Accounting and tax professionals call this time of the year the “busy season.” But since we’re chronically busy year round, shouldn’t January through April actually be referred to as the “busier season?” One thing I know for sure: when it comes to working and progressing on our personal and professional goals, busy season is an obstacle that must be overcome.
There is a seasonal “rhythm” to the way of life of the accounting professional which begins with busy season, is followed by office clean-up, billing, and staff evaluations in May, and then summertime “R&R” and vacation from June through August.
September is “back to school,” the 2nd busy season, and the realization there are only four months left in the year (Yikes!). October through December brings the holidays, year-end planning and accepting the fact this year is over, and we’ll have to try and “do better” next year.
Doesn’t this feel a bit like Ground Hog day? How can members of the accounting profession set and achieve difference making goals in this “work hard, recover, then work hard again” way of life? Is it possible to break this cycle?
As a coach in our year-long Transformational Leadership Program™, I have learned to caution TLP participants not to use busy season as an excuse to “let themselves off the hook” when it comes to their goals and special projects. Instead, as they enter busy season, I encourage them to focus on two or three “non-negotiables” – aspects of their goals and projects they will continue to work on during busy season no matter what – and to be OK about setting other, lower priority aspects aside until after busy season.
Transforming as leaders in the profession and as great people and business developers requires a “year round” attitude and approach.
Let’s start with your “busy season” attitude. Instead of looking at busy season as the worst time to work on your goals, begin to see it as the best time. Don’t miss the great opportunity of busy season!
- Are you working on being a more visible, compassionate leader? Busy season is a great time to check in regularly with your colleagues, ask how they’re doing, listen to their complaints, and then encourage them.
- Are you working on people development? Busy season is the best time to practice your delegation skills and to train your staff and managers, not only in the technical accounting and tax rules, but in how to review a file efficiently, and how to meet and interact with clients by bringing them along with you.
- Are you working on business development? During busy season you will have a “natural” opportunity to see and communicate with virtually all your clients. Focus on asking more questions of your clients, building deeper relationships with your “A” clients, scheduling planning meetings for after busy season, and completing your client service plans and relationship maps.
- Are you working on personal fitness? During busy season there is a lot of hard work, stress, and just plain sitting around. Not to mention lots of junk food opportunities. There is never a better time than busy season to get out of the office for a walk or a work out. And never a better time to invite your colleagues to join you for some team bonding. Plus keeping yourself fit during busy season will make sure you are ready for the fun that comes after busy season!
Now for your “busy season” approach. To keep working and progressing on your goals during busy season:
- Narrow the focus. Set your priorities and perform a “Keep / Stop / Start” analysis to identify what you will keep doing during busy season no matter what, and what you will temporarily stop in order to successfully handle the increased work load of busy season. Be realistic and don’t try to do too much all at once.
- Schedule things. I know several TLP participants who have been successful in continuing their business networking activities - breakfasts, lunches, coffee, etc. – and their physical fitness activities during busy season by planning and scheduling them ahead of time, before they got “too busy.” Whatever goes on your calendar you are highly likely to do.
- Keep communicating. Get out of your office and check in with your colleagues to see how they’re doing. Keep speaking up in meetings. Your project may be on the “back burner” during busy season, but keep the lines of communication open so your project team is ready to get started again once busy season concludes. Manage by walking around.
- Start over. It’s OK if busy season gets the best of you from time to time, as long as you start over. Remember that getting better, growing, and learning really are life time pursuits. You do get “credit” for what you were doing and accomplishing before things went off track. The only true failure is not starting again.
You set your goals, then busy season happens. Are you prepared? We will continue to help our clients to learn and grow and succeed by working on their attitude and approach to the busy seasons of life. If you have ideas or experiences to share, please post them so others can benefit.