8 Survival Techniques for Accountants at Tax Time

Tax season is officially in full swing, and you could use some survival tips. Perhaps you were tipped off to this fact by the piles of paperwork overtaking your desk. Or maybe it’s the recurrent nightmares about falling into a swirling sea of W-2s and 1099s.

For accounting professionals, tax season is synonymous with managing epically large workloads, putting in extra-long hours and consuming copious amounts of coffee. But despite the inherently frenetic nature of tax season and possibility of work burnout, there are steps you can take to survive — and possibly even thrive.

Consider these eight survival tips during the remainder of this hectic stretch:

1. Give yourself a break

Keep burnout at bay by taking short breaks to relieve tension. Collect your thoughts by going for a walk, stretching or briefly engaging in water cooler chitchat. If you can’t leave your work area, force yourself to rest your strained eyes, take some deep breaths and try to clear your head — even if only for a few moments.

2. Go with the flow 

Adaptability is an invaluable soft skill, particularly when you’re in high-pressure situations. If priorities change and your manager quickly asks you to move from one project to another, embrace the new challenge. Remember: If you’re always flexible, you’ll never get bent out of shape.

3. Stay cool

Even the most affable and well-mannered people can become flustered and temperamental when under stress. Don’t contribute to the tense atmosphere. Although it’s not always easy to display grace under fire, try to take crunch-time criticism and perceived slights with a grain of salt. Think before speaking, and don’t let anyone else’s negative attitude drag you down.

4. When in doubt, seek clarity 

Don’t be afraid of asking too many questions. If a hot assignment is dropped on you with no warning, it’s better to clarify all concerns, timelines and expectations with your boss on the front end instead of making incorrect assumptions that prove costly later.

5. Take care of yourself

When work becomes all-consuming, it can take a toll mentally and physically. While you’ve no doubt heard this advice before, combat stress and fatigue by getting adequate sleep and exercise. Moreover, give your body the fuel it needs by eating healthy. Working through lunch and scarfing down vending machine fare at your desk isn’t a recipe for success, wellness or energy.

6. Foster good office karma

It’s always a smart move to generate goodwill with coworkers. If a colleague is facing a fast-approaching deadline and has files piled to the ceiling, offer to help if you can. By lending a hand, you’ll make an ally who’ll likely return the favor when you’re in a pinch.

7. Ask for help

Even with talent and tremendous effort, some things simply cannot be completed by one person. If you’re doing everything possible to accomplish a task and still encounter problems, ask for assistance. Identify duties that can be delegated or request backup. It's likely your manager would rather divert resources or bring in temporary reinforcements to help now than hear of a missed deadline later.


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8. Put fun on the agenda

Last but not least, meetings and deadlines shouldn’t be the only items listed in your datebook. Schedule some fun, relaxing social events or a post-tax season vacation so you have something to look forward to once the pace slows down. Focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel can make even the craziest of workdays seem less, well, taxing.

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Editor's note: This post was originally published in March 2014 but was updated in 2016 to reflect current information.