Busy season got its name for a reason. In reality, for most CPAs in public accounting, it should be called “it’s-so-busy-that-we-don’t-get-to-see-our-families-or-sleep-or-eat-or-exercise-time-of-year.”
CPAs in public accounting may go from working 40 or 45 hours a week to more than 70 or 80 hours. Of course, there are those in the profession who work 70 or more hours every week of the year.
Regardless of the increase in hours, it becomes a busier time of year than we are used to. And, this isn’t just applicable to professionals in public accounting. Many industries have a “busy season” for their professionals.
It’s typically pretty standard as to when the busy season will start and end. Therefore, you can plan for it.
Since you know when your busy time of year will occur, there are certain things you can do to make it as good of a busy season as possible. What can you do to prepare for busy season? Well, I’m glad you asked…
Use a Calendar
From having gone through 14 busy seasons with a large public accounting firm, I’ve learned that communication is the key to a successful season. Communication with your team of co-workers is important but, most important, is communication with your family.
Assuming you are either married or are dating someone, this time of year can be really tough on a relationship. That’s why communication and understanding are so important.
Within my firm at least, and in my current role, my schedule can get the best of me. I can be in five or more cities in one week. Because my wife would never know where I was from one day to the next, we started using a shared electronic calendar. Specifically, we use the calendar that comes standard on Apple devices.
You should schedule the following items year-round but especially during busy season:
- Date nights
- Specific time to spend with your children. I’m now calling these “experience days” because my wife and I want to give our children experiences in life rather than just spending time with them.
- Important events like birthdays, anniversaries and sporting events. My daughter plays club volleyball and the majority of her tournaments are during my busy season. We decide early on which tournaments I will be able to attend (with some being out of town) and which ones I will skip. I’ve done better over the years attending more and more of the tournaments but it takes some sacrifice in other areas to be able to make that happen.
- Travel schedule – Your spouse will need/want to know when to expect you home in the evenings and if you’ll even be home at all. This is especially important when you have children so the parent at home will know if any help is on the way.
Not all busy seasons are during the first quarter of the year. Some industries’ busy seasons may be at different times of the year. For me, though, busy season is during the winter. And, during the winter, I definitely don’t want my car breaking down.
It’s a good idea to have routine maintenance like oil changes and tire rotations done to prepare for busy season.
Besides not wanting your vehicle to break down in bad/cold weather, you won’t have time to get this stuff done anyway. So to prepare for busy season, get all the work done on your vehicle you’ve been putting off.
Feeling lousy will make it a lousy busy season. You need to focus on your health.
You may think that going into busy season is not the right time to start a health routine. Well, it is. Actually, right now is the best time. Don’t wait until before busy season. Start right now.
Working long hours, sitting most of the day and not eating a normal diet will not help your productivity during busy season. You need to put an emphasis on your health to maximize your energy, productivity and mindset during busy season.
Here are the top five things I’ve implemented this year to prepare for busy season (actually I’ve had most of these implemented well before busy season):
If you travel a lot during busy season, you’ll have opportunities every day to eat whatever you want. Will it be a burger and fries or a salad? The best thing you can do is decide on a healthy consistent diet. You can even implement this rule if you’re traveling most of busy season.
Eat something high in protein and low in sugar for breakfast. Egg whites is a great option because you can get that in most hotels. My breakfast of choice is a Bulletproof coffee.
For lunch, eat a salad with some chicken or fish. Ask for dressing on the side and use only a little bit of it.
For dinner, you can do something similar for lunch. My dinner consists of a homemade smoothie. I’m even going to buy a small blender and bring it with me when I travel.
The key is to stay away from sugar and eat a lot of vegetables. If you do those two things, you’ll see great results.
Yes, you read that correctly. Start an exercise program to prepare for busy season. If you wait until busy season starts, you’ll never exercise. If it’s already a routine before busy season begins, you’ll keep it going.
If you exercise routinely, you’ll discover you can sleep less, will sleep better and have more energy during the day.
You don’t have to work out for two hours every day either. Just be consistent. I’ve started going to the gym three mornings per week and I stretch every morning. That has proved to be good enough.
Take Time Off (and Get Caught Up)
The last two weeks of December each year are more than quiet in the office. Most of the professionals realize it is their last chance to take some time off before busy season begins.
I used to take those two weeks off too. Why not…everyone else does.
Then I came to realize that if everyone else took off, that would be the ideal time to get caught up on other work before busy season starts. Now, those two weeks are my most productive weeks of the year.
It’s important to get caught up but it’s also important to take time off.
You can do both! I did…
Instead of taking the last two weeks off of the year, I took three days the first week of the new year. It was a glorious time to take off. I got to take my girls to school and pick them up each day. I had time to write. I was able to take care of some vehicle maintenance.
It was important to me, to prepare for busy season, to take time off and get caught up. You can do it too!
The most important thing to do to prepare for busy season is to set boundaries for yourself. Unless you do this, you’ll feel compelled to keep working hour after hour. You’ll start to complain about work and become one of those people you dread being around.
You don’t want that.
Decide on certain boundaries by which you’ll abide during busy season. Many of these boundaries might deal with the things identified above.
You can agree with yourself to always be home by 7 p.m., if you’re not traveling. Then you can see your family and work after the kids are in bed.
You can agree with yourself to not give in to meals high in sugar and fat during the day.
You can agree with yourself to not become a complainer.
You can agree with yourself to say no if you are asked to do something that will overstep one of your other boundaries.
Those of us who last in public accounting for more than 10 years love the work. We can work all day and night. It’s not difficult and in some cases it’s even fun. That doesn’t mean that is all we want to do.
We need time outside of work, even during busy season. Setting boundaries for yourself is the way to make sure that happens.
It’s Time to Work
Now that you know how to prepare for busy season, it’s time to start. There is no point in waiting. Waiting only makes it harder. Get into a routine as soon as you can.
Remember, busy season is aptly named. It will be busy. Work, though, is not the most important thing in your life. Your life, your relationships and your happiness are more important.
Deadlines need to be met. Work needs to get done. But enjoying your job and maintaining a happy life with your family is more important.
Now, as you prepare for busy season, remember what’s important.
p style=”text-align: justify;”>Question for you: What do you do to prepare for busy season?