As the year draws to a close, public accounting professionals are hunkering down and preparing themselves for busy season in the coming months. From January to March, many accountants will work longer hours and extra days to make their way through the excess work typical of tax season—for some, as many as 80+ hour weeks at 6-7 days per week.
It’s easy to burn out quick with this kind of schedule, but the work will still be there and still need to be done. So how can you power through the next few months and still strike a balance of productivity and rest? Arguably, busy season is a marathon of sorts—so many accountants could benefit from studying how marathon runners prepare for and endure a grueling 26.2 mile run. Here are some tips for surviving busy season like a marathon runner:
- Prepare yourself mentally. Many marathon runners maintain that running a long race is more mental than physical; similarly, while working longer days and weeks is definitely physically demanding, the same can be said of busy season. “It’s important to recognize that this is just a part of what you do,” says Irv Myones, Managing Director of The Execu|Search Group’s Accounting/Finance division. “You are going to have to put in overtime, but it’s doable as long as you remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
- Create a “training” schedule. Marathon runners prepare their bodies leading up to the big race by scheduling several runs per week that increase in mileage over time. Similarly, it’s important to prepare yourself for longer hours in the office. Don’t wait until the last minute to start putting in the time; instead, start gradually increasing your hours as the work comes in to make sure you’re simultaneously staying on top of everything and preparing yourself for the schedule change.
- Fuel your body. While the last thing you may want to do after a 12-hour day is cook, it’s important to stay healthy during busy season and avoid the drive-through. Serious marathon runners ensure they receive the right fuel to keep them energized before and even during the race, and so, too, should accountants. Try prepping some healthy meals ahead of time that you can store in the freezer and microwave as needed, and keep healthy snacks in your drawer at work that you can turn to instead of the vending machine in a pinch.
- Stay active. Of course, marathon runners make time to work through the training schedule mentioned above, but they also cross-train by lifting weights to keep their bodies and minds sharp. Just like running for hours on end can seem like a dull, tremendous effort, it’s easy to feel discouraged during busy season—but making time for some physical activity before, after, or even during your workday will help re-energize you and keep your body healthy, thus providing you with even more energy. Even if it’s just a quick walk around the office to refill your water cup, getting up and moving will keep your blood flowing and your brain active.
- Keep your eye on the prize. As tempting as it may be to slack off or extend your break a few extra minutes, make sure you’re putting forth your best effort through the season. Marathon runners use finish line medals, celebratory meals, and a desire to best their own personal record to keep them focused during the race; likewise, accountants can stay focused during busy season by focusing on the finish line. “There are many rewards to pulling through a successful busy season, no matter how exhausting it was,” says Irv. “Showing good faith and strong work ethic during such stressful times can create the potential for a better reputation with your firm, which can lead to increased compensation and career growth. When the going gets tough, remember that these are your medals.”