Friday, January 8, 2010

How to Survive the Busy Season…

Alive and (mostly) unscathed.

Okay, I was just kidding about the line above. As I said in another post, nobody really dies from the busy season. But I noticed that, even though I was writing a lot of stuff during the past few months, I’ve never really written about how to survive the busy season during and after you went through one.

Just a note – I’m not an expert in this subject – but then again, having gone through 10 busy seasons (8 in audit and 2 in accounting), I think I can say I’m a veteran in getting out of busy seasons “alive and unscathed”. Not to mention that I’ve seen a lot of people who have busy seasons for 20 or more years (and they’re still alive, not to mention, have lots of money)!

So, how do we really survive the busy season?

First stop, you have to pace yourself. If you have a client with an early deadline, work your butt off when you need to. But don’t overdo it. Take some rest; too, otherwise, you’ll just burn yourself out.

If you have a client that has a not-so-early deadline (lucky you!), start it easy then gradually increase your overtime hours and week-end work. Go with a pace you’re comfortable with but always keep in mind the deadline date.

Second, always make room for adjustments. When I was working for the big auditing firm, we always give allowances for any adjustments. If the deadline is March 31, we plan to end everything and issue the financial statements a week before March 31. This way, our minds are set on March 24 plus we work the hours required to finish everything on March 24. If there are problems encountered along the way, we can always fall back on the extra week. Better to do this than to peg the March 31 date then find out that we’ll have to extend until April 7!

Third, lay off planning and/or preparing for personal major events. Sorry, have to say this. When you’re in the thick of things during the busy season, try (really hard!) not to do or plan for anything major in terms of your personal or social life. Just a few things that can be categorized as major (and I know I will get into trouble for saying this) – buying or building a new home; planning and preparing for your own wedding (plus having your own wedding during the busy season); and planning and preparing for a family or school reunion. Heck, I’ve seen some female auditors even schedule their pregnancies (and dates of giving birth) away from the busy season! Yes, I know that your personal or social lives should not take a backseat over your own career, but let me just say that from the start, you’ve been warned that there’s a busy season. So if you want to save yourself the trouble and the headache of juggling a lot of things all at once, please apply this tip.

Fourth, plan for some ‘me’ time. The third tip does not mean you’ll spend your busy season living in your office and having no personal / social life. Believe me - you’re entitled to some ‘me’ time. So go out and have dinner with your friends or loved ones. Have coffee breaks. Watch a movie (or movies). Take a break when you’re in - between clients after a deadline. Go home early on a Friday. Go to a spa and have a massage. Sleep longer during week-ends. Take a day off after the April 15 deadline (which is what we usually do, so after this date, the office is usually quiet because a lot of the auditors take the day off or come in late). Little things I know, but they all add up to relieve your stress and to relax you just a little bit during this pressure - packed times.

Fifth, keep your cool (and your sense of humor). During one particular busy season, one client commented that even if we were already busy, I still have a smile on my face. Don’t take everything seriously during the busy season. If your client has been pressuring you to finish everything, don’t lose your cool and erupt like a volcano (you’ll get nowhere plus you’ll just make everybody feel bad). If your boss or manager bullies you to do a lot of things, don’t take it personally, they have a lot in their minds, too (and they are as pressured as you are or even more so). Lighten up. Download a funny YouTube video and laugh while watching it. You may look like a fool (just in case you’re hiding while watching the video) but believe me, it gets loads off your chest.

Lastly, don’t bite more than you can chew. They don’t call it an ‘audit team’ or simply ‘team’, for nothing. Don’t take on everything and don’t say ‘yes’ to everything. You know your limits, when you’re reaching it, pass on some of the load to your peers or ask your senior or manager to assign it to somebody else. They may or may not like your request but at least you know that you can manage with what you’ve got and will not disappoint them later on. Plus, if they still insist you take on the assignment, you’ll have the luxury of telling them later on that ‘you told them so’.

And those are my tips on how to survive your busy season. What do you think?


  1. really well written post. My favorite is #4. I really need to do that.
    CPA Gainesville

  2. Gauging from the experience I've had at a Big 4 firm, I'd say these tips are quite applicable. Thanks!

  3. This is a magnificent post Alive and (mostly) unscathed. . I enjoyed the information lot. I will bookmark this page. be grateful for sharing this knowledge .

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