Do you feel overwhelmed during tax season? You’re not alone. Managing your accounting workflow during tax season can be tough. But what if there were ways to make it all more manageable and keep burnout at bay? In this post, we’ll dive into practical steps to help you stay on top of things without feeling swamped.
Let’s get started.
What is Burnout?
First, let’s define burnout.
Burnout is the state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion often coupled with feelings of cynicism and detachment from work. It’s a lot. And, it’s more than just everyday stress. Burnout is a neverending sense of depletion where you feel constantly overwhelmed and unprepared to meet the demands of your clients.
A lot of accountants go through it, especially during tax season.
Avoiding burnout isn’t just about individual well-being. For accounting firms, it’s a human resources issue. Burnout can translate to reduced profitability, higher turnover rates, and potential risks to your firm’s reputation. Addressing and preventing burnout is not just a matter of personal health but also a strategy for the longevity and success of your accounting firm.
What are the Signs of Burnout?
Burnout might be creeping up on you without you even realizing it. Here’s how to spot the red flags within yourself and amongst your team:
Increased Errors – Are you or your team making more mistakes lately? If you’re noticing more errors than usual, it could be a sign of burnout.
Longer Working Hours – If your routine tasks are taking more of your time, or if you’re consistently working late nights, even outside of the peak tax season, be careful. Burnout may be right around the corner.
Procrastination – Are you putting off tasks, especially ones that you previously tackled with ease or even enthusiasm?
Client Communication Struggles – Are you less patient or less responsive to client queries? Is it becoming difficult to explain complex financial matters?
Physical Symptoms – Are you constantly feeling tired? Are you getting headaches or gastrointestinal issues without a clear medical reason? This could be your body signaling burnout.
Mental Health Concerns – Are you feeling hopeless? Do you have increased irritability or a sense of dread about the upcoming workday? These are signs you shouldn’t overlook.
Decreased Job Satisfaction – Are you feeling more detached or cynical about your job, clients, or the accounting industry in general?
Isolation – Are you pulling away from coworkers, avoiding team meetings, or showing reluctance in firm-wide events?
Reduced Professional Development – Have you lost interest in training sessions or workshops? Are you hesitant to keep up with the latest in tax regulations?
Recognizing these signs in yourself is the first step to addressing burnout. It’s essential to listen to what both your mind and body are telling you and to take proactive steps to avoid burnout, especially during the busiest time of year. Next, let’s discuss how to do it.
1. Be Realistic About What You Can or Can’t Do
It can be tempting to seize every opportunity that comes your way. However, one of the most valuable skills you can cultivate is the ability to set realistic boundaries for yourself and your team.
First, know your workload capacity. While it might vary depending on the complexity of the tasks and clients, it’s a good idea to set a ballpark figure. This can protect you against overcommitment.
Next, focus on quality over quantity. Taking on too many clients might seem lucrative in the beginning, but it can compromise the quality of your service in the long run. You risk spreading yourself too thin and, as a result, might fail to provide the personalized attention each client deserves.
Learn to say “no.” Saying “no” is not a sign of weakness. And it doesn’t necessarily translate to a missed opportunity. Instead, refusing tasks or clients beyond your capacity demonstrates professionalism. It shows that you value delivering top-notch service over mere volume.
By being realistic about what you can handle, you’re not limiting your growth. Instead, you’re ensuring that each project or client you take on receives your best effort. This inevitably can reduce burnout and lead to longtime client retention.
2. Manage Your Workflow
Effective workflow management is the backbone of any successful accounting firm. Here’s how to ensure that your tasks are organized and streamlined:
Adopt a Project Management System – Using an all-in-one project management tool like Mango can help you visualize tasks, set deadlines, and manage your team members.
Prioritize Tasks – Not all tasks are of equal urgency or importance. Prioritize to ensure that critical items get addressed promptly.
Set Clear Deadlines – In accounting, some deadlines are non-negotiable, like tax filing dates. However, for other tasks, setting clear timelines ensures efficiency.
By effectively managing your workflow, you will enhance your team’s productivity and focus. You’ll also cultivate a work environment where tasks are clear, organized, and well-distributed. This reduces the potential for burnout amongst your team.Tax season is like a marathon for accountants. The trick isn’t to just make it to the finish line but to get there without being completely worn out. Click To Tweet
3. Collaborate With Your Clients
One of the most powerful ways to prevent burnout and streamline your accounting process is to foster collaboration with your clients. By leveraging the right accounting tools, you can significantly reduce the time spent on administrative tasks and enhance the overall client experience.
The first step is to use software, such as Mango Practice Management, that facilitates client collaboration. Be sure that the software you choose includes the following features:
File Sharing – Gone are the days of chasing clients for physical documents or navigating cluttered email attachments. A good accounting tool should allow secure and organized file sharing at the click of a button.
eSignature Integration – This feature is a game-changer. It expedites processes like document approval and tax form sign-offs. Getting digital signatures eliminates the need for in-person meetings or sending documents via postal mail. eSignatures are not only convenient but also legally binding.
Client Portal – A dedicated client portal can transform the client-accountant relationship. It offers clients a one-stop platform to view their financial documents, track task progress, and communicate any concerns or queries. This organized approach reduces back-and-forths and enhances client trust.
By prioritizing collaboration, you’re not only making your own workflow more efficient but also enhancing the client experience. It’s a win-win that reduces stress, boosts client satisfaction, and positions your firm at the forefront of modern accounting practices.
4. Automate Your Billing
Making sure that you and your team are compensated for every minute spent is so important, and automation can be your best ally here.
Capture Every Minute – As accountants, your expertise extends beyond just the final deliverables. Client consultations, research, and even those short phone calls add up. Mango’s automated time and billing feature allows you to track the time spent on these services so that you get every dollar you’re owed. And it reduces burnout because it does so automatically without you having to manually calculate your time spent.
Save Time – The time spent on manual billing can be better used to serve clients. Automation streamlines your workflow.
Consistency and Accuracy – Manual billing is prone to human errors or omissions, especially during tax season. Automation ensures billing is consistent, accurate, and reflective of the work done.
Billing is sometimes viewed as a backend task, but it’s fundamental to your firm’s success. Automating your billing ensures you’re rightfully compensated for your expertise and it also reduces your burnout.
5. Plan Ahead
Tax season can quickly become overwhelming. However, with proactive planning, you can avoid a lot of stressful situations. A key strategy is to request tax documents in advance. Here’s why and how to effectively implement this strategy:
First of all, you avoid the last-minute rush. Requesting documents ahead of time ensures that you’re not caught in the eleventh-hour scramble.
Getting documents early also provides ample time to review them for completeness and accuracy. If there are discrepancies or missing pieces of information, you have the buffer to address them without derailing your workflow completely.
Also, knowing what’s coming allows you to better distribute workload among your team. This way, no one is overwhelmed because no one has a disproportionate amount of work.
Proactively reaching out to clients for documents builds trust with your clients. It shows that your firm is organized and efficient.
The best way to ensure that you’re getting documents ahead of time is to leverage your client collaboration tool. Mango allows you to send reminders to your clients about upcoming document submission deadlines. You can also give your clients a checklist of what documents you need which can also simplify the process for them.
6. Prioritize Your Daily Tasks
Master the art of prioritization. By listing your daily tasks in order of importance, you can ensure that the essential tasks are always completed. Here’s how to do it:
Create a Daily Schedule – Before blindly getting started on whichever tasks you see first, take a few moments to list out what you want to accomplish that day. Listing your tasks gives you a clear vision of what you need to do.
Tackle High-Priority Tasks First – Identify tasks that are time-sensitive or have a higher impact on your workflow. By addressing these first, you can give them your undivided attention.
Break Down Complex Tasks – Some tasks can be daunting due to their complexity. Break them down into manageable sub-tasks. This not only makes them more approachable but also provides a clear roadmap for completion.
Avoid Multitasking – While it might seem efficient, multitasking can dilute your focus. Instead, commit to one task at a time. Once one task is done accurately, move on to the next. It’s actually a lot faster that way, and you won’t tax yourself out (no pun intended).
Take Breaks – It’s crucial to punctuate your day with short breaks. They serve as mental refreshers, boosting productivity and preventing burnout.
By effectively prioritizing your daily tasks, you will ensure that most critical responsibilities don’t fall by the wayside. You’ll also reduce the stress and potential burnout that always comes with disorganization.
7. Take Breaks
Taking breaks doesn’t seem like an efficient use of your time. However, if you want to avoid burnout, taking a break isn’t optional.
Stepping away from your desk gives your brain a chance to relax and refresh itself. You need breaks so that you can come back to work with a sharper focus. Stepping away, even briefly, can alleviate work-induced stress. Studies show that taking a 30-minute walk increases our problem-solving abilities and creativity. You can come back from a walk with a fresh perspective on a problem, even if you weren’t actively thinking about it.
Taking regular breaks can reduce burnout and it’s also good for our physical well-being.
How do you implement this during tax season? Use techniques like the Pomodoro method, where you work intensely for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Also, never skip your lunch break. A dedicated time away from the desk, preferably outside of your workspace, can revitalize both your body and mind. Also, stretch. Every hour, take a few minutes to stand and stretch. This helps in maintaining good posture and circulation.
Incorporating breaks might initially feel like lost time, especially when tasks are piling up. However, in the grand scheme of things, breaks ensure that the time you spend working is focused and efficient. Remember, it’s not about working long. It’s about working smart. And smart work takes breaks.
Tax season is like a marathon for accountants. The trick isn’t to just make it to the finish line but to get there without being completely worn out. Use the above tips to ensure that you maintain a steady pace, save your energy, and finish the tax season successfully and stress-free.
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