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A New Year’s resolution for accountants: saying ‘No’ more and ‘Yes’ to what matters

8th Jan 2024
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This year, November was popularly named ‘No-vember’ by many accountants. As the profession now prepares for the self-assessment deadline on 31 January, it is crucial to keep those lessons learned going well into the New Year.

The accounting profession is now in its busiest time, supporting the preparation and submission of approximately 12.2 million personal tax returns and 1.5 million company financial statements. In reality, considering the work-life balance in the lead up to the holidays, this translates to significantly fewer working days then the three-month window suggests. 

Here are some steps to manage a high workload by taking time to rest and make sure the self assessment season doesn’t drain you. 

Embracing the ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ philosophy

Saying ‘No’ is not an exercise in evasion but a strategic choice towards focus and efficiency. 

It’s about prioritising the most critical jobs (both for the accountant and client) and setting realistic expectations for ourselves and those that accountants support. The aim is not to shirk responsibilities but to manage the overwhelming to-do lists and safeguard time for more effective activities. This approach is key to alleviating stress, preventing burnout, and reducing the risk of error in a high-stakes field.

Learning from No-vember: setting boundaries

For those practising No-vember, it taught valuable lessons in setting boundaries. It’s about understanding the power of a well-placed ‘No’ and the freedom it brings, not only in terms of time management but also mental space.

These lessons are not just for a month but are integral to a sustainable work approach. As accountants edge closer to the self-assessment season, it is essential to reflect on those lessons and integrate them into daily professional lives.

Focus on what matters

The primary takeaway from No-vember is the art of focusing on what actually matters, and using technology to automate parts of the workload where possible. This means identifying tasks that are crucial and have the most significant impact, focusing on quality over quantity where possible, and ensuring that each task is completed with the highest level of accuracy and efficiency. 

If saying ‘No’ means even just one or two unnecessary projects coming off your plate, it’s worth it.

Realistic goal-setting

Another lesson is the importance of realistic goal-setting – something that is often far harder in practice. This involves understanding the team’s capabilities, adding a generous buffer to account for stress, illness, or shorter working hours around the holidays, and communicating these effectively to manage expectations. 

After all, it’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver than overpromise and underachieve.

Prioritising mental health and wellbeing 

Central to the philosophy of No-vember is the prioritisation of mental health and wellbeing. 

In a profession that demands long hours and high stress, especially in self-assessment season, it is crucial to take steps to protect our mental health. This means taking regular breaks, delegating when neccessary, and ensuring a healthy work-life balance. 

Implementing No-vember throughout 2024

When making personal and professional New Years resolutions, here are some ways to make the principles of No-vember a year-round practice.

  • Regular reflection and adjustment: Regularly reflect on your workload and assess if your current focus aligns with your most critical tasks. Be prepared to adjust and communicate as necessary. This ongoing reflection ensures that you stay on track and maintain a focus on what matters.
  • Clear communication: Clear communication is key to implementing the No-vember philosophy. This involves setting clear expectations with clients and colleagues, while also being upfront about what is feasible within given timeframes.
  • Embracing technology and automation: Leverage technology and automation to streamline processes. Solutions like Sage for Accountants significantly reduce the time spent on repetitive tasks, freeing up time for more complex and impactful work.
  • Continuous learning and adaptation: Stay informed about best practices and new developments in the field. Continuous learning helps in adapting to new challenges and finding more efficient ways to handle tasks.
  • Personal well-being: Finally, make personal wellbeing a priority. This includes setting aside time for relaxation, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones. A well-balanced life is crucial for mitigating the risks of burnout, and increasing the chances for sustained productivity and professional success.

Implementing boundaries without turning away new clients

With the right tools and strategies, accountants can effectively onboard new clients while still dedicating time to self-assessment tasks. 

There will be always be some clients who come as late as December. Rather than turn them away, it might be possible to welcome them to the practice without having your team burn the midnight oil.

By using Sage solutions like GoProposal by Sage, Oversuite and GoProposalAML, you can structure the onboarding process by:

  • Creating world-class proposals in minutes with fair, transparent pricing
  • Generating smart engagement letters to help stay compliant and navigate even the most complex services, from 
  • Running automated Anti-Money Laundering (AML) to help assess and verify your client from the moment a proposal is accepted


As accountants, this time of year is often one of the most stressful periods in the calendar. 

By incorporating a tech-enabled philosophy of saying ‘No’ to the unneccesary work and ‘Yes’ to the work that will grow your practice, it’s possible to maximise your chances of hitting your personal and professional goals for the New Year.

Find out more about how Sage can help you meet your practice goals with Sage with GoProposal by Sage today.