Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ten Tips for a Smoother, More Profitable Tax Season

At the beginning of every tax season, I have the best intentions. I exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. Then it happens. Two-thirds of the way through the busiest months, something really big goes wrong, and my balanced life snowballs into chaos. Does this happen to you?

Even if something doesn't go wrong, you might be the type of person who reaches the edge of burnout every year at the end of tax season. You might hate the high-pressure, deadline-riddled, fast-paced environment. How can you find your balance amid the chaos? Here are ten tips to help you survive this season.
  1. Remember why you're there in the first place. Our business is an excruciatingly detail-oriented affair, and it's easy to get caught up in the minutiae of the moment. When you realize you're drowning in details, stop, take a deep breath, and take in the big picture. Think about what your overarching business and personal goals are. Remind yourself of your friends and family. This exercise will help you reframe what's really important to you and will help you put the daily details back into the right perspective.

  2. Communicate your appreciation. Without a team to help you get your work done, tax season would be much harder. Show your gratitude to your team (and your family) with frequent positive comments, ranging from the general "I really appreciate the work you do" to the specific "Your spreadsheet covering the Cassidy project was very well thought out."

    Do this more often than you think you need to. People can't get enough personal feedback in this digitally detached world. Praise keeps the stress level down in the office. It will give you a lift too: gratitude is one of the fastest ways to change your mood for the positive.

  3. Systematize your processes. Lost productivity and mistakes often stem from misunderstood responsibility and authority. A smooth tax season starts when everyone knows the flow of work, what their jobs are, and how much authority they have to make decisions. Make all of these items clear by designing systems, processes, and procedures that your team can follow.

  4. Train, train, train. Inevitably, one of your team members will get sick, pregnant, or resign at exactly the wrong time. Cross-training your team to be able to do each others' jobs will save you time and reduce your stress. It's hard to stop and make time for training, but there are rewards to taking the extra time. Your employee feels more empowered and becomes more valuable once the new skill has been mastered. The next time the skill is required, you can delegate the task and free up your time.

  5. Just say "no." Saying "no" can be difficult for some people. But I promise you will get at least one client who will try to monopolize your schedule at the last minute, will not have all the input you need so that you have to start and stop five times on the work, and will insist on a bargain price!

    Set deadlines for client input. Be able to say "no" to unreasonable requests. You'll be able to help five clients in the time one unruly client takes up, and your profitability will soar.

  6. Commute calmly. On your way to and from work, listen to an upbeat music CD, a comedy act, or a motivational tape. You'll be in a better mood no matter what the traffic was like. Buy CDs for your staff, too.

  7. Perk up your staff. A great way to de-stress your office is to add some perks, and I don't just mean bringing in a few sugar-laden sweet rolls in the morning. In the middle of your busiest time, consider some of the following ideas:

    • Bring in a masseuse who can do ten-minute neck and shoulder massages during lunch.
    • Hire a personal assistant who can be shared among your employees to help them with errands like dry cleaning pickups, grocery runs, and gift shopping.
    • Send employees' spouses a wonderful appreciation gift.
    • Supply healthy in-office snacks and meals that build energy rather than drain it.

  8. Prioritize. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, get organized. Prioritize your to-do list, and work it, one at a time. When you cross a task off, do a little dance or shout a "Woohoo!" Make sure your staff is clear on their priorities, too.

  9. Take the high road. In a high-pressure environment, we're often tightly wound. It doesn't take more than a small slight from another to set us off into a rampage. If you're prone to reactive behavior, it will help to understand a quick fact about how your brain is wired. We have two pathways in our brain:
    1. The low road (the fast pathway) to reaction that is wired directly from our senses to our emotion center. This is what keeps us alive when we swerve quickly to avoid a car accident or when we notice a snake on the ground. It also gets activated when we might feel a bit threatened at work.
    2. The high road (the slower pathway) that is wired to the reasoning center in our brain. Here we can take the time to analyze, process, and react accordingly to what's happening in our environment.

    If someone says something to you that activates your "low road," become aware of it, take a breath, and if there is no immediate danger of dying, let your "high road" catch up before you say or do anything.

  10. Model leadership. Emotions are contagious. So is stress. If you are in a negative mood, everyone in your office won't be far behind. But if you come in every morning in a calm and cheerful mood and with your sense of humor intact, you can influence the whole office to follow your lead. It's a lot more fun for everyone to work in a cheerful office.
When you and your employees are happier and de-stressed, you'll be more productive, do better work, make fewer mistakes, and be healthier, too. I wish you a joyful and profitable tax season.

Source :

No comments:

Outsource Bookkeeping Services Outsourcing Services