On Monday morning, a new face joined me in the elevator. He donned professional attire and wore a sullen look. “Back to work?” I asked. “Yes and not looking forward to it,” he replied.
In contrast, I was in a completely different space. After taking ten days off, I was returning to four weeks of work before starting one of the greatest jobs of my life — motherhood. Feeling energized and eager to connect with my clients, I nearly had a skip in my step.
I continued the conversation by asking my gloomy neighbor what he did for work. He said he was an audit manager for a Big 4 firm. A-ha! That explains it.
My new elevator buddy, like many of you, have the dark cloud of busy season looming over your head. The average worker has a hard enough time getting back into the swing of things after time off for the holidays; it can be even more challenging when one knowingly returns to a grueling few months of work.
There is no reason to sugarcoat it — busy season sucks. It requires long hours that take you away from fun activities, spending time with the ones you love, and caring for yourself with a healthy diet and exercise. It is also exhausting. Accountants are knowledge workers and extended hours of critical thinking can leave you feeling mentally and physically exhausted.
Still, this time of year demands solid performance to create the solid foundation of a long-term career in accounting.
Many of you will groan at this but busy season does not have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, it provides you with boundless opportunities to develop. It does require you to make the best of it, however. This means creating silver lining by taking on one small challenge that will put you on the path to bigger results.
Why only one small challenge? To set yourself up for a win by choosing a goal that is realistic and attainable. Let’s look at something unrealistic for busy season — a person kicking off the New Year by resolving to lose 20 pounds. That is the equivalent of burning 70,000 calories or running 700 miles. To reach the 700 mile mark, it would take nearly 78 weeks of running 9 miles per week. That is a big commitment and one that would be hard to achieve when work wasn’t busy. Rather than creating a lofty goal, look for something small that will make a big impact.
Here are some examples along with the most critical piece to setting any goal — your emotional “Why?” You will be much more motivated to reach your goal when you have identified how it will have an impact on your life.
- Eat dinner with family or friends at least twice a week, to stay connected to the people I love.
- When off work, be off work (i.e. no email, quiet your mind versus continuing to think about work), to cultivate habits that make work-life balance possible.
- Exercise at least two times per week, to have more self-confidence and bring energy to everything that I do.
- Do something fun at least once per month (e.g. attend a concert, go on a hike, take a weekend trip), to reward and recognize all my hard work.
- Implement the routine of working with a to-do list every day, so that I gain better mastery of prioritization and time management.
- Hone one area of expertise, to gain technical mastery that gets me to the next level professionally.
- Commit to working more effectively with that one colleague who drives me crazy, to learn how to overcome challenges and communicate with people with a style different than my own.
Only 8% of the people who set New Year's resolutions actually achieve them, often because the goals are unrealistic. Be honest with yourself about how much you can take on while putting in long hours faced with a lot of pressure. At the same time, don’t stagnate or be grumpy about it. Seize the opportunity by taking on something small, worthwhile and create your silver lining to your busy season.
Or be miserable. Whatever.