2018 Busy Season Survival Guide

Making it though busy season is rough. 

Keeping your life together while working 70-80 hours a week seems impossible, but with a few tricks from some seasoned CPA’s you can get through without getting burned out.


Take the stairs

Finding time to exercise while working all day and night can be tough, so the best way to get the heart rate up throughout the day is take the stairs.  I worked with a couple people that swore by this and would race to the top.   They also claimed that going down stairs made them feel less stressed.


Reading Fiction

Clearing your mind at the end of the day is a great way to get some solid sleep.  Knowing that the cell phone isn’t great on your system at night, reading helps reduce stress by as much as 68% with only 6 minutes of reading as studied by Dr. David Lewis.



During my worst season I tried a higher caffeine coffee called Death Wish Coffee and loved it.  I keep this on hand for the roughest mornings and highly recommend it.  Falling into the category of personal investment, picking up some better quality tea or coffee can give you the chemical boost you need to keep going.

Death Wish Coffee.png

Dark Chocolate

Nurses that work the night-shift swear by this little treat as it helps to regulate your mood.  Dr. Diana Walcutt Ph.D. lists out all the great benefits of this dark gold and in moderation, it can be great during times of high stress.  

- Boosts brain levels of endorphins

- Increased serotonin, a mood-altering chemical on which many antidepressants act

- Includes resveratrol, an antioxidant (immune system booster)

Dark Chocolate.jpg

Get Organized

Creating a workflow system to help keep all your to-do lists is a must and this includes your work, as well as your personal items.  To find a good method, I wrote about a number of systems to consider in an early blog post here.

We can’t truly think about or attend to all these things at once, so our brains flit from one to the other, each time with a neurobiological switching cost.

Meal Prep

Sundays should be dedicated to getting laundry done, and planning your meals for the week.  This is a very common tactic and one I wish I had started many years ago.  Stock up on fruits and veggies to keep your mind and body healthy and avoid the unhealthy choices.  Also consider using help fresh or blue apron to have the ingredients delivered. 

Blue Apron.jpg

Side Projects

This was the hardest for me to accept as I always was working on new ventures on the side to help boost my creative spirit.  Accounting never quite filled the artistic side for me and I finally had to put my side work on hold for a few months. 

The result has been great and by choosing to do this, rather than running out of time, it has helped me feel in control of my life.  If too much is going on, I fall out of step and everything suffers.  Choose a few things to focus on at a time, and revisit it at the beginning of each month to plan ahead, rather than fall behind.


Classwork and Studying

If possible, avoid any big tests like the CPA exams during busy season. Build out a schedule for the year and put things on hold until you can dedicate the extra time. If you do the math, you may find some time, but this depends on your schedule:

Hours available in a week = 168

Less work hours - 70      

Less 7 hours sleep - 49

Less getting ready for work .5 hours – 3.5

Less commute time 1.5 hours – 10.5

Total personal hours = 35 (5 per day)

This does leave some time to add 2-3 hours of study, but this may add a level of stress that will quickly lead to burnout.


New Job

Keeping an eye on your future is the best method to keep a positive mental attitude.  If you feel stuck and overworked with no escape, the work can be depressing.  However, if you happen to answer one of the 100 recruiter calls during this time of year, give them a chance as it can be fun to see what else is out there. 

Also, keep an eye out within your own office to look for good managers and bosses to work for.  Hitching your wagon to someone that you look up to and that treat their subs well, can make all the difference even if you are doing the same amount of work. 

I am much more willing to work harder for someone that will help advance my career and show real appreciation for my work.


Staying Positive

All the above items are tools to help create a healthy outlook on work during the worst of times.  Hopefully you can use these to help stay positive, as this is the key to making it through the tough times.  Just know that there is an end to the busy time, and it will all pay off in the end. 

Best of luck to you and if you have any tricks or tips to pass on, please leave them in the comments below!

Mike Linn, CPA


P.S. Avoid this!