As CPA busy season begins be sure to take care of yourself and not let yourself get pushed to the edge. In this post I’ll share some of the techniques I use to get not just myself through my busy season, but also help those I am working with to get through rough times too.
Being present and mindful of your body
As a non-traditional CPA, my busy season is usually opposite the traditional January to April busy season. While work is always busy for me, the accounting conference seasons are busier because that’s when there is a lot of travel in addition to the work. The accounting conference seasons are usually May to July, and then again late September to early December. During these times I’m usually in a different city every week—and often two, sometimes three, cities in a week.
I’m the type of person that likes to be busy. My mind is always jumping from idea to idea, and it’s not uncommon to find me physically hopping from meeting to meeting (whether physical or virtual). Luckily for me, jetlag doesn’t bother me as much. I found that instead of focusing on the time difference, I just need to believe that whatever time my phone says it is, is the time. For meals, I eat when I’m supposed to be eating according to the time zone I’m in, and if I get hungry in an off time, I have a snack to hold me over until the proper meal time so that my body’s metabolic clock also adjusts.
I see my dealing with traditional jetlag issues as derivative exercises in presence and mindfulness—being present wherever you are and listening to what your body is telling you. During busy season, it’s easy for time to get away from us. We can easily get driven based on where we should be versus where we are: I should have had these ten tasks done; why didn’t I get them done; I’m getting more behind. Versus simply I have ten tasks that need to get done, let me figure out how much more time I have in the day, what else may be coming up today, and figure out a plan to maximize the time I have left to at least get some of it done. By focusing your energy on what you can do to make progress forward, rather than worrying about the past (which you can’t do anything about), you can put your energy to good use in helping you to reach your goals.
By focusing your energy on what you can do to make progress forward…you can put your energy to good use in helping you reach your goals.
Remember to also be conscious of when you should be eating and take the time to eat when you should be eating. When we get busy, it’s easy to skip a meal or to just eat the snacks in the office, but a good meal will provide you with the energy and brain power to work more quickly and intensely—enabling you to get more done while taking care of yourself.
Journaling and meditating to manage stress
In January 2018, I returned from spending the holidays in Tokyo to a mess of a client system migration. I had warned the client against doing the migration, but the vendor wanted to get the sale and the client believed them when the vendor said that it could be done in a short time, so despite my strong objections they moved forward. I had escalated this all the way to the CEO, but the department head that was leading the project dismissed my objections citing discussions with the vendor and reference checks that said their projects went smoothly, and he pushed the project through anyway. All this happened in the fourth quarter, so when I left for Japan I knew that I would be coming back to a mess.
However, even I couldn’t have predicted how big of a mess I was going to come back to. I spent the next two months trying to do damage control by triaging implementation issues, guiding the project team through data migration reconciliations, and holding what felt like therapy session with various client project team members to try and keep the team focused on getting the migration fixed and not giving up or quitting. (Yes, it was that bad at the time.)
During that time, it took all my energy to keep my cool and hold a pragmatic demeanor, lest the project team members see me getting agitated or worried. I had to keep assuring them that we could get through this and provide hope that there was an end in sight. I had to be their pool of calm amidst the firestorm of issues. To accomplish that, I journaled to vent out both my frustrations and those that others had shared with me, so that I wouldn’t hold them inside and have risk of them suddenly lashing out if triggered. I also meditated regularly so that I could figure out how I was feeling, recognize both the productive and non-productive thoughts, and figure out what I needed to let go of (possibly by journaling) and what I needed to do to help move toward a resolution.
Take care of yourself to emerge victorious
If you take care of yourself both physically and mentally, and manage your stress properly by focusing on future productivity rather than past deficiencies, you may actually find that you enjoy busy season. What? Is that possible? Ok, “enjoy” might be a bit strong of a word. But with the right mindset, you will do more than just survive busy season. With the right mindset, you and your teams will emerge from busy season feeling victorious!