Just the word “busy season” makes accountants at Big 4 firms shiver with fear. It conjures dark images of long hours, tight deadlines, constant pressure, and grueling hard work that lasts for weeks. If you feel like this at the very mention of the word, don’t fret. Here is how to survive big 4 busy season; our 4 key must-dos.
How to survive big 4 busy season
Prepare and then prepare again
Preparation is key to survival, both in work and in life but especially during busy season. The more you can prepare before the busyness consumes your life, the better and more in control you will feel during it. Make a rough plan for how you will approach work. What do you need to get done before the season starts? How will you minimise time-wasting activities such as meetings, emails, and phone calls each day? Can you batch these tasks to be completed at certain times in the day where you don’t work as productively? Is it possible for you to reserve a minimum of one full day in the office to work on difficult projects or catch up items? Even though plans will change, thinking about these challenges beforehand will ensure that you overcome them far more efficiently and effectively when they arise. So, before the busy season, create a work plan where you prioritise your tasks and revisit this plan every Sunday evening to adjust for the week. Make a personal plan too. Will you make a meal plan or batch cook for the week on the weekends? Are you getting your shopping and washing done on the weekend?
Set your family and friends’ expectations
When thinking about how to survive big 4 busy season, an essential part of your preparation and survival is to set your family and friends’ expectations beforehand. You are going to be working very long hours for the next few months so the last thing you want is to see all these things that you are missing out on. You don’t want to feel guilty about missing social occasions and to keep disappointing people. By setting everyone’s expectations early, they can be the support that you need, and it also lets them know that the earlier that they invite you to something the better your chance of being able to make it. Everybody wins this way.
Know your schedule and work smart
If you’ve made a plan and you know your schedule, you can make sure that you are prioritising and managing your time effectively so that you hit your deadlines. By knowing your schedule during busy season, you can make sure that you don’t over commit and then under deliver. You can take work on and re-prioritise or delegate items based on urgency and time-completion; you can schedule blocks of time in your calendar to just focus on the most important projects with the least amount of distractions possible. When you know your schedule, you can work smart whilst also making time to look after yourself and to do things that you enjoy on the weekend. This gives you a great sense of control over your situation so that you don’t drown in busy season and it’s a great motivator too!
Look after yourself
The more time you can take to look after yourself during busy season, the more effectively you will use the rest of your time. So schedule it in! When you’re working for 12+ hours sitting at the computer or in your office, you need to make sure that you’re scheduling in regular mini-breaks for your sanity. At certain times in the day, set aside some time for you. For example, before you leave for work, spend 10 minutes meditating or spend your commute being mindful of your surroundings. At 1 pm, have lunch. Then, at 5 pm, go for a run or hit the gym for an hour. At 11 pm or 12 am, make sure that you are in bed to get at least 7 hours of sleep. It can be difficult to stop what you’re doing at certain times, but it’s more than worth it when you come back to that task with a renewed sense of positivity and energy and you’ll find that you work much more efficiently for it. Always make time for food, sleep, and exercise, and don’t forget to celebrate the small successes. These things may take time but they actually give you more time in the sense that you work a lot more effectively.
Emerge from busy season unscathed and sane!
It can be easy to lose your mind during this time but if you prepare well, set your family’s expectations, work smart, and prioritise self-care, you’ll rise from busy season like a phoenix from the ashes (or at least a tougher and more-experienced accountant!).