16 Tips to Survive Accountant Busy Season
It’s crunch time for accounting professionals and accounting firms all over the country as people rush to them to get their taxes done. Tax time is the busy season accounting professionals likely dread the most. Apart from tax filing, accountants accomplish little else from January through April. This is why tax season can be so stressful.
Consider some tips to help you maintain your sanity. With tax season on the horizon, now is the time to look for ways to make it go a little easier. How can you survive tax season?
1. Get Some Structure
First and foremost, you need to accept your limitations. You will work long, hard hours, and there is no way to avoid that, but effective time management can make all the difference.
One thing you can do is add some structure to your day. Even if you plan to work 16 hours straight, there is a right and a wrong way to do it. Start by determining what you need each day and how you will get it. This will be something different for each person.
You need to eat, right? So, is it better to eat quickly at your desk or schedule mealtimes and step away?
If you do schedule a time when you step away from your desk, know what you will do with this time. If you want to sit outside, put a bench there for you to use. If there is a diner nearby, use it for your breaks. Do whatever you need to do to get away from the desk.
“...get out of the office every day for lunch if you can. I used to work through lunch just to try and get more work done, but I now realize that I am much more efficient after clearing my head and getting out of the office for a while.” - Richard L. Craig, 415 Group
Even if you decide to eat in, you still need to step away from your desk once in a while. Have a plan ready for your breaks, too. Maybe you need five minutes every three hours to just walk up and down the street to stretch your legs. Plan ahead to make the best use of this time.
3. Know What Are You Not Going to Do During Your Day
You also want to plan so there are no distractions during your day. Start by explaining to friends and family that you need to work uninterrupted. If they want to talk to you, ask them to wait until you are at home, unless it is an emergency.
4. Social Media
You will also need to practice some self-discipline when it comes to your work ethic. For one thing, stay off social media. It can be a huge distraction. Either wait until you get home to see who is doing what on Instagram or check your pages only during a scheduled break.
Make sure you remove or ignore other distractions, too. If your office has a TV, for instance, keep it off. Also, put your phone away during work hours. If you find you keep taking it out, put it out of reach. If you have to walk across the room to check it, you are more likely to leave it alone.
6. Make Healthy Living a Priority
The better you treat your body during this time, the easier things will go.
7. Eat Right
Along with planning a time to eat, focus on healthy meals. That means avoiding delivery and fast food. Pack healthy meals and keep plenty of health snack options at hand.
Figure out when you can exercise, too. If you are a morning person, get up an hour early each day to hit the gym or go for a run. If you prefer to work off the stress of the day, plan an hour after work to exercise.
9. Get Plenty of Sleep
Make sleep a priority. Figure out how you can wind down after your workday. You might meditate or read a book. Try to make your time out of the office as stress-free as possible so you can get a solid night’s sleep.
“I keep a rigid sleep schedule – in bed by 10:30 pm every night and up by 6:45 am every morning.” - Stephanie McGuire, McGuire & Associates
10. Give Yourself One Day Off
You need at least one day a week to reset.
“I do not work Sundays. I need at least one day to unwind and relax.“ - Ron Wolfe, Wolfe Accounting and Tax, LLC
11. Take Advantage of the Technology
Make use of the technology at your disposal.
You are no less of a tax professional because you choose to automate. It is also better for your clients because their financial records will be more accurate and secure.
“...over the past 3-4 years, the improvement of technology, auto scanning, and a good paperless system now lets me be just as efficient at home as I am at the office.” - Richard L. Craig, 415 Group
13. Use a Scanner
Use a scanner for all documents.
Have a backup plan in place, too. For example, what will you do if your computer dies? Use cloud base software and have a spare laptop in the office. That way you can continue working on any computer.
What happens if the electricity or internet service goes out? Have a second location in mind if you need to move for a day to handle client appointments.
14. Work Remotely
You might even consider working with your clients remotely. That saves time for everyone during the audit busy season. Take advantage of programs like Zoom for remote meetings.
“I support clients remotely as much as I can. I saved 2 hours today and was thankful for the extra time!" - Jo King, Automated Only
15. Delegate When Possible
If you run your own tax team, don’t try to do everything yourself.
“Delegate, delegate, delegate. I’ve implemented a process this year for staff to intake, scan and enter basic info on the tax return before I see it. I’ve also delegated coordinating and following up on 8879s. Little time-savers make a big difference.” - Wendy Knutson, Knutson CPA
16. Plan Your Reward
One way to avoid post tax season depression is to have a reward in mind for yourself. The season will go better if you know you are working towards something.
Maybe you are going to take a few weeks off and enjoy a vacation. This might be the year you reward yourself with a new car. Just know what you are working for and keep your eye on the prize.