Being Productive

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.

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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.

 

Coffee

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.

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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)

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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.
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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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!

The trick to being productive in 2017...

2016 To Do List

Is wrapping up 2016.

Before moving forward into the New Year, consider finishing up your to-do list in these final days of 2016 and organize your work-area to be ready to start anything next year.

A few things to consider while organizing the spaces you use on a daily basis:

  • Put away everything on your desk and wipe off the surface
  • Pick up all the clutter around your home and find bins/storage for things you want to put away
  • Clean up your car and clean out your trunk
  • Clean out your work bag

Doing these small tasks helps the hippocampus region of your brain and frees it up to focus on more important items, like moving short-term memories into long-term.  I wrote more about this in an earlier post here.

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  Clear off as many items from your 2016 to-do list as possible

Clear off as many items from your 2016 to-do list as possible

Finally, look back at 2016 and decide what you regret not doing last year. Commit to this in 2017 and do it. Don't let another year go by living with the weight of not doing what is most important to you!

The Volt Planner is a great notebook tool for 2017 as well.  Check it out  here .

The Volt Planner is a great notebook tool for 2017 as well.  Check it out here.

To help with getting ready for the New Year, I recommend a book by Chris Bailey, The Productivity Project.  Mr. Bailey has demonstrated his knowledge and experience through his blog at http://alifeofproductivity.com/ where he writes about testing all manner of productivity tools and systems. This book is a great summary of the outcomes and worth the money to have only the useful options and examples laid out in an engaging format. 

I appreciate the open source writing style that shows the truth behind how he arrives at his conclusions and take-always. This is what sets this book apart from any other productivity book as this allows the reader to actively learn and retain the most important teachings of the book.

The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to free up more time to work on projects they care about.

The Productivity Project is available on Amazon HERE

Find more information on Rule of 3  here.

Find more information on Rule of 3 here.

I had a chance to ask Mr. Bailey what he thought people should focus on when looking to 2017 and his response hit at the core of his teachings around time, energy, and attention.

I think one of the most powerful ways to accomplish more—whether on a daily basis or in general—is to work more often with intention. My favorite rule for doing this is the Rule of 3—where at the start of every week, as well as at the start of every day, you think forward to what three things you’ll want to have accomplished by the time the day and week are done. We should do this at the start of every year, too. Instead of creating a massive laundry list of things to get done, for 2017, choose just three goals. This will help you separate what’s important from what isn’t to really decide what’s important and meaningful to you.

 

Chris Bailey's latest TEDx talk is a great introduction to his year of productivity experiment.

To help get you started working on your own three goals for 2017, I encourage you to leave a comment below with the things you will be focusing on. As an incentive, I will send a copy of Mr. Bailey's book to one lucky winner chosen at random, to be announced this Friday, Dec. 23rd. I hope this will encourage you to get working on your goals with intention and purpose!  

Cheers and Happy Holidays!