With another busy season about to be wrapped up, you can finally catch up on all of the things you put off for the last several months. Spend some time out of the office, relax, take a break and reassess your life in general. The accounting and tax profession can be stressful at times and demand a lot of your time and the craziness that is busy season can knock your daily life out of balance. As an accountant with nearly a decade of accounting experience, I've been through many busy seasons and as I get closer to April 15 each time, I get really anxious to gain my life back from work. I've put together a list of seven things for accountants to do after busy season:
1. Spend quality time with friends and family
This one tops the list because spending time with friends and family is a great way to slow down and appreciate life and the important people around you. Chances are, you might not have been the greatest significant other, friend, parent, or you name it lately since you've been putting in so many hours at the office. You've neglected your friends and family but for good reason right? Your profession is demanding during a certain part of the year and is more relaxed during the rest of the year. Be proactive and grab lunch with a friend, get involved in a recreational sports league, take a trip with your family. Show those that you love that you appreciate them and thank them for putting up with your recent disappearance.
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2. Take a vacation
What better way to let the stress and craziness of busy season melt away by going on a vacation? The last place you want to be right now is in the office. Going on a relaxing vacation to Hawaii, Thailand or somewhere tropical can put your mind at ease and allow you to unwind. Going backpacking through Europe, South America, or anywhere else where you won't even be reminded of what it's like to sit in front of a computer all day. Adventure is calling you and take the opportunity now. The great thing about public accounting firms is that many offer generous Paid Time Off (PTO) programs. Since you may get 2+ weeks off a year, why not take one long vacation? It's important to take breaks during the year so that you can take a mental break from work so that way when you come back refreshed. But be careful, you'll be doing yourself a disservice if you are constantly check work email or worrying about work. And going on a vacation doesn't have to cost much. You can go camping, do a 'staycation', take a day trip and just keep it simple. One of the best parts of being a detail oriented, credit worthy accountant is you can successfully travel for free like I have by signing up for credit cards.
3. Get healthy
All those late night dinners your company provided so that you didn't even have to leave the office? They probably weren't the healthiest. All those long hours in the office probably didn't afford you much exercise time either. If only you had one of those treadmill desks so you can work and stay fit, right? A good mix of nutrition and exercise will help your mind get back on the right track. Now that you have more time on your hands, you can start cooking healthy meals at home and brining leftovers to work. Go on walks, hit the gym after work or even use the free Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout App like I do. You owe it to your body to get active and treat it better than you have for the last few months.
4. Start studying for the CPA exam
Whether you've been in accounting for one or many busy seasons, the perfect time to start studying for the CPA exam is NOW. Don't wait and put it off when you know it's very challenging to work 50+ hours a week, especially if you have a family to provide for. Because you have been used to working many hours for the past several months, why not keep that momentum going and cross the exam off your list? I've had colleagues who tried juggling studying for the exam and working the crazy hours of public accounting and still haven't finished the exam. One of the best decisions of my life was to get my CPA license and to get it done early. I started right after college and it went kind of slow and it took me nearly a year and a half from start to finish. That is of course mainly due to the fact that I failed 3 exams and just a few points away from passing each time. I stuck with it and knew it wasn't an option to quit. Having the CPA license has opened many doors for me that wouldn't have been there without it. It's helped in my earning potential and given me perks that non-CPAs don't get. If your company pays for or reimburses you for the study materials and exam fees, then there's absolutely no reason not to start. Many companies even offer bonuses and other incentives after you pass the exam so don't leave free money on the table. This is one of the best investments an accountant can make as it make you more valuable and pays dividends in the future.
5. Get your finances in order
In addition to your heath and wellness, have you been neglecting your finances during busy season? I think a common myth about accountants is that since they are all good with numbers, they have to be good with their own money. This is not necessarily true for a lot of accountants. I've known many who were super savers like me, and many others who were living paycheck to paycheck. Maybe it's time for some spring cleaning and getting your finances in order. As an accountant, you are dealing with a lot of other peoples finances whether it be tax or accounting but you should be on top of yours as well. You may be looking to take a break from spreadsheets and staring at a computer screen for hours a day but even if you dedicate just an hour a week to organizing your own finances so that you can tackle debt, increase your savings, and save for a goal. You don't have to go to the extreme that I go to but you can use Mint.com or Personal Capital for really easy financial management apps. If you happen to be working at a job you hate, then you definitely want to be able to start saving more money and build up an emergency fund along with some extra cushion. You will be able be less dependent on that job and look for a new one or even start a business (#6 and #7 below).
6. Look for a new job
How many busy seasons have you been through? How many MORE do you think you'll survive? Working in public accounting or even at a company that has a busy season during the year, you may find that it's not worth the stress and it doesn't suit your ideal lifestyle. You were nice enough to stick around until busy season was over so you didn't end up pushing your work onto your already busy co-workers. Now can be one of the best times to look for a remote accounting job given that you actually have time to look for one. So if you are plotting your escape, put together a plan of action so you can leave before you get sucked into the next busy season.
7. Start a business
Have you seen enough to know that it's not what you want to do for the rest of your life? Why not start your own business? If your goal is to have a non-cubicle accounting job, then this is probably your best option. With no boss, no fluorescent lighting, no asking permission to take a day off, you can be 100% in charge of your work and your life. With cloud based software like Taxfyle, Intuit Tax Online, Xero accounting software, or other cloud based applications, the barrier to entry is getting smaller. If you've built up a client base at your company and think that you'd do well serving a particular market then why not take the leap and build a business for yourself? You can even become a freelance accountant, choosing to work when you want, and for more money. Obviously, the decision to start a business shouldn't be taken lightly, but if you love accounting there are other options that working for an employer.
The Bottom Line
With the end of busy season approaching, you can take some time for yourself and know what it's like to enjoy life again. You need to get your mind and body right so you can be the best YOU possible. If you decide to take a short break or decide to leave the busy season life altogether, now is the time to do some soul searching and prioritize what's important to you. Whatever you do, make sure you get it done now or at least have a plan to do it soon because before you know it, the next busy season will sneak up on you.