It’s crunch time! Accountants all over Australia are putting their heads down for the most challenging time of the year: tax season. Those 60-hour, six-day work weeks – which are now the norm – can result in a fairly tense and hectic work environment. Fortunately, effective planning and regimented time management can go a long way to helping alleviate stress levels. Here are a few tips to lighten the tax load.
1. Plan early and communicate
Remind your family and social circle that tax season is coming up and you’ll be busier than usual. Plan ahead by letting them know you’ll be putting in long hours at work and may be unreachable at times. Set expectations on how you’ll respond to requests and obligations. You’ll find family and friends are more supportive when they know and understand what’s going on. And if you’re the one who usually does all the planning, ask someone else to take it on during tax time.
2. Put down that phone
Managing your own time effectively is key to coping with tax season. It’s easy to whittle away time reading messages and emails the instant they come in, but this breaks critical concentration. So set aside your phone and put it on silent if you find you are easily distracted by the alert. Schedule dedicated times during the day to catch up on emails and messages, and switch off Outlook outside these times. This will give you an uninterrupted flow of time to ‘get in the zone’ with 100% focus. It will also be simpler and more efficient to deal with emails or replies in batches, rather than tackling them one by one.
Discuss with your colleagues the best way for them to get important messages to you. You could set your phone to alert for specific contacts only, or even use a designated message app, like Slack, Viber, or WhatsApp, for mission-critical communications.
3. Be adaptable
We should all know the time of day when we’re most productive, so structure your day around your own peaks and troughs. Schedule challenging or important tasks for when you feel freshest and ‘on’ enough to handle the load. If you’re a morning person, start a little earlier and avoid the stress of rush hour, or come in later if you prefer to do breakfast at home and the school run with your family (which will give you some prized face time during tax season). It’s all about finding a good balance that works for you so you don’t get bent out of shape.
4. Eat in
Sometimes having lunch at your desk can be a good trade-off. That said, coffee doesn’t count as a balanced meal, so make sure to pack a healthy lunch or organise a lunch order with your colleagues through a delivery service, such as UberEATS or Deliveroo. Keep healthy snacks on hand for a quick energy boost when you need it, and avoid the late afternoon dash to the vending machine. When you’re working hard, it’s easy to become dehydrated without realising it, so keep your water bottle full and handy.
5. Work remotely
Cutting out the prep time at home and the commute to work can add a few essential hours to your day. Fortunately, you no longer have to sit right next to someone to keep communication levels high. Technology, and the advent of communication tools like Google Drive for collaborative file sharing, or online accounting software like QuickBooks Online, has made flexible, remote working possible.
6. Take a break
Schedule short 10-minute breaks throughout the day to stretch or take a walk. Collect your thoughts and clear your head – maybe even practise some light meditation. If you have a standing desk, then make use of it. Taking some time out to recharge – either before or after work – is important too. Schedule in time for physical exercise, like a run, a yoga class, or a session at the gym.
7. Celebrate the end of tax season
We know it feels like you’re being pulled in a lot of different directions and your days are constantly fully booked, but remember that it’s only for a season. So, organise a little celebration for when it’s all over, giving you something to look forward to and a chance to recharge your batteries. Most importantly, plan for some rest and relaxation when the pace slows down, and enjoy the time spent with the important people in your life.
For more tips on how to handle tax season, check out these resources.