Make it ‘Productive Season’

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At this time of year, most accountants are considered to be mired in an annual waterboarding-like ritual known as ‘busy season.’ While the moniker has long stirred ire, one way to rally against its implication is to take a good look at what being ‘busy’ means. Moreover, why not make it more productive?

Perspective is everything. And while I’ve noticed more accounting professionals making concerted efforts to have more of a life/work balance, it is apparent that much of the work and that which contributes to being ‘busy’ could actually evolve into productivity. The end result, and goal here, is to feel, at the end of the day or at any point in your day, that you are actually getting things done versus feeling like you are on the proverbial hamster wheel.

Let’s start with the “feeling” of being busy vs. actual business. How many of you know how much productive work you do in a day compared to things that keep your attention and brain occupied?

Moreover, do you keep or even know what a Time Journal is? This could be your first step towards actually being productive and feeling less ‘busy.’

Take a day, one day, and mark down in 30-minute increments what you’re actually doing from the moment you start up your computer or pick up a phone, whatever you consider “being at work.” It can be anything from “checking email” or “looking at LinkedIn or any social media” to writing out a to-do list or checking on client forms. Write down everything you “do” until you consider the work day “done.”

The second step is to look at everything you wrote down over those 30-minute blocks and truly ask yourself, what was “work” and what just occupied your time? If you actually do this over the course of a week (do so sooner than later because we know you will only get or feel busier as February turns to March and so forth), you will see true patterns form.

Another thing to do is to set some timers. Every time you start a task, set your phone, computer, or device (even that alarm clock from your bedroom). It will remind you to not only take a break but also give you a sense of how long you spent on that task.

These are only short-term remedies that can have longer-term effects. The more aware you are of how long you spend on a task, the more likely you are to put some efficiencies in place and have some awareness of how busy vs. productive you really are.

Finally, it’s your mindset. I know, easier said than done, but actually wake up each day and put it in your mind to make a productivity or task chart, checking things off as you go. Maybe it all doesn’t get done that day, but it likely is that week. The whole “small wins” mentality is what works here and can ultimately leave you feeling less “busy” and more “productive.”

There are lots of remedies; I’m just sharing them based on what I see you all go through each year, allowing things to happen to you rather than you happening to them. And yes, I get it. There are always unforeseen things that can suck up your time and make you feel more busy than accomplished.

But let that be the exception and not the rule on your path towards true life/work balance and staying in your chosen career. It is one that does truly matter and will begin to feel that way once you’ve turned the tide.

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