11 Things to expect going into busy season (and how to handle them)

1. You will get pumped, trust me.

The daunting thought of busy season can really put a lot of stress on you.  Historically, before each busy season, I always got extremely apprehensive and my fight or flight response would kick in.  I simply didn't believe I had it in me to do another busy season.  Then after enough year end jobs, I started recognizing the adrenaline rush and the enjoyment I got during the entire ordeal.  The late nights, extreme focus, and the rush I got from striving so hard to reach that goal of issuing really got me pumped.  So I've tried to build that into my pre-season mentality.  I trust that those feelings will come back and I will enjoy this.  There will be tough times, and it is draining both psychologically and physiologically, but it will all be worth it once those financials go out.  So trust in the process, you will get into it and you will thrive.

2. You will develop great relationships.

Late nights, difficult testing, and stressful deadlines will bring you closer to the folks you work with.  Working closely with another person, or group of people, towards a goal will most always have this effect.  And in our world, that gets magnified as our goals are seemingly impossible to achieve.  So while there will be people you don't get along with, and folks that are hard to work with, enjoy those close relationships you develop and recognize the value in having that special bond of busy season with your team mates.  After it is all over, you will definitely have some common ground to share. 

3. It will get done, it always does.

This one is tough for me to say, because I imagine there are some jobs that haven't finished on time (before required filing date), or something went terribly wrong.  I've just never heard of one before.  Every job I've worked on, or heard about has always got done, and I've worked on some tough ones and heard about worse.  So know that the job will get done, and know that your busy season will end. 

4. Not having an outlet will hurt you.

If you don't maintain some sort of counter balance to your work load, it will impact you for the worse.  Mine has always been a form of exercise (signing up for a post busy season running race) which makes me train during the craziness.  I think a physical-based goal is good because we do so much sitting .  But it can be anything: a book, a new diet, a show, a home project, club, random goal, studying for the CPA Exam, whatever, just find your thing.  It is very hard to find time for this, I know, but if you commit yourself to something, there will be 1-3 hours a week you can find to maintain your progress.  Running and working out has always been a good one because you can do it pretty much any time of the day.  I've done runs through cities at midnight, ran through orchards at lunch, insanity workout videos in my hotel room at 11pm, there will be time for your thing.

5. You will feel like you suck at some point.

At some point you will screw something up and the drop the ball.  Or you may just take forever to do something.  Everyone has, does and will continue to do so.  You might even get talked to about it, or notice a weirdness from your senior/manager.  Don't get defensive and don't let this ruin your attitude.  Be open to feedback and ask for pointers.  This will show your commitment to the job and can turn around that nasty email or conversation you just had with your senior/manager.   Also, know that their reactions are magnified due to the stress of the situation-an audit.  You can get ahead of this stuff by frequently asking 'how am I doing?', 'Is there anything you suggest I work on?'.  Make the person give you real examples and tips.  It will be uncomfortable to ask for feedback at first, because everyone seems so busy, but build a routine of requesting and implementing those talking points, and you will notice an increase in your overall quality of work.

6. You will be sleepy.

As your sleep patterns change, regardless of whether your getting more or less of it, you will feel more tired.  This is normal.  Eventually your body will adjust and you will be able to survive on less sleep.  There is a relevant range for this, so don't push it. But you can go from 8 down to 6 hours of sleep for this limited time.  Eventually, you won't be so tired.

7. Technology will fail you.

Printers won't print, scanners won't be recognized, audit software will crash, your computer might break, wifi won't connect, emails won't come send/receive, support will be upside down, badges won't work, you name it.  I've seen it all as I'm sure you have.  Don't fret about this stuff and don't let it kill your momentum.  Just keep going and find a work around.  Keep a backup power cord in your car.  Keep extra batteries for your mouse.  Know that you can live without your second screen.  Be prepared for this stuff. 

8. You will be surprised by something.

At some point you'll stroll into the client's site and be immediately pulled into a meeting about the latest fire drill.  Get email on your phone to combat this.  People often don't want to have phone-email because it makes them feel tethered to work.  Well, weighing the pros and cons, I think its more important to be aware of what's going on and not be surprised, than constantly trying to catch up all the time.  You'll feel more valuable at work doing this.  And remember, you don't have to check it, you don't have to respond, you don't even have to tell people you have phone email.  If you do that, just remember to remove the 'sent from iphone' in your phone's settings.

9. You will blame the client, a lot.

You and your team will constantly want to blame the client for anything you can.  'PBCs came through too late', 'Support was garbage', 'That guy doesn't know anything', etc.  There may be some valid times for this, but know that there is usually other work you can do and you can really maintain a positive attitude by not going down that path.  It is a bad habit to get into.  Audits do not need to feel like 'us vs. them'.  Take responsibility and try to find out what you could have done to manage the client better.  For instance, you can review support as it comes in (not full testing), but a quick count/scan of the information to make sure its what you expected.  If not, follow up and get it right.  Be clear in your requests and know your object. 

10. You will feel unhealthy.

You may get sick, you may feel malnourished.  This is a huge problem due to the timing of traditional busy seasons.  It's cold and dark outside, it's flu season, there's less vitamin D flowing through your body, you're eating like crap and your stressed out.  It’s a bad combo.  So combat this by trying to replace a meal with a salad (a real salad with dark or leafy greens), avoid fried and heavy foods, minimize sugar (fruit instead of dessert), take a vitamin D supplement, take zinc picolinate (your body doesn't absorb much of the zinc oxide in most standard multivitamins), eat an orange or grapefruit 3 times a week for vitamin C, get up and walk for a few minutes every hour, and minimize the drinking.  All these things will help you stroll healthily through busy season.

11. Everything will be OK.

Posted on December 9, 2014 .