How to Stay Focused During Tax Season

Tim Sines

When tax season hits, it’s both a marathon and a sprint. It’s filled with long hours, tight deadlines, and a never-ending to-do list. The pressure is on, not just to keep pace but to do so with unparalleled accuracy and efficiency. You also have to keep up with the latest tax laws and find the best tax software, and the best accounting software. It's a daunting task but this guide aims to help you stay at the top of your game this busy tax season.

Below, we’re sharing our top tips to streamline your processes, automate the mundane, and make tax season a little less taxing. By leveraging the right technology, you can stay organized but also free up valuable time to focus on what truly matters: Delivering exceptional service to your clients.

So, take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee, and let's dive into how you can conquer this busy season with grace, efficiency, and maybe even time for a break.

Create a Distraction-Free Work Environment

Create a Distraction-Free Work Environment

For accountants and accounting professionals, limiting distractions is key, especially during tax preparation and auditing. You need as few distractions as possible.

Start by cleaning up your desk. Put away papers you don't need right now and keep only essential items close. This will help you find what you need faster, so you can spend more time working and less time looking for things.

If your office or home is noisy, think about using noise-cancelling headphones. They can block out the background sounds that can frequently interrupt your work. Those minor distractions that shift you away from your work momentarily can completely derail your train of thought. By wearing noise-cancelling headphones, you can work blissfully undisturbed by the sounds around you.

It’s even better if you pipe in music. Believe it or not, video game music is often effective for concentration. That’s because modern video game soundtracks are designed to enhance immersion and concentration. They often feature repetitive, atmospheric music that can help maintain focus during long periods of work.

Set Realistic Goals and Breaks

It's important to set achievable goals throughout your workday. By dividing your tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces, you can tackle them one at a time without feeling overwhelmed. Remember, it's not just about working hard but working smart.

Including short, regular breaks in your schedule is crucial. These breaks are your chance to step back, relax, and recharge. A quick walk, a moment of stretching, or even just stepping away from your desk to breathe deeply can do wonders. This strategy helps keep your mind fresh and prevents burnout.

Looking for more tips on how to survive tax season? Check out our ultimate survival guide here.

Use Productivity Tools and Techniques

If you want to boost your efficiency, embrace productivity tools. A time-tracking app, for example, offers a way to keep an eye on how long you spend on tasks such as tax filing. Mango Practice Management has a built-in time-tracking feature. Time awareness allows you to adjust your work habits and manage your time more effectively.

Outside of apps, you can also use productivity techniques. The Pomodoro Technique is a popular productivity method. It involves working in focused bursts (typically 25 minutes), followed by a short break. This cycle not only aids in maintaining concentration but also ensures you're regularly resting your mind. Implementing techniques like these can help you find a rhythm that maximizes productivity while keeping stress at bay.

Prioritize Your Tasks

Start each day by pinpointing your most important tasks. These are the jobs that need your immediate attention and should be at the top of your to-do list. Attacking these tasks first takes advantage of your peak energy levels early in the day. This approach not only ensures that critical work gets done but also gives you a sense of accomplishment early on which sets a positive tone for the rest of your day.

Limit Email and Communication Time

Let’s face it: Emails and messages can be a constant source of interruption. To proactively combat this, designate specific times in your day solely for checking and responding to emails. For example, you can set your email checking times to be mid-morning, after lunch, and late afternoon.

Sticking to these allocated times can help prevent you from compulsively checking incoming communications. It’s guaranteed that 99.9% of communications aren’t urgent and can wait a few hours. But the task at hand needs your 100% focus.

Managing your communication this way will boost your overall productivity and reduce errors, too.

Automate Repetitive Tasks

Have a ton of repetitive tasks? Let automated tools step in. Each of these tasks may only take a few minutes to do, but collectively, they could take a huge bite out of your day. Automate where you can. Whether it's entering data, organizing your schedule, or managing email responses, there's software that can automate these processes.

For example, Mango can automate several repetitive but important tasks, such as invoice creation and billing reminders. Instead of relying on you to remember to do these things, set it up with your software so that these tasks are handled without you having to think about it. At tax time, you have other things to think about.

Automation streamlines your workload and frees you up to focus on the more complex and rewarding aspects of your accounting duties.

Stay Organized with Client Files

An efficient digital filing system is key to managing your clients' documents effectively. By moving away from physical files to an organized digital system, you ensure that important documents are just a few clicks away. This cuts down on the time spent rifling through papers to find what you need. It also helps in maintaining a cleaner, more organized workspace.
Digital files can be easily backed up and secured which offers an added layer of protection for your clients’ sensitive information.

Mango offers secure digital document management for tax professionals. You can send and receive documents through Mango and your clients can sign documents with the click of a button. Learn more about our document management features here.

Delegate When Possible

You shouldn’t have to shoulder all the work yourself, especially during the hectic tax busy season. Delegate tasks to your team members in your accounting firms to lighten your load. Delegation allows you to concentrate on the more complex and critical aspects of your job. Trust in the capabilities of your colleagues and allow them to handle tasks that are within their skill set. This not only helps in managing your workload more effectively but also aids in team development and morale by giving others the chance to grow and excel.

Pay Attention to Your Physical Health

Pay Attention to Your Physical Health

Never underestimate the power of good mental and physical health on your work performance. Create a regular exercise routine, ensure you get enough sleep, and maintain a healthy diet. These are all crucial for keeping your energy levels high and your mind sharp. It may also be helpful to integrate mindfulness practices like meditation or deep-breathing exercises into your daily routine. This can work wonders in reducing stress and boosting your concentration.

By taking care of your body and mind, you set yourself up for sustained focus and higher productivity during tax season and beyond. Establishing a work-life balance through regular breaks and physical exercise is crucial for sustaining energy levels and combating tax season stress.

Keep a Clean Digital Workspace

Just as a tidy physical desk can aid in focus, so too can a clean digital workspace. Take time to organize your digital files into clearly labeled folders and archive or delete what you no longer need. And, although I’m guilty of this as well, remember that keeping too many browser tabs open can slow down your computer and also clutter your mental space. A streamlined digital environment helps reduce the time spent searching for files and information. Regular digital clean-ups ensure your virtual desk is as conducive to productivity as your physical one.

Batch Process Similar Tasks

Efficiency in accounting, especially during busy periods like tax season, can often hinge on how well you manage your tasks. One effective strategy is to batch process similar tasks. By grouping alike tasks and tackling them in designated time blocks, you significantly increase your efficiency. This approach minimizes the mental load and time lost in switching between different types of activities.

Whether it's processing tax returns, responding to client emails, or reviewing financial statements on your tax system, dedicate specific periods to these tasks so that you can streamline your workflow, reduce errors, and ultimately save time. Batch processing allows you to dive deeper into the task at hand with fewer distractions which often leads to higher quality work and a more manageable workload.

Here's the ultimate guide to surviving tax season as an accounting professional.

Set Boundaries with Clients and Colleagues

Effective time management during tax season not only involves organizing your tasks but also setting clear boundaries with both clients and colleagues. It's crucial to communicate your availability clearly, including when you're reachable for discussions and when you need uninterrupted time to focus on your work. This clarity helps manage expectations and significantly reduces interruptions. Plus, establishing these boundaries early on fosters mutual respect and understanding.

Learn to Say “No”

The word “no” is a complete sentence. Saying “no” is a powerful skill but not always easy. It's natural to want to help and take on as many tasks as possible, but it's also important to recognize your limits. Politely declining non-essential meetings or additional responsibilities that don't align with your primary tasks is perfectly fine. Focus on what's most important and what you do best, and don’t be afraid to delegate (as mentioned above).

Final Thoughts

Your goal is not simply surviving tax season, but thriving despite its challenges. With careful planning, smart strategies, and a proactive mindset, you can not only manage the workload but also emerge from tax season stronger and more accomplished than ever before. Stay focused, stay organized, and implement the above tips to minimize tax season stress.

Sign up for a free demo of Mango Practice Management software here.

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