Sandra Wiley
Sandra Wiley

Stress relievers for busy season

These tips can help you better handle the pressure of too much work and too little time.

February 21, 2013
By Sandra Wiley

It’s busy season, and if you’re like many CPAs, you’re working more hours than you can count trying to meet too many deadlines in too tight a time window. Accountants lead crazy lives this time of year, but it’s a lifestyle our profession wears as a badge of honor. Still, the stress of excessive workloads and unrelenting deadline pressure takes its toll on even the most hardened workaholics, much less those actively seeking a better work-life balance.

In this environment, practical solutions can make our lives better. Let’s look at a few things that can make a difference immediately:

Schedule time for yourself. Many people make resolutions at the beginning of the year but fail to keep them. The primary reason: We find things in our lives that are more important than we are. The professionals I know who are achieving health and other personal goals put them first on the priority list and do not allow other tasks to get in the way. Use your calendar and make a heartfelt commitment to take care of yourself, whether it’s with exercise, yoga, meditation, or something else.

Close a few windows. I’m talking about the windows on your computer. I recently asked a group of accounting professionals how many monitors they had on their desk. I was expecting the majority to say two, but I was surprised how many had three or four monitors open and functioning throughout their workday. You need a little time to take a breath throughout the day, and switching back and forth between four monitors and multiple tasks can be counterproductive. Give yourself the ability to focus on one thing at a time, and it will feel like a vacation.

Be there. In Ken Blanchard’s book Fish!, one of the golden rules of a tremendous work environment is “be there.” No matter who you are talking to or what project you are working on, give it your undivided attention. In busy season, this is particularly important. While you are with clients, concentrate on their issues only. On the treadmill, don’t cut the workout short because of something that needed your attention at the office.

No cell phones when eating. In a world where electronic devices run our lives, there are still spaces and places where they don’t belong, and the dinner table is one. Whether you are with your family or a client, this time should be off-limits for cellphones. If you are looking at your phone or taking a call, you are telling the people you are sitting with that they are less important. The constant checking of messages has become a habit that needs to be broken. Do yourself a favor: Leave your phone in the car or at your desk and engage in a real conversation with the person or people in front of you.

Cross things off your list. The famous to-do list is alive and well. You may keep it on paper, an Excel spreadsheet, or an Outlook task list, but the act of managing a to-do list remains one of the best ways to keep a busy schedule under control. Take five to 10 minutes every day to review and revise the list. The act of thinking about, then writing a list will make you think about priorities.

Stop saying “I’m so busy.” Since “busy” has become a way of life for everyone, running around telling everyone how busy you are does nothing to help you. In a recent conversation with a good friend, we both agreed that when someone looks at us and says, “I’m so busy,” it implies that we are not busy or at least not as busy. Stop the madness and start doing something about it.

These suggestions will help you manage the busy in your life in small and effective ways. Great change in our lives takes place one step at a time. Try just one in the next few weeks and feel the weight of “crazy” lift from your shoulders. What do you have to lose—except possibly that badge of honor you have been carrying around?
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Sandra Wiley is COO of Boomer Consulting in Manhattan, Kan., and is a popular speaker who addresses topics such as team building, talent development, and performance improvement.