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Set Boundaries and Timelines Before Tax Season

Tax season demands so much of us, how are we supposed to set boundaries with ourselves and our clients so they respect our time?

When you work too much, you actually reduce your productivity. This results in working longer hours, building up more stress, and feeling resentment towards the work that you do.

As many of us know, stress and worry lead to chronic health conditions, strained relationships with loved ones, and unrelenting regret. And it isn’t how you should end up living. The great news here is that you can completely transform your life and your firm by implementing clear boundaries – but there are three conditions for that to happen.

1. Survival Mindset

First we must start moving from a survival mindset to a growth mindset. When you’re in the thick of a challenging time, use that frustration as motivation to take control of your boundaries. A boundary is the deadline you set, for example, when documents need to be uploaded to your servers by a certain day. Establishing boundaries and enforcing them allows you to stick to a manageable timeline during a chaotic tax season, allowing you to stay afloat in your work. It’s when we neglect our boundaries and don’t enforce them that trouble arises.

2. Boundaries With Your Clients

To successfully set up boundaries, implement these two other strategies in your work:  The first is to practice transparency with your clients. This means providing an explicit and honest assessment of your situation at work. Basically, always under promise and over deliver, especially with dates and deadlines.

To do this, you must prioritize your work, or evaluate what you can do realistically and determine if some tasks must be delayed. Once this is figured out, communicate to clients where their requested task falls on the list of priorities, and inquire if the client’s expectations would be met under such conditions.

This is also a great opportunity to say “no” to certain clients who you don’t think are a great fit to work with you to free up time and space for your ideal clients. Don’t be afraid to reject a client when it is clear to both parties that taking on a project with them will do more harm than good.

Be specific in your engagement letters and distinctly bold and mark the dates and timelines deliverables are promised. This eliminates confusion as to what deadlines the clients are to meet each month, allowing you to stay on par with your timeline to provide your clients the best results!

And as Carmen M. Peters, CPA, says, “When I let go of those clients that were not a good fit, revenues increased and I won back time in my personal life! Before, it was long hours, saying yes to everyone, chasing clients, not having a process and all over the place.  Now, we are selective, structured and not so stressed and not exhausted.”

Carmen’s experience is just one example of how dropping or rejecting clients that violate your boundaries actually allows you to pick and work with the clients that generate the most revenue for your firm, while allowing for free time. And peace of mind!

Her story proves that learning to honor your boundaries and letting go of unideal clients allows a firm to succeed in the long run by minimizing work hours and exhaustion, as well as providing structure and selectiveness to the firm. 

3. Setting Boundaries With Yourself

The final strategy to thrive during a busy tax season is to set boundaries with yourself. As mentioned earlier, when accountants fail to establish explicit timelines with clients, they end up compromising their own needs and mental health, and this takes a toll on productivity.

So, instead of taking on every task presented to you and trying to grind work all day and all night, set boundaries with yourself by putting time aside to take breaks- and stop feeling guilty about taking breaks!

Marc Schnoll, CPA shares that, “In the old days, tax season meant being buried in work, as much as I could possibly do. I’d force myself to maybe take a 3-4 day weekend once during the season, but never really get away. Today, I’m still crazy busy during the season, but it’s more on my terms. I take a full week off during the season, and encourage team members to do so too!”

If taking a week off sounds extreme, start small by proactively building in “wellness breaks” into your schedule, and then STICK TO THEM. A moment to refresh is good for the mind and body. And a refreshed professional does better work all around, is more efficient and can gain some time back with efficiencies.

My suggestion is to schedule a 20-minute walk break three times a day to get away from your desk and de-stress.  If it’s nice out where you live, do it outside where you can have the sun in your view. As a result, you’ll find yourself more productive, efficient and focused when you return!

Remember your ultimate goal is to bring high value clients, and get paid your worth while doing less work with more control and flexibility of your time. I hope this inspires you to fulfill these 3 conditions which will reap immediate and long term benefits to increasing productivity and decreasing your workload during this time before the next tax season.

To learn more about and see how other accounting and tax professionals have been able to conquer their boundaries and take a vacation during tax season, tune into this episode on The Abundant Accountant Podcast where Kevin shares his journey on how he got rid of ⅓ of his clients, raised his fees by 150 percent and has never looked back!





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