and/or Sunday for a break from the grind, it will give you something to anticipate during the week and also recharge your batteries for the next week.
Not only will a fun activity ignite your spark again, but your friends and family will also be much more accommodating to your busy schedule when they know you have set aside time to be with them, spend time with them to do something fun.
Watch out for those time-wasting activities.
We have all done it. “I am just gonna check my email super fast…” Forty minutes later, you are giggling at dog videos on twitter. I get it, I love a good dog video as much as anyone else but probably not the best use of time during this busy season. Beware of those little habits we have that can quickly take you off course. Put your phone on DO NOT DISTURB (best setting ever), then put it where those chimes and rings won’t tempt you to check it. Set aside a few minutes each hour or so to peek at it and then back in the drawer.
Did you know the average daily time spent on social in 2018 was 142 minutes a day? Be careful and consciences about how you spend your time. I can think of lots of different ways I would like to spend 2 hours than on social media.
There are other non-phone related time wasters as well. Be aware of time spent chatting with others at the office. Some talking is necessary and keeps you feeling human during your busy time but be wary of the subject matter and the clock. What about meetings? I would venture to say, at least half of the meetings held are unnecessarily long or completely unnecessary. The worst time wasters are the ones when we think we are productive.
Work Smarter, not harder.
Check out a blog post from a while back. While not specific to the busy season, it has some helpful tips.
Delegate. Delegate. Delegate.
Once again, for those in the back, DELEGATE. If you have tasks on your to-do list that can be done by an assistant, a co-worker, your spouse, your teenage kids, the mailman (okay maybe not the mailman) by all means, have them do it! No need to be a martyr this time of year! Take all the help offered, and don’t forget to ask for it if support, even if no one offers.
Delegation doesn’t come easily to everyone, asking for help can be hard. Here are a few tips to make it easier; Communicate precisely what you are asking someone to do along with when it needs to be done. Let them ask clarifying questions to clear up any confusion. Then hand it off, give them the authority and responsibility to do what you have requested. Be sure to check back occasionally, but mostly trust the job will get done.
The busy season doesn’t have to be completely overwhelming. Use these ideas, and you will find it to be not only a busy season but also a gratifying season!
Let us know any tips or tricks you have discovered in the comment section below.