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February 5, 2015 | Productivity | Posted by Craig Baldwin Craig Baldwin

7 Tips to Make This Busy Season Less Busy

Busy season.

A period of the year in public accounting designated by mandatory 55+ hour work weeks, weight gain, decreased sexual activity, increased alcohol consumption, late nights, tickmarks, excel, ineptitude, and uncomfortable moments in the audit room. Generally begins in mid-January and continues through March. For idiots who joined the tax practice, this season will extend through April and again repeat itself from July to October. Busy season can be used to justify lack of contact with family, friends, your spouse/significant other, and little to no knowledge of current events. No weddings, funerals, or births should be planned during this time.

 
Urban Dictionary never ceases to amaze.

 
Trying to avoid the emotional instability of this year’s busy season? We have come up with 7 tips to help reduce the pains and hopefully put you in the mood to come back for more busy season, next year.

 

1) Make collaboration easier on you and your team.

 

I spend a decent part of my day talking with accounting firms about their efficiency issues. One of the first issues I universally recognize is their lack of communication.

 

Many of the inefficiencies stem from not being on the same page, and frequently that’s because there are poor systems or tools in place to allow for communication.

 

Hipchat and Slack are both flexible chat solutions which allow you to chat with individuals or teams and pass documents back and forth, and they’reexactly the type of thing that can benefit many firms.

 

I know you’re probably thinking “But we use Microsoft Lync!”

 

Lync is the AIM equivalent of chat tools. It’s better fit for one-to-one communication and not as flexible as Hipchat or Slack.

Not to mention, they have a great list of emoticons to help break up the workday.

 

2) Focus on prioritization of your most important to-dos.

 

Bad at managing yourself, prioritizing tasks, or keeping your head above water in a sea of responsibility?

 

Learn how to manage yourself, or perhaps start looking for a new career.

 

The biggest waste of time we’ve seen in our own team is ineffective time management. In other words, if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be working on, you’re probably working on nothing at all.

 

Each evening before you go to bed, setup the next day’s to-do list with your most important item at the beginning. That way you walk into the office with a very clear idea of what needs to be done each day.

 

As disruptions pop up you’ll be prepared to manage issues quickly by deciding how they fit into your organized list of priorities

 

3) Reduce admin time as much as possible.

 

For seniors and managers, spending time on high-impact to-dos is imperative.

 

Then again, how often do you find yourself clearing review notes that aren’t even yours, doing work you did as a first year, and spending frivolous hours on making copies?

 

Some of it is unavoidable, but for the most part, finding ways to reduce time on those types of tasks is how you can make sure you’re worth your billable rate.

 

This can mean utilizing e-signature tools or leveraging other team members to help if they have available time.

 

Don’t let the smaller things keep you from getting notes cleared and and workpapers completed.

 

4) Don’t leave your email open all day long.

 

A couple years ago, Mckinsey reported that employees spend 28% of their day reading and responding to email.

 

That’s a staggering amount, and no doubt some amount of it is necessary, but 28%?

 

I know I wasted a lot of time early in my career constantly flipping to outlook, reading every new email that came into my inbox, and otherwise, just writing frivolous emails to waste time.

 

But the biggest drag was the constant interruption from tasks I was trying to get through.

 

Now whenever I have an important task at hand, I always close my email. Once it’s done, I can open it again.

 

If an urgent situation pops up from friends or family, they’ll call or text.

 

Urgent matter from team members? They’ll send a chat message.

 

Important from the client? I can always use my phone as my notification hub for new emails.

 

See if you can take the 28% down to something much more reasonable in your day-to-day.

 

5) Build your mind and body when you have free time.

 

At Deloitte we left the office at 5PM on Friday during busy season. By 5:30PM it was time for happy hour.

 

While the happy hours were great, my Saturday in the office was typically sluggish, resulting in a lot of wasted time.

 

Everytime you step into the office you should be fully prepared to get to work. That means re-charging during off-hours to come in fresh each day.

 

So while I’m an advocate of having fun, I’m a much larger advocate of timely naps, getting to the gym whenever you can, and spending some time thinking about anything but work.

 

6) Delegate tasks whenever possible.

 

If you’re an intern at the bottom of the totem poll, you can probably forget about this one.

 

But if not, utilize every opportunity possible to delegate to your supporting team members.

 

It’s important to keep yourself working on one big item at a time, that way you can stay focused on exactly the task at hand without being distracted. If other items keep piling up, it may be time to delegate to other members so you can stay focused on the “blocker” (have to be done) activities. Doing this can go along way in keeping your productivity levels high and your impact even higher.

 

There are also benefits for those who you choose to delegate to.

 

When you hand-off tasks to team members, you’re showing them that you trust them enough to take on responsibility. These type of actions foster trust and communication amongst a team. You know, the types of things that help teams be more effective each and everyday

 

7) Avoid social media… until you leave the office, then go HAM.

 

In a study from Salary.com, 23% of the respondents declared their biggest time waster at work is Facebook, 14% cited Linkedin (looking for a new job?), Pinterest and Twitter each received less than 1%.

 

Sound like you at work?

 

Taking breaks is all good and well, but when browsing social media begins to be become a material part of your day, it might be time for a change. Or management may make it for you once they realize how little work you’ve been doing.

 

Save your Facebook stalking and Twitter browsing for after work, when no one really minds how much time you waste.

 

Any other tips you’d like to share that help get you through busy season? Share with us below!

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  • Kevin McCoy

    Man, I really see #1 as the 80/20 (80% of the improvement comes from 20% of the effort) in this list. If you can fix that issue – the rest is gravy. Bad communication is a killer, I’ve seen it over and over. And over.