3 Simple Ways to Manage Tax Season

The champagne corks have all been popped, the decorations are all put away for another year and it’s time to get back to some real work. If you’re in the accounting business though, you’re probably steeling yourself in preparation for the upcoming tsunami that is tax season.

There’s no doubt about it, the next three or four months are the busiest of the year for us and it’s daunting to consider that it could be May before you see your family again. Last year, I heard from an accountant who went home at supper time to help bathe his children and put them to bed. He came back to the office to put in a few more hours only to fall asleep on his computer!

How can you make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen to you this tax season? One of the best ways you can handle the extra workload is to stay focused. Here are a few ideas for getting, and maintaining, the discipline you’ll need.

Minimize Distractions

It used to be as simple as saying, ‘just turn off the Internet.” Now, however, so much of our work is based in the cloud. Whether we use an online accounting software or a file sharing program, we have no choice but to keep the internet connection running. Instead, you may need to use a tool like Self Control or Anti-social that blocks access to distracting sites like Facebook and Twitter. That is, of course, if you don’t trust your own self-control!

If you use social media for marketing and relationship building though, it’s important not to disappear from that community for three months. Schedule your posts ahead of time with one of these free tools that lets you be in control of your social media. See? You can beat the internet at its own game!

What about that smart phone that’s constantly vibrating on your desk or in your back pocket? You can control that too. Most phones have an option to limit notifications by turning on the “Do Not Disturb” function. Worried that your wife/mother/kids’ school might need to contact you? Just tweak the settings to allow phone calls from the important people in your life.

If your budget allows it, hire someone to greet clients, answer your office phone and keep people away from you while you work. There are lots of people who would be thankful for a temporary job that would give them experience to add to their resume.

Maintain Good Work Habits

Success doesn’t happen by accident, it has to be planned.  You need a time map! Set up a new calendar called Tax Season and get organized before you get snowed under. Schedule your day from the moment you get up in the morning with a reminder to have a healthy breakfast, do some exercise or stretching and perhaps a little meditation or reading.

Once you get to the office, block out times when you will be working on files, times when you are available to meet with clients and time to reply to emails, phone calls and social media posts. If you are responsible for reviewing files prepared by other team members, make time in your day for that too. If you are the only member in your “team,” set your finished files aside and revisit them at a specific time when you can look at them with a fresh eye.

Look After Your Health

If you’re anything like me, you forget to get up from your desk or even to eat when you’re busy.  Stock the office fridge with healthy snacks and drinks that will be ready for you to grab before you get too hungry. Get away from your desk for a few minutes at least once an hour. Research has shown that the longer you keep doing the same activity without a break, the less productive you become. There are lots of helpful apps like Pomodoro that will remind you to break up your tasks into manageable chunks of time.

Take a lunch break of at least half an hour! Same with a supper break if you regularly work evenings in tax season. Get out of the office, go for a walk, get some fresh air, and hopefully some sunshine. You’ll be better equipped for the rest of the day than if you eat a sandwich at your desk.

Realise that sitting for long hours is more dangerous than you think. Many people nowadays are using standing desks which have been proven to actually increase productivity and reduce the physical aches that come from being hunched over a computer all day. This doesn’t have to be an expensive solution. There are lots of websites like this one with instructions for building your own standing desk fairly cheaply.

Here’s to a productive and successful tax season. Game on!