Your first busy season can both daunting and rewarding, but it's important to be patient and take it one day at a time to keep yourself healthy and motivated. The technical information isn't the only thing that takes time to learn; it also takes time to figure out the best way to navigate through the busiest time of the year.
Here are a few tips that I discovered during my busy season as a first year staff accountant:
Find a work-life balance early on.
Although it is important to make time for yourself every busy season, I would argue that it is most important to establish a work-life balance from the very beginning. As a new hire, there were times I felt very overwhelmed between learning the nature of my job, trying to understand the technicalities of my work, and navigating through the software. Achieving a sound work-life balance helped increase my productivity and level of engagement in the workplace.
Inevitably, I had a lot of questions regarding software, tax treatment, and firm policies as a new staff. Although I was lucky enough to have numerous colleagues to go to with my questions, I found taking detailed notes to be extremely helpful. Because I was learning so much so quickly, there were several times I felt overloaded with information. I wrote everything down and organized my notes by topic or computer program. By doing this, I was able to avoid asking some of the same questions over and over again. Even if I needed clarification or more details about something, I was able to demonstrate a basic understanding of the topic, which saved time.
As a first year staff, having questions is completely normal, but you are also expected to retain the information you're given when someone takes the time to explain something to you. Maintaining organized and detailed notes definitely helped me recall information later on.
Establish a healthy routine.
As busy season drew on, I found that sticking to a routine helped my mind and my body. As much as possible, I went to bed and woke up at the same times every day. This helped my body grow accustomed to my sleep schedule, which made me feel less tired. I also took a break from my work every day and spent an hour at the gym before dinner. Not only was this something to look forward to throughout the day, but I found that this mental break allowed me to come back to work for the evening feeling refreshed. On Sundays, I spent the afternoon preparing my lunches for the week. Because the weekdays got hectic, I discovered that the only way I would pack a healthy lunch was if I did most of the preparation before the week started.
Don't bite off more than you can chew.
When I started at Kreischer Miller in January, I made the conscious decision to wait to begin studying for the CPA exam until busy season was over. I knew I wouldn't be able to balance the discipline of studying with the long work hours, so I planned my CPA exam schedule around tax season.
Take the time to reward yourself for all of your hard work, whether that means going out for a nice dinner on the weekend, treating yourself to a massage, or going for a bike ride one night a week. Not only is this a nice way to relax and get your mind off of work, but it also gives you something to look forward to throughout the work week.
While it can be so easy to get wrapped up and consumed with your work, it's important to remember that the work will always get done. Although external deadlines and internal target due dates are extremely important, it is just as critical to put things into perspective. You can't expect to perform efficiently and effectively if you don't put your best foot forward.
Of course you'll have a few days that aren't as great as the others, but don't let the work load get to you. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need clarification or feel like you're drowning, and don't be afraid to leave "early" one night to catch up with some friends. Everyone needs a mental break, and it's necessary to ensure your best work.
Your first busy season will be a rewarding experience if you take advantage of learning opportunities, make time for yourself, stick to a healthy routine and keep things in perspective.
Liz Bishop is a staff accountant in Kreischer Miller's Tax Strategies group. Liz interned at Kreischer Miller in the spring of 2014 and began working full time in 2016 upon graduation from West Chester University. She enjoys traveling, spending time with her family and friends, and volunteering with local nonprofits. Contact Liz at Email.