It’s a busy time of year for professional services industries. Professionals in law, insurance, banking, and finance have clients coming out of the woodwork to get their assets, estates, insurance, and files in order before the holidays and end of the year.
Assistants are swamped, offices are buzzing with activity at all hours and over the weekend—and many pro-service industries haven’t even hit their busy season yet. For many professionals, especially those in the accounting and tax departments, the new year marks the beginning of the daunting “busy season.”
Professionals burn the candle at both ends, so to speak. They field hundreds of emails, phone calls and jump in and out of client meetings. Files stack upon files, but everyone in the office rallies as a team to get through it. You’re in this together, which can be a beautiful thing.
Nothing can truly prepare you for 60-hour work weeks, but there are a few steps you can take ahead-of-time or right-in-the-thick-of-it to lessen the impact (and boost morale and productivity) of the busy season.
Tips for surviving—and thriving—in the busy season
1. Stay well-fed and eat healthily as a team
Just one look at Glassdoor reviews for a pro-services company and you’ll notice that how well a firm handles the busy season often is what sets them apart among employees and potential candidates. Some of the best firms to work for provide office perks throughout the busy season—one of which is providing free food and overtime meals to staff.
We’re biased as a corporate meal delivery service, but here at Foodee, we know how important a good team meal (family-style or individual) can be at boosting morale, building team spirit and camaraderie, and taking a break to increase productivity, team health, and wellness. Feeding your team and keeping them healthy could be the single most important thing your office does to survive (and thrive) in the busy season.
Check out our blog post on how to order team meals from Foodee (and get local restaurant dishes delivered for your overworked staff).
2. Focus on your strengths and delegate the rest
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses—yes, even professionals. If staying organized or handling client communications isn’t your strong suit, perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a team or assistant who can help you there. Stick to what you do best, whether that’s crunching numbers or finding solutions in complicated insurance claims. Your clients hired you for your strengths and if you’re on the ball with those, they may let your weaknesses slide during crunch time.
3. Take a mindful moment every day
Whether you use an app to help you meditate or you prefer to go for a brisk walk outside, take a few minutes every day to yourself. Breath in and out. Relax and refresh your mind and then get back to it feeling revived. This is an especially important time of year to get a good night’s sleep.
4. Set boundaries and stick to them
You can’t say yes to everything this time of year—and perhaps what usually takes you two weeks to complete for clients may take a month. They get it and remember that every firm is pushing back. Know your own capacity and stick to it. Don’t take on more than you—and your office and team—can handle. Or do, but push back on deadlines. This will require you to be very organized and realistic about how long files take you to complete when you’re being pulled into meetings, emails and calls.
5. Stay organized and stick to a schedule
Create a work-back calendar for yourself and your team to map out exactly which files you’ll be working on at what time and for how long. Add in all of your meetings and lunch breaks into the calendar. This is essential for setting team and client expectations for when they can expect to have their files returned—or when they need to come back in for final sign off. Create a daily checklist and literally check items off your list. Apparently, this simple act goes a long way psychologically.
6. Practice self-care and be present with family
Don’t forget to take care of number one throughout this busy time. You’re no use to your team, clients or loved ones if you’re fraying at the edges and breaking under the stress and pressure. By setting realistic boundaries, staying organized, pushing back on timelines if you need to and delegating help when you need it, hopefully, you can practice self-care. Take a bath, go for a workout, or go to sleep early. When you have time to be with your family—for example at breakfast or for Sunday dinner—turn your phone on silent and be present and available for your loved ones. If nothing else, it may save you from an unnecessary fight, which is the last thing you need.
7. Simplify your life as much as possible
If your busy season is just around the corner, warn friends and family or clubs and extracurricular teammates that you’ll be unavailable for a while. By simplifying your life outside of work—and saying no to an influx of dinner parties and events—you can focus on the task at hand and not overwhelm yourself.