Busy season. It’s here.
Tax and accounting professionals know this term all too well.
It’s the time of year that can be full of stress, anxiety, and way, way too many cups of coffee. Accountants often share stories of working 87-hour weeks or gaining 20 pounds from all the stress over this few-month period. Unfortunately, these stories are not uncommon for those in the profession.
While the massive pile of work can be daunting, it doesn’t have to be impossible or entirely a negative thing.
This time of year can also be one of growth and achievement for you and your firm. In fact, you can thrive during this time if you’re able to manage the stress and anxiety in a way that allows you to maximize your effectiveness.
In order to do this, you may need to reevaluate how you work, and implement new tools and techniques to streamline your day.
Let’s look at a few ways you can survive and thrive during this challenging period.
Communicate requirements early
It’s pretty difficult to get work done if you don’t have the prerequisite documentation or direction.
This can be a huge hurdle for many in finance: clients or internal staff simply don’t provide the materials you need at the time when you need them. This can create delays and destroy any semblance of a schedule that you may have had in your head. It can lead to long hours and late nights spent working on things that should have been done last week if only you’d had the documents you needed.
Communicate with your clients well in advance, and set clear expectations of what they need and when they need to provide it.
Prepare a checklist of necessary documents and specific deadlines for each one, then circulate it to your clients as far in advance as possible.
Set the deadlines on those documents well in advance of when you need them, so if they happen to arrive late, then you’ll still have some cushion before you actually need to use them. Tie this into your personal work schedule so you have a running workflow where you’re not stuck waiting on any one person to deliver something you need.
Make it easy for them to comply and they’ll be more likely to do so. After all, they don’t want to create any more stress or delay either.
Organize and automate
When you’re in the thick of it, the last thing you want to do is give up some of your precious headspace to deal with things like scheduling and reminder emails.
These are almost guaranteed to fall through the cracks if you try to do them all yourself.
Instead, find the tools and technology that you need to organize your time and documents in advance and then access them just when you need them. This will save you from the insanity of email and calendar overload.
Apptoto can help with these kind of administrative tasks by sending appointment reminders and giving your clients an automated way to schedule meetings during your “free” time, meaning you’ll never have to worry about shuffling times and dates to make things work.
Here’s just one of the success stories using an automated reminder system like Apptoto:
“Apptoto simplified my life and makes my business more profitable!! With 3 offices and over 10,000 customers, it can become exhausting to stay in touch with customers about their appointments. I’ve saved thousands of man hours since implementing the appointment reminder system, increased employee productivity over 400% by more efficiently managing their schedules and maximized profit by putting more scheduling control in the power of my customers.
—David Rocci, Multi-Unit Franchise Owner, Liberty Tax Service
You should also work on centralizing your calendar. During a period like this, where you’ll likely be working nights and weekends, you may even want to combine any personal calendars with your work schedule to streamline everything and make it easier to see when you have open time and when you have other obligations.
You can also create inbox rules in your email client of choice, helping you funnel important emails and documents into one centralized location. This will save you the hassle of having a cluttered inbox full of marked or “important” messages and give you a single place to find what you need when it comes time to use it.
Create a schedule — and stick to it
One of the biggest causes for undue stress is having an unpredictable and hectic work schedule. Working long hours is bad enough, but throwing unexpected time issues in there just makes things that much more difficult.
Unfortunately, this is a pretty common part of busy season. Clients sometimes miss appointments or show up late, and then your entire day can be thrown into disarray.
You may try to take that time to work on something else, only to be distracted halfway through. This constant start and stop can cause a seemingly simple task to end up taking hours of working time, and create a bunch of extra stress that you don’t need.
“The profession constantly challenges your patience,” Arlene Mose, an accountant from California, told HealthDay. “With clients that don’t understand, that cancel appointments, that don’t appreciate the amount of knowledge and time it takes to prepare something accurately, that can’t remember how many kids they have, or how many W-2s they have, or what they paid for stock they purchased.”
So not only do you need to create a clear schedule for your own time, but you need to do everything you can to avoid major calamities that may pop up and throw things out of whack.
First and foremost, this requires a great deal of self-discipline. Once you have a schedule in place, try to stick to it and not let your mind wander to the mountain of other things you could be doing.
Secondly, communicate clearly to your clients and let them know that you require the same courtesy. Explain how your schedule is jam-packed and that any late or missed appointments may mean big delays for them.
If you integrate Apptoto with your client calendar, they will automatically receive reminders by email, phone, or text. Then they can confirm appointments in advance, which will help diminish no-shows and keep your schedule on track.
Clients will probably appreciate this feature as well, as they may otherwise overlook an important meeting, even if they didn’t intend to do so.
Schedule a vacation
Last, but certainly not least, you should seriously consider rewarding yourself at the end of the sprint.
Not only will having a vacation give you some time to relax and unwind after such a stressful period, but it will also give you a goal to work toward. On those long, difficult nights spent wrangling documents and crunching numbers, you’ll have the faint vision of Maui beaches to keep you focused.
Many accountants report this being their one, giant, all-out vacation of the year. And it keeps them motivated when times seem the darkest.
It can seem like a pipe dream to think that this time of the year will be anything but a nightmare. But don’t be so sure. With improvements in time management and collaboration technology, tasks that were once a burden can be quickly turned into something much more manageable.
The key is to embrace these opportunities — be open to change and seek improvement in your workflow and style.
With a lot of discipline, plenty of preparation, and maybe a dash of luck, you can turn “busy season” from a time of horrific stress into a time where you accomplish your goals and not only survive but actually thrive.