First off, congratulations to all of us for getting through the 3/15 deadline! The first big milestone of tax season has passed and for those of us who are tax focused, we have about a month of “really” busy season left. We can do it!
Tying into surviving this first deadline: I thought this would be the perfect time to write about ways to handle stress and maintain a work-life balance, especially during this time of year. I am sure your emails are already full of similar articles, so while I will pull from some general guidelines, I am going to focus mainly on my own tried-and-true methods.
Every tax season I find a main thing as my “relief,” and this varies year to year.
A few years ago, my big break from tax time was wedding planning. In the evenings or on my days off, I designed and hand made all my wedding invitations, programs, random chalk signs and seating cards.
Last year, my fun activity was scrapbooking the wedding and honeymoon. These projects provide me a great mental break and give me something I can look forward to after a hard day of work or on my Sundays off.
This year, my husband and I are in the process of building our first home. My Sunday activity for most of tax season has been a trip to our lot to see the progress of the home, daydreaming about living in it, taking tons of photos which I then share with everyone, and usually grabbing a bite to eat in our future town. Sometimes we wander around IKEA, Lowes, etc. and make lists of things we want for the home.
Exercise. Even during “busy season,” I do my best to continue to work out and exercise. Yes, I know, keeping up with this goal is hard. After a long day of work, especially when it’s cold and dark out, the last thing I want to do is go run on a treadmill. To combat this, I keep my workout clothing with me and change before leaving work. This makes it easier for me to hit the gym up before going home. But I also try to not feel guilty if I skip a workout after an especially hard day.
Hobby horse. I also try to make it to the barn to ride at least once or twice a week. Sometimes all you need after a rough day is some barn therapy and a spunky five-year-old horse who wants to remind you it’s been a week since you saw him last.
Baths and books. Baths are my way to really “hit refresh” and unwind, especially with a nice bath balm, book (hey it’s a good way to get in a book or some tax research) and music playing.
TV dinners. While my firm offers dinners in the office during tax season, I try to pick a few days each week where I go home and have dinner with my husband (and cat). Often I will have dinner, watch an episode or two of something on TV, and then feel refreshed and finish an hour or so more work from home.
Telecommute. My firm offers remote work capabilities and I often take advantage of them during tax season. Working remotely is a blog all in its own, but it works well for me. Sometimes I know I have hit a wall at the office. So, I go home, do a workout, etc, and then resume later in the evening; suddenly everything I was struggling with before clicks. Some Saturdays I also work from home instead of the office to save on drive time and allow more time in the evening to go to the movies or schedule dinner with friends.
More ideas. Accounting Today published this article last year with even more tips for managing your stress during tax season. These included drinking plenty of water and eating properly, getting fresh air (or at least stepping away from your desk now and then), moving, taking mental breaks and having moments when you fully disconnect from technology (yes, that includes your phone and email!).
Relax. The American Psychological Association’s recommendations for managing stress include finding time to relax and meditate. To really do this, you must find time to turn off work and work thoughts completely and recharge. I try my best to do this on Sundays.
Find what works for you. Everyone has different styles and must find their own ways to deal with tax season business and stress. Some people prefer to get up early and not work as late into the evenings during tax season. Some people put in longer days during the week and less on the weekends. Find a system that works for you and embrace it.
I would love to hear your thoughts on how you are balancing life and getting through this tax season. Do you have any recommendations you would pass on to new staff or anyone struggling with the stress?