Tax busy season is here again and with it accountants are hunkering down across the country to meet the April 15th deadline, although for 2015 individual tax returns, the due date is now April 18, 2016.
I know, just what we all want, another three days added to the three and half months of tax busy season!
The 60-hour plus, six-day workweeks create havoc on our lives and a hectic office environment. However, if CPAs can manage their time and themselves correctly with just a few tips we can lower our stress levels and not only survive the tax season, but thrive during this period. Here are a few tips to help you survive this tax season.
Send out that Message!
Be sure to let your family and friends know that tax season has arrived and you won’t be seeing them as much! Although I’m sure they know a reminder never hurt. Let them know not to expect you to be available to meet with you during the week for dinner or be home early because you’ll be working on your client’s tax returns.
Time Management is Essential
Be sure to create a schedule. You have to manage your work hours and don’t overwork during the week. Once I worked at a firm where partners were working to 130am – that’s crazy and counterproductive.
However, I was fortunate to have had a mentor who I learned from earlier in my career, that it was more productive during tax season to arrive at work early and leave at the same time on evenings as often as possible. Of course, many firms may require all tax personnel to work late one or two nights per week.
This tip applies for weekend hours too. I learned from that same mentor the importance of adhering to a schedule for weekend work. My tax partner/mentor would arrive on a Saturday at 730am and leave by 130pm, thereby giving him the remainder of the day to spend with his family.
Know Thyself and Thy Limits
It is imperative to accept that we will be working long hours for the next few months. Tax busy season must be viewed as a marathon and not a sprint. Otherwise you will be burnt out weeks before April 18th. In addition, be sure not to procrastinate certain client work or tax matters. Address them as soon as possible or involve other colleagues to assist you. Above all maintain your focus during the day.
Plan your work each day each day. Be sure to block out certain time to avoid interruptions in order to meet your client workload. One tip is to limit looking at your emails every 10 minutes. It is important to review your emails.
However, it should be done at specific times during the day. Too often we look at our emails and don’t address the client work we need to complete. On the flip sides use emails to your advantage by contacting clients to obtain tax information or answer questions.
Sending emails can take the place of a phone call, leaving a message, playing phone tag or having a time consuming phone conversation.
Take Time During the Workday to Recharge!
As CPA’s we tend not to take breaks and sit at our desks for hours – NOT good! It is vital to take a break from the grind numerous times during the day. You can do some of the following:
- Take a walk around the office or walk outside
- Get a cup of coffee or tea
- Consider a phone call to your spouse or significant other for a few minutes
- Do some deep breathing exercises
Do not be afraid to exercise or stretch at your desk
Manage Client Expectations
One area we CPA’s tend to overlook, which can help to minimize stress and help us to survive tax season, is to manage client expectations. As CPA’s we want to provide great service and keep our clients happy. However, sometimes we tend to over sell and under deliver.
As difficult as it may be, we must follow the approach of ‘Under Selling and Over Delivering’ as often as possible – especially during tax season. Although most clients are understanding, we still must provide realistic delivery dates to them. A few other tips to manage client expectations:
- Be sure to return client calls as soon as realistically possible
- Be on time for client meetings
Address client issues before they become a problem if not the issue can evolve into a time consuming, never ending, life of its own problem and may lead to the eventual loss of a client.
Follow Quality Oriented Principles
Be sure to address the most important thing first but with the understanding that there is only one most important thing! Also, follow the do it right the first time adage and train others to do the same. This approach will save time and stress. When reviewing a tax return be sure to provide the reasons and instructions for making corrections so staff people can learn from their mistakes.
Take Care of Yourself
In order to minimize the impact of the stress related to tax season, you need to take care of yourself. Consider the following mini-tips that are vital to allowing you to survive tax season:
- Be sure to eat healthy and regularly
- Exercise or find a time and go to the gym – you’ll feel energized!
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
- Be sure to go out once a week for dinner or entertainment with friends or family
- Above all else be sure to get your rest as in restful sleep!
The last thing that you want to do is get sick and miss a day or two during tax season or be working while you have a cold – not fun!
Have Fun and Enjoy!
Granted tax season lasts for at least 3 months or more. However, that should not preclude you from enjoying the work and the moments. Create something to look forward to as a reward – plan a vacation! When tax season is over take your vacation in May or June. It’s a nice reward for all the hard work and long hours!
This was a guest post by James J. Di Gesu, CPA, PFS
James J. Di Gesu is CPA, PFS and Senior Vice President of Wealth Health, a personal wealth management and registered investment advisory firm. Mr. Di Gesu specializes in providing personal tax, financial planning and investment management, including company retirement plans for business owners, executives and medical professionals. He can be contacted at email@example.com or (888)-755-5390