8 tips for surviving busy season 

Proper time management is the key to avoiding burnout. 
by Sheon Ladson Wilson  

8 tips for surviving busy seasonBusy season is here and public accountants around the country are hunkering down for what is likely to be the most challenging stretch of their year.

“It’s crunch time,” said Victor Amaya, CPA, a partner at ClearPath Accountants in Denver, explaining that many tax preparation CPA firms earn half of their revenue or more during these four months. 

The 60-hour, six-day workweeks can create a hectic office environment. But if they manage their time correctly and take steps to lower their stress levels, young CPAs can survive and even thrive during this period. Here are a few suggestions on just how to excel during the rigors of busy season.

Early on

1. Send up a flare.
Remind family, friends, and the rest of your circle about what’s going on in your work life. Set expectations for how you’ll respond to requests and meet obligations. “Start telling friends and family that you’ll be out of touch,” Amaya said. “They forget sometimes that it requires longer hours than usual to get the work done and comply with some clients’ wishes.”

Remind family, friends, and the rest of your circle about what’s going on in your work life. Set expectations for how you’ll respond to requests and meet obligations. “Start telling friends and family that you’ll be out of touch,” Amaya said. “They forget sometimes that it requires longer hours than usual to get the work done and comply with some clients’ wishes.”

2. Pass the torch.
Let someone else be the social chair. “CPAs often hold the great planning gene,” said Alicia Sweeney, CPA, a certified coach who owns Kirabo Coaching in the Denver area and a 2011 graduate of the AICPA Leadership Academy. If you’re the person who’s always planning things among your circle of friends, that circle can suddenly diminish when you’re not around to set events in motion. During busy season, “people just assume that they shouldn’t ask you to go out and do things,” she said.

Sweeney solved this problem by asking friends if someone else could be the one to organize social outings over the next few months. “Once I realized that I had to tell people that, my friends found ways that they could be supportive of me,” said Sweeney, who also is a director at Coltivar Group LLC.

When things get really busy

3. Holster that phone.
Time management is critical, so let go of things that fritter away your time. “It’s crucial to ensure that you don’t read your emails every 10 minutes,” said Amaya, a 2013 graduate of the AICPA Leadership Academy, who recommended setting aside designated times in the day to catch up on email.

Time management is critical, so let go of things that fritter away your time. “It’s crucial to ensure that you don’t read your emails every 10 minutes,” said Amaya, a 2013 graduate of the , who recommended setting aside designated times in the day to catch up on email.

4. Make sure you’re reachable.
Find out how the key people in your firm like to communicate, whether it’s by email, text, or phone. “Set expectations with your superiors and your supervisors on what they expect from you,” Amaya said. “Ask them: ‘How would you send critical messages to me?’ ” That way, you’ll be sure to stay aware of their preferred communication methods and be less likely to miss important messages.

5. Make time to recharge.
Structure your days so you stay fresh enough to handle the load, advised Kevin Koven, CPA, a senior audit accountant at L.M. Henderson & Co. LLP in Indianapolis and a 2014 graduate of the AICPA Leadership Academy. “During my first busy season, I didn’t make enough concessions for myself. I tried to work from 8 to 7 every day instead of keeping a balance,” he recalled. “I found that what's really important for my overall energy level and attitude is to manage my hours.

“Leaving an hour early one night so that I can go to the gym, and then working another hour the next day or working longer on Saturday has been huge for me,” he said.

6. Eat in.
Having lunch at your desk is a good trade-off on some days. “When I’m not in busy season, I try to go out to lunch with people as much as possible but during busy season I find it’s more worthwhile to have the quickest lunch that I can,” Koven said.

After

7. Prepare for letdown.
It’s easy to feel a little let down after months of frantic activity. Sweeney suggested keeping things in perspective. “During busy season, you’re around a lot of people all the time. People constantly need you, and your days are completely booked,” she said. “Then in the post-busy season, you go home and say, ‘now what?’ That transition back into the normal routine can be difficult.”

It’s easy to feel a little let down after months of frantic activity. Sweeney suggested keeping things in perspective. “During busy season, you’re around a lot of people all the time. People constantly need you, and your days are completely booked,” she said. “Then in the post-busy season, you go home and say, ‘now what?’ That transition back into the normal routine can be difficult.”

To alleviate post-busy-season letdown, Sweeney recommended planning a trip or activity of some kind that you can look forward to. “It’s important to schedule something for yourself that you know you can count on that is going to be re-energizing for you,” she said.

8. Bank some sanity.
Koven spreads his rest and relaxation throughout times of the year when there’s less competition for time off. “I use most of my vacation during the summer and fall when it’s nice outside and I can play golf,” he said. “Whatever it is that makes you happiest or gives you your best energy level, make sure you make time for that.”

Sheon Ladson Wilson is a freelance writer in Durham, N.C.

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