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Build your resilience to cope with busy season

The pressures of tax season are forcing practitioners to recognise the importance of resilience and wellbeing strategies. To improve the situation permanently, learning to cope with change is just as important.​

18th Nov 2019
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usinesswoman pushing hard against falling deck of domino tiles

Every February, practitioners vow their tax return season will never be the same again and speak enthusiastically about all the things they are going to do to improve their processes for the next year. But judging by how the same situation repeats every year, many don’t live up to their own promises.

Turning things around permanently requires a mix of resilience and effective change management, according to organisational coach and trainer Leanne Hoffman.

Developing resilience

AccountingWEB surveys from 2015-16 clearly identified excessive workloads as the most common cause of stress for practitioners during the self assessment season. Difficult clients don’t help, with teams spending too much time reworking their bodged books, chasing missing information and dealing with unrealistic demands from the more headache-inducing stragglers.

Feeling stressed around the self assessment season is completely normal, but it is important to know how to deal with it when it arises. “That way, you'll be in a position where you can positively impact the future of your organisation as well as of the people around you, not to mention your own future,” said Hoffman.

Developing your resilience can help you cope with your clients’ demands and give you the clarity to turn a potentially stressful situation into an opportunity to plan for the future.

“Most people know what to do when they are thinking rationally; they can think about what they need to do, schedule it and do all the time management. But when they are stressed, everything becomes catastrophic and awful,” said Hoffman.

To stop this way of thinking you need to identify the triggering event: “What are you telling yourself that is making you catastrophise the situation and that is stopping you from doing all the logical practical things that you would normally do?”

No matter how well you prepare, it is also important to accept that some things are out of your control. Weather problems can prevent staff getting to the office, while flu epidemics and other unexpected problems can be a burden around the winter months. Developing flexibility within your team can help you get through these unexpected situations.

“It is always best to assume that nothing will ever run completely smoothly. This way if any bumps arrive it may be easier stop focusing on what can’t be done and to look at what can be done instead,” said Hoffman.

Being comfortable with change

“I’ve been in practice since 1985 and this year was our worst SA season. In previous years I’d often done 15-hour stints in the office but this year I had to do many 17-hour stints doing almost 100 hours a week,” said AccountingWEB member kevinringer after the last tax season.

This is far from an isolated case, with many accountants starting out with grand intentions but not following through and finding themselves caught in an endless cycle of hope and disappointment year after year.

Going through changes such as implementing new software or organising a recruitment process if you need more people can be stressful for everyone in the practice.

“Often we resist this as it can feel too time intensive or taxing emotionally,” Hoffman explains in her course. “We are creatures of habit and when we do things differently our brain shifts gears from automatic behaviour to having to think and concentrate harder; it eats up energy.”

According to Hoffman, changes can also affect your performance as you learn new things and adjust. But knowing this is just part of the process can help you reach a point where your new ways of working become your normal ways of working.

In the long term, improving your situation permanently requires a willingness to make changes in the first place.

“After the tax return season, people forget the misery they go through at that time of year,” Hoffman said. “It's important to have a plan in place to remind themselves of the misery of December and January.

“You can almost write down what you went through, how you felt and the impact it had on your life. Then put a plan in place and hold on to why those changes are important and the positive impact they will have.”

In the course Building resilience for professional success, Leanne Hoffman covers the practical tools necessary to build resilience and cope with change

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