Busy season is fast approaching, and accountants and CPAs around the country are beginning to prepare for the most challenging time of the year.
Pairing constantly changing tax laws with the stress of an increased workload can negatively affect your concentration and effectiveness. In fact, studies show that it can take more than twenty minutes to get back on task after an interruption.
The sixty-hour, six-day workweeks can create a stressful office environment, and just showing up at the office expecting to finish your pile of work isn’t always enough. That’s when you need to practice time management to get your work done.
If you manage your time correctly and take steps to lower your stress levels, you can survive and even thrive during this period. Read on to learn how to get more done in less time during the busy season.
Frequently switching between preparing returns, reviewing returns, and meeting with clients is counterproductive.
Find a time management tool that you’ll actually use. Try a cloud-based calendar so you can track your schedule in real-time. You can also use the tool’s reminder feature to stay on top of scheduled appointments and meetings.
Plan your days and weeks relentlessly—schedule time for everything, including administrative tasks. Consider blocking out specific chunks of your days for client work and reserve other times for meetings and administrative tasks.
Be realistic about the time it will take to complete a task. Planning in such granular detail helps plan for your availability and sets realistic client expectations.
Write down everything you accomplished at the end of the day or the beginning of the next day. You can use your list at the end of the week and look for time wasters. When you see how your time is actually spent, you can identify areas that need improvement.
There comes a time when you need to accept that some things just aren’t going to get done at this time of year. Plan your workday by determining which personal and professional tasks are the most important and focusing on those.
Prioritize each task and create a list. Try doing this every morning to get in the habit of prioritizing. You’ll also have the added benefit of a sense of accomplishment as you check things off your list.
Besides the joy of checking off a task on your to-do list, try setting weekly and daily priorities to help make sure nothing important slips through the cracks in the chaos of the busy season. This can also provide a focus for your workday to aid you in accomplishing what you need to.
But don’t forget to plan for interruptions! If your schedule is packed with tasks, calls, and meetings, you’ll get frustrated when inevitable interruptions occur and put you behind schedule. Try allocating ten to fifteen minutes in-between tasks or overestimating how long it will take you to complete something.
Low-value tasks like filing documents, sending emails, and making phone calls are needed to accomplish more significant tasks. To avoid getting sidetracked and expending all of your energy on low-value tasks, try “batching” them into groups. To get the best results, make a habit of batching tasks and stick to it. Spend twenty minutes at the end of the day replying to emails or file papers after you’ve completed a big project.
Give your employees tasks that build on their skills, and both you and your employees will benefit. You can also hire a virtual assistant to help you during the busy season if you’re solo. Or delegate elements of your personal life—you can hire a weekly cleaning service or get your groceries delivered.
The threat of burnout is real during the busy season. Taking care of your body and mind by taking breaks, exercising, and getting enough sleep is crucial to preventing burnout.
You may not be able to keep up with your normal routine, but you still have to find time to wind down. Take a brisk walk around the block, do a light workout in your office, or grab a cup of coffee and chat with a coworker after a period of intense work.
With the busy season fast approaching, it is time to put your time management skills to work. If you follow the above steps, you can survive and even thrive during this otherwise stressful period.
Amy Vetter is a CPA.CITP, CGMA is an accomplished c-suite executive and board member with deep experience in cloud technology and transformation, creating go-to- market (GTM) strategies to scale businesses nationally and internationally. Amy has held multiple roles in Fortune 500, startup, small company rapid growth, and is a serial entrepreneur. She is well-versed in overseeing marketing, sales, customer programs, and education. Amy is also an active member of the AICPA IMTA Executive Committee where she leads the Technology Innovations Taskforce and is an AICPA CITP Champion.
Amy is a sought-after speaker, panelist, and authors articles for many national publications and online journals. Amy has inspired thousands using her experiential knowledge on the digital transformation journey, where she provides guidance on how to move to cloud technology, and also the change management necessary to be successful. As a cloud technology expert, Amy authored Integrative Advisory Services: Expanding Your Accounting Services Beyond the Cloud, published by Wiley, where she provides the skills needed to transform digitally to take advantage of cloud technology and create advisory services to offer business clients. She also published the book, Business, Balance, & Bliss: How the B3 Method Can Transform Your Career and Life. Amy is a veteran speaker whose TEDx Talk continues to motivate viewers to take a more human approach to business in this digital world.