How to manage the stresses and strains of year end for accountants
4th Apr 2017
It’s coming up to that time again when year-end deadlines are looming on the horizon and it’s hard for accountancy professionals to see the wood for the trees never mind the gym or your friends and family!
If seemingly never-ending reports, spreadsheets, and reconciliations are grinding you down, this might be something you could do with reading to help alleviate the pressure and pain of financial year end. In fact, whilst these helpful stress-free tips might be particularly helpful at year end, they are also useful for maintaining a healthy work-life balance throughout your career as an accountant!
There are so many ways that we all lose a few minutes here and there throughout the day that seems trivial at the time, but when you add them up you could have lost an hour of your working day meaning that you end up working late and having to skip that cinema appointment or dinner with friends you were looking forward to!
Some things I’ve found useful when I’m under pressure and just need to get things done include:
- Switch my phone off or on to airplane mode: not only does my phone charge more quickly (always a bonus with the daily 4 hour commute to work) but also I’m less likely to be dragged into the dreaded WhatsApp or Messenger group chats! I’d rather catch up on the latest gossip or weekend plans at lunchtime or after work rather than having to work late and miss out on the actual social action being discussed! Be strong guys.…your messages won’t mysteriously disappear!
- Switch off desktop or pop up notifications on my work email, be it Outlook or Gmail. These generally only serve to distract you from when you’re concentrating on getting stuff done. You can always check your email between each mini-task you complete OR you could just shut your email down for a few hours altogether to really focus and put on a message that for urgent matter you’re contactable by phone. If it’s really urgent, they’ll call you but trust me, managing out the distraction of unnecessary emails will really allow you to crack on and be super productive. Which will help to manage your tasks and reduce stress.
- If you work in a noisy environment or the person beside you is prone to chit chat ad infinitum about what happened on last night’s Coronation Street or their gourmet cooking skills, try to manage out distractions by maybe putting on a set of headphones or earphones. You don’t need to be listening to music, but you are less likely to end up working late just for the sake of being polite! This might not work in every office but if it’s an issue, you could always have a quiet word with your boss to check that it’s ok as a one off!
- Grab a strong cup of coffee on your way in and avoid the 10 teas and coffee kitchen run! It’s established fact, everywhere I’ve worked, that no one loves caffeine quite as much as I. However, when you’re mega busy and ask the dreaded, “Does anyone want a cuppa?”, question and 15 hands shoot up in the air, it’s not going to help you get things done. So, with that in mind, treat yourself to your favourite morning fix and save time by just getting to the task at hand! Keeping focused is a key strategy to reducing stress.
Be organised and work to a plan
I’ve always found it really useful to write a to do list for the following day before I leave the office for home. It means that when I get in to the office every day my plan is ready and waiting for me. I personally like to prioritise tasks into:
1’s – Things that absolutely need to be done the following day and I’ll not leave the office without completing
2’s – Things that I’d really like to get done and won’t be particularly relaxed about of an evening if I haven’t gone them done
3’s – Yes, it needs to happen but it’s not time-critical.
If it’s a very high-pressure time of year such as financial year end, focus only on priorities 1 and 2. Even looking at things that aren’t a priority may add to your subconscious stress levels so don’t do it to yourself! Online tools like Asana are also really handy for managing your workload and seeing how you’re getting on against your plan!
No matter how busy or under pressure you are, you need to take a break otherwise, your productivity levels will plummet at the same rate as your stress levels will shoot up! Go for a walk at lunch, eat your sandwich, salad or last night’s leftovers away from your desk. You don’t need to take an hour but the act of getting away from your desk will help manage your stress levels and organise your thoughts.
Also, if you’ve achieved all your priority 1 (and maybe most of the priority 2 goals), head to the gym, take a walk or do whatever you’d normally do to have a good evening! Switch off from work and get a good night’s sleep knowing that your day to come is planned and you’re ready to take it on, come what may.
These are just a few of the things that I find useful when I have deadlines to meet and feel like the stress might overwhelm me otherwise. It’s taken me years of practice to see what works for me and it might be entirely different for you.
We’d love to hear what tips you find particularly useful. If you’re interested in discussing your career path in accountancy & finance, please feel free to give me a call for a chat or pop me across your CV in strictest confidence to firstname.lastname@example.org