2023 started off with a BANG, didn’t it? January flew by and now that February is over, many of the Woodard Report readers have recovered from the 1099 and payroll tax deadlines and are now looking ahead to the rest of the year. For some, it means that tax season is beginning. For everyone, it promises to be a busy year with lots of deadlines to manage.
Will it be as tumultuous as 2022? Or calmer and more orderly?
Personally, I think it will be the latter. If there is a common theme, it's that practitioners from all firm sizes are actively seeking sustainable work days and sanity. The pandemic may have changed how and where we work, but we’ve come a long way in the past 3 years and we have learned a LOT. And probably the biggest thing we’ve learned is that we have to take care of ourselves in order to take care of our clients.
5 Pro Tips to help you breeze through the busiest season
It is with this in mind that I offer up some of the most useful tips gathered from practicing accountants and bookkeepers globally when it comes to helping them SAIL through their busiest seasons without burning out.
Pro Tip #1: Make sleep a VERY high priority for you, and ALL your staff.
We are all human, and as beautiful biological machines, we need sleep in order to do our best work. Yes, we can go without it for a while, but our performance degrades quickly. Experts state that for most adults, 7-9 hours of restful sleep per night is needed in order to maintain mental alertness, to remember important facts and actions, and to just generally not be a stress monster. At Liscio we are on a company-supported journey to ensure we all get enough sleep, because no one operates at peak when suffering a deficit. We reap the benefits every day of this focus on sleep - not only is the work more fun, but everyone feels better too! If you are interested in the science behind sleep, read Matthew Walker PhD’s book “Why We Sleep” and then consider getting an Oura Ring to measure your sleep quality nightly.
Pro Tip #2: Document your processes!
The interesting thing is that it doesn’t have to be fancy. The important thing is to JUST START. As you are doing something, fire up a Loom video and record yourself talking your way through the steps. Then take that short video and put it into a document with the key steps outlined and any links needed to complete the work. Also - if you are training a new employee, ask THEM to document each step as they are being trained! Before you know it you’ll have a library of procedures and processes, and your practice can actually run without you should you decide to take a day off, or a much-needed vacation.
Pro Tip #3: Ensure clients understand the importance of sending their documents in on time.
This can be done in many ways, including email, but IF your firm uses email as your primary communication method with clients, be sure to build in a buffer for non-response by clients. If you can’t build in a buffer, then you’ll want to explore other tools that will automatically remind clients when documents are due, and let staff see what has been sent in and what is still overdue. One firm I talked to called every client and got them to add dates to their calendar to remind them to send in their important tax documents. Another offered a lower price for any tax client whose complete set of documents were delivered to the firm by Feb 15th. And many others have leveraged a tool like Liscio to help clients send everything on time without staff having to badger. But regardless of how you choose to handle this, you’ve got to get your clients to cooperate in order to work reasonable hours during your very busiest season. So having a solid plan for that is key!
Pro Tip #4: Invest in systems that make your people smarter, without having to work harder.
You need a central repository of everything related to each client - their communications, their documents, their workflow, their completed returns and reports, etc. And you need the right tech to get the work done once you have everything from clients. In this way, anyone on your team can quickly find what they need to find, and act on it without having to search in numerous places or “bug” another staff person - and the work can just FLOW. Dawn Brolin has a great tech lineup, and she hand-picks each app for the role it plays in helping her team stay completely on top of all client work without working overtime (even in tax season!). Check it out here.
Pro Tip #5: Sometimes you've got to just step away
Taking a moment to get a breath of fresh air, take a quick walk, and just be away from your desk for 10-15 minutes can help to reset even the most stressful and chaotic days. As you walk, try and remember that most of the things you are stressing about will not matter in 10 years (or even one year!), so give yourself the grace to step away, reset and just breathe. Then schedule regular 15-minute walks into your busy day, every day! You’ve got this!!