Dear Nick: ‘Is anyone else exhausted?’
AccountingWEB’s resident agony uncle supports an accountant who is weeks behind on their compliance work and is already dreading January.
Dear Nick: "Is anyone else exhausted? Clients seem to want more, and their ability to empathise with the fact that we've barely been able to tread water ourselves since March seems to have evaporated. More than a few clients telling us they're disappointed our service standards have dropped as they are waiting longer for their accounts and tax returns.
Normally this time of year, I've just had a nice holiday - recharged and ready to tackle the ramp up to January. Not had the chance for a holiday this year, and not much point as I don't see sitting on a rainy, rocky beach in SW England with the risk of a Treasury announcement on any given day much of a break.
It seems like any time Rishi Sunak opens his mouth, we get put back two weeks in our schedule of work. I estimate we're at least a month behind in our compliance work, and I'm already dreading January."
Nick responds: We are all experiencing an underlying feeling of anxiety, dread, and fear right now – compounded by continual change as I outlined in last month’s article.
This ‘new reality’ we have all been experiencing is a myth. Today’s ‘new reality’ could look a million times different tomorrow.
The global situation is moving so fast right now that all we can do is evolve to keep up. Throw in family worries, health concerns, the conditioning nature of lockdown, and being in a permanent state of ‘survival mode’ and it’s no wonder why we are all exhausted.
You are working in an industry which is experiencing more, unique pressures than most. As you mentioned and I have stated previously, as soon as Boris Johnson or Rishi Sunak announce the latest initiatives or tax changes, the expectation is on you to know this NOW! Literally, you have just watched the same press conference as your client.
I know when furlough was first introduced, the argument about whether to charge clients for this – or not – was raging intensely in the profession. And then, if you had previously done it for free, how do you start charging when the situation became more prolonged than we all had thought.
Change is inevitable. We cannot control the government, our clients, what people say or what people do. So what we need to work out is how to ‘manage the manageables’ – a process I use with clients to help overcome anxiety.
How does this work? Well, put simply, we focus on what we do have control over, which is surprisingly little! But, we can start to stack the odds in our favour. The two steps are as follows:
Set your boundaries
- Work on building your ‘High Performing Day’.
- Energy regulation – going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time = constant energy.
- Incorporate healthy buffer zones between calls, meetings and events.
- Set your working hours to ensure you have time for ‘recovery’ & downtime.
- Build in regular movement, exercise and hydration.
- Do something you love every day – that’s just for you.
- Have the courage to get some time-out for yourself – everyone needs a ‘sanity check’!
- Communicate your boundaries to your family, friends and clients.
- Advise people how you can help them – but most importantly how you can’t help them.
- If the way you work has changed – inform your clients as an ‘upfront contract’ on how you want to be engaged with.
- It’s YOUR business – set YOUR terms.
- If your response time has changed – communicate that upfront.
- Set your pricing – get comfortable with it – communicate it with confidence.
- Be prepared to lose! Tough one this, but if we are not living life or doing business on our terms – then how can we expect it to come back to us?
These are all what I love to call ‘The BFOs’ – the Blinding Flashes of the Obvious!
These are things that we should know that we would advise others to do but rarely do them ourselves.
Trust me: it’s easier to give advice than it is to take that advice yourself.
If we try to live life or do business the way that we have always done it, there is no guarantee that it will work in today’s reality, let alone tomorrow or even next week.
Especially with regard to clients, pricing and confrontation, most of the time the challenges lie with us; it comes down to the three Cs:
When we are struggling with mental health challenges, prolonged stress or anxiety, even low self-esteem or self-belief, it’s the three Cs that get dented.
That Groundhog Day we have all been experiencing, could turn out to be our biggest superpower, if applied in the right way.
As Dave Pelzer once put it, ‘live in day tight compartments’. I love that.
I know for me, most of my anxiety, stress and challenges come from regret of the past or fear of the future – there is so much damage to be done in assuming right now.
So, all we have is to build our own High Performing Day. So, set your boundaries, manage your expectations and start to communicate that to begin to live a life and run your business on your terms.
This is an abridged version of a dilemma first posted on Any Answers.
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Nick Elston is one of the leading inspirational speakers on the subjects of anxiety, mental health and wellbeing - from an experience sharing perspective - and delivers his talks to stages, corporates, boardrooms, factories, universities, schools and events worldwide. His coaching programme is called Life On Your Terms.