6 Steps to Work-life Balance for CPAs
Many CPAs are somewhat skeptical when it comes to believing that they can attain work-life balance.
After all, CPAs traditionally have had to put in long hours, and during the busy seasons, they can have virtually no life at all except for the work. Most figure that this is what they signed up for when they entered the profession. Perhaps being able to handle it all is seen as a point of pride. Is this, however, a healthy attitude?
Short versus Long
For short-term campaigns, and you could count tax season as one of those campaigns, it’s okay to throw yourself headlong into your work, for extended hours, day after day. It’s important, however, to recognize the difference between short-term campaigns and long-term predicaments. As long as short-term campaigns are broken up by periods of reasonable work hours, good sleep, nutrition, and exercise, you'll probably be okay.
What are the benefits that someone who has a more balanced approach to working for life has over those who do not? In other words, what does a CPA with some sense of work-life balance provide to his or her employer, versus someone who is perpetually overworked?
The balanced worker is more likely to have high energy, creativity, and an admirable level of productivity, with fewer errors. On top of that, he or she is more likely to be a more pleasant coworker. These are no small benefits.
Six Components of Balance
Here are the six components of work-life balance which I believe CPAs can focus upon. Nobody is always going to be completely in tune on all six, however, it’s certainly something worth striving for.
1. Self Management
This is the ability to take care of yourself, recognizing that no one else is coming to help you face your personal and professional predicaments. The three measures of self-management at which to be adept are sleeping, eating well, and exercising sufficiently. Yes, you already knew that, but how often do you practice it?
2. Time Management
This component is not new to you or the profession, but there are some things that you can do, rather quite simply, that will facilitate your ability as a time manager. First is to practice the art of doing one thing at a time.
Don't let your attention flitter all over the place. If you have six things competing for your attention, identify what needs to be handled first, take it to completion or as far as you can and then and only then, go on to number two, number three, etc.
Another strategy for effective time management is to mix up hard and easy tasks. If you tackle something difficult and it is followed by something as hard, followed by something else that is hard, you could flame out pretty quickly. If you intersperse some easy tasks on a given day, in between the harder tasks that you face, you'll find you can go much longer with much higher energy.
3. Stress Management
Many people regard stress as something that happens to them, not something that they can control. Happily, ways to effectively control and manage your stress levels abound. Periodic pauses throughout the day work wonders.
Three or four times a week, if you exercise vigorously in the morning, during your lunch break, or after work, you'll experience a lower level of stress at work and in life. Exercise does that for you. Other disciplines, such as meditation and yoga also help enormously in this area.
4. Change Management
CPAs deal with change all the time, such as the latest standards of the profession, regulations, mergers, acquisitions, and what have you. How do you best manage the change that is inherent with the profession? You incorporate it into the overhead.
In other words, even when no change happens to be on the horizon, you anticipate that change is coming, which will cause you to devote some hours away from the tasks you had earmarked in favor of administrative and regulatory-related tasks that you now must handle. By developing the mindset that some hours per week will be needed to address situations that you can't even anticipate right now, you're actually better able to handle them once they do arise.
5. Technology Management
Smart phones and other devices have made it easy – to easy – to be plugged in at work and at home 24/7. So, it becomes that much more important to detach. Anthropologically, we were never meant to be “on” 24/7.
We need to wind down. We need to recharge. We need rest. Shortchange any of these and technology will be ruling you, rather than you ruling your technology.
6. Leisure Management
CPAs will often lament “I don't have time to jog,” or “I can't make it to concerts anymore.” Yet, it’s important to include these activities now and in the future. Why?
We all know people, who in pursuit of wealth diminish their health. Then, upon attaining wealth never really do re-attain their former level of health or fitness. So, you want to stay fit and healthy all along. Leisure management is not just a catchphrase, treat your leisure as important as anything else, because it is.
The Best Route
If you’re thinking, everything above sounds reasonable but there’s so much going on, how can I give any real attention to work-life balance issues? The answer is the more you face, the greater the reason that you must pay homage to work-life balance.
If you seek to be among the successful, long-term, industry professional, rising to the top and enjoying the journey, there’s no alternative.
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Jeff Davidson, a.k.a. “The Work-life Balance Expert”®, speaks to accounting firms and associations on increasing their work-life balance so they can be more productive and competitive, and still have a life away from work. He is the author of Everyday Project Management, Breathing Space, and Simpler Living. Visit breathingspace.com.