The reports are in. Tax preparers barely have time to eat this busy season. Not that this is much different than any other filing season but here are five key time management tips to help you battle through to April:
1. Create a schedule
Not just any schedule. Schedule everything. Schedule when you are going to the gym, when you’re having family time, when you are cooking dinner, and when you need to have your kid at baseball practice. Oh, and schedule time to do tax returns.
Putting time blocks in your calendar for all of your commitments both inside, and outside the office will help you to realistically plan for when and how you will get work done. It will also help highlight early on if you need to delegate work or shift conflicting priorities.
Seems easier said than done during the busiest time of year, but ultimately we can’t do it all. One thing I learned early on in my surviving tax season career was things like grocery shopping and doing laundry weren’t tax season priorities for me, so I needed to solicit help and other solutions.
Of course, we would probably like to say that laundry is never a priority, but you get the idea. If it can go, it needs to go. This might mean investing in a meal delivery service, or it might mean telling non-tax clients their work will be delayed during the busy season, but set the stage with everyone in your life what the focus will need to be and where you need help.
3. One project at a time
Resist the urge to multi-task everything because your coffee made you feel like a superhero this morning. Less is more when you’re already stressed and overtired, Contrary to popular belief, studies have consistently shown that your quality of work dips when you try to multitask.
Allowing your attention to be distracted from technical work, like tax returns, is more likely to result in mistakes or having to redo that return later when you’re actually paying attention. Use your time blocking strategy from above to just focus on one project at a time to be more efficient.
Putting time blocks in your calendar for all of your commitments both inside, and outside the office will help you to realistically plan for when and how you will get work done.
4. Take breaks
Do not skip this one! Tempting as it may be, working for 10, 12, 14 hours straight with no break is not good for you and your focus and productivity will significantly suffer by the end of the day. Doing that consistently for months does not make a productive or accurate tax preparer.
Keeping your mind sharp throughout the day will actually help you get more work done. Take short breaks every couple of hours, even if you go for a 15-minute walk or just eat your lunch away from your computer screen. Coming back refreshed will mean coming back refocused.
5. Eliminate distractions
When it’s time to sit down for project focusing, eliminate distractions. Close your email (I know, unimaginable right?!), move your phone out of reach, close down browser windows you don’t need. The most powerful way to power through a project is not to have your mind pulled away from it every 20 minutes.
Removing distractions will make it far easier for you to keep your head in the game and you may even find that you start finishing projects faster than you anticipated.
Hopefully these tips save you an ounce of time and sanity this filing season. May the tax odds be ever in your favor.