Whether you’re a junior accountant about to do your first busy season or an established accountant employed in practice with years of experience, the audit silly season or the self-assessment personal tax preparation madness can knock the best of employees off their feet. With multiple clients, a never-ending workload, and long hours at the office, the demand and stress of the season can take its toll. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. In fact, it is actually possible to survive it and all with less stress and your sanity intact. Regardless of whether you are management or a staff member, these survival tips will help you survive the busy season.
Survival tips for management
It can be difficult to survive the busy season when you are relying on others to meet their deadlines, but there are a few things that you can do as management to have greater control over this, reducing your own stress in the process.
- Communicate expectations to team members early – the earlier you communicate your expectations to your team members, the better they can plan ahead to ensure the busy season runs as smoothly as possible. Different projects require different needs, e.g. working 7 days a week or 5 days with overtime until the filling day, so communicating early will ensure that you hit your targets.
- Create a realistic timeline and communicate it to the team – you will need to be sure that you’re on track to hit your deadlines, so create a timeline with internal deadlines and milestones and let your team know that you will be regularly reviewing the progress. Having regular targets ensures that staff are informed and motivated and that work is always moving forward.
- Prioritise with the bigger picture in mind – it is easy to have the “everything is a priority” mindset when you’re in the midst of the busy season but this can actually hinder the progress of work as it just puts unnecessary pressure on staff members. Make a list of everything that needs to get done and prioritise them using the Urgent/Important time management principle and then communicate the most urgent things that need to get done first to your staff.
- Priority 1 (Urgent and Important)
- Priority 2 (Important but not Urgent)
- Priority 3 (not Important and not Urgent)
- Keep meetings brief and to the point – only hold necessary meetings and keep it brief and clear. Staff members will be stressed so you want them walking away positive and with actionable information rather than more stressed.
- Make it as fun as possible and celebrate the successes – staff morale and motivation are essential to productivity and meeting deadlines, so do what you can to keep spirits up. When working on a Saturday, host a themed lunch, team building exercise, or a competitive game to get staff energised. Don’t forget to recognise achievements and celebrate successes openly too, positive reinforcement is a strong motivation tool. (Here are 3 ways to motivate your staff)
Survival tips for staff
With tax preparation in full swing, the office environment may be feeling frantic as a whole. Don’t let this get to you and affect your own productivity; use these tips to survive the busy season.
- Communicate expectations to your family and friends early – the busy season is going to be a tough one so make it easier on yourself by telling your family and friends that you’ve got a demanding few months ahead. You’ll be surprised how much less stress you’ll feel when you have a support system at home.
- Schedule some time off before the busy season begins – have some calm before the storm, recharge your batteries and you’ll find that you’ll work more productively for it.
- Make sure to take an appropriate lunch break – it’s important that you get out for lunch, a change of scenery allows you to switch off and get back to work with a renewed focus and batch of energy. 2-3 hour lunch breaks, however, will result in you working until the late evening so be aware of how you are spending your time.
- Set yourself daily goals – knowing what you need to achieve for the day is great fuel for working productively and efficiently. It also gives you an ongoing sense of accomplishment as you meet your goals which is essential in the long hours ahead of you.
- Rely on your team members – knowing that others are going through the same range of emotions as you will really help you get through the day, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re struggling, many have survived previous busy seasons and they can offer some great support and advice.
- Communicate with your team – you are all working together and relying on each other for certain tasks to be done so let your team know what is the best way to reach you. You can’t afford for people to be waiting on you or vice versa, so let each other know whether email, text or a phone call will be the best form of communication.
- Batch low priority tasks – emails and unnecessary phone calls can be a major drain on time, so if you have things that need to be done, set aside 20 minutes to do it at the end of the day.
- Keep a balanced routine but be flexible – it’s really beneficial to have a daily routine such as getting up early, exercising, reading, getting into work for 8 etc, but not every day will go as planned. Find out what works for you and then be willing to make changes. If you have to get in early one day, make sure to exercise in the evening. It’s really important that you prioritise your health too, so just adjust your routine rather than skip things altogether.
- Celebrate often – no matter how big or small an achievement, celebrate it and recognise how much you have accomplished. A positive attitude does wonders for your endurance throughout the busy season, so treat yourself when you’ve done a good job.
Emerge from the busy season a survivor!
Tax preparation will be a tough time, there’s no getting around that, but if you implement these tips into your day, you can survive the busy season. The most important piece of advice for survival is not only to plan, organise and prioritise your workload but to stick to your plan too! There’s no time for procrastination in the busy season, especially if you want to survive it in one piece.