In a recent post, I asked for time management tips from accountants on how they handle busy season. I collected a lot of great tips, but I think the most profound, which I heard over and over, was to remember that it is just a season.
To be sure, working 60-plus hours per week is no fun. And yes, it often is 60 hours. When I collected time logs for I Know How She Does It, I found that of the handful of women working 60-plus hours, most turned out to be accountants in their busy season ramp-up.
That said, they were not working 60-plus hours for 50 weeks of the year. One woman who shared her story for the accounting piece told me that her firm had a generous leave policy for the summer. One year, she took a number of unpaid weeks in addition to her paid vacation, and got almost the whole summer off. It is not so hard to work like crazy for 10 weeks in the winter, she noted, when you get an equal amount off in the summer.
Most people do not do that. But even the woman from IKHSDI with the longest workweek (69 hours!) had some more leisurely summer weeks. She sent me a file of her billable hours, and they dipped into the 30s in the summer months.
So in the midst of busy season, it helps to take the long view. This will not last forever. Eventually you will be able to watch those shows you DVR-ed. You will read the magazines that are stacking up. You just have to figure out what absolutely has to happen for you to stay sane during the busy times. That differs for people, but a good mix might be three family dinners per week (with a long split shift after, alas, but so it goes), exercising for half an hour four times per week, and sleeping 7 hours per night. You do those things, and let basically everything else go. One reader told me she lent her dog to her sister for busy season, which I found brilliant. When you are swamped, you may be surprised at what does not need to be done, and what help you can enlist.
I have been thinking of this in my life. I am generally not that busy, but we are headed into one of the busier times. My husband and I have a lot of travel. Spring sports start soon. But having survived the fall sports season, I know it does not last forever. The busyness will crest in April, and then ebb a bit in May to June, just as it crested in October and ebbed in November. Likewise even the baby years are a season, albeit a long season. The baby is 14 months old now. I know from past experience that when he is 2, the sense of being always on will ebb a bit. Last week my husband and I took the 3 big kids out to dinner while a babysitter stayed with the little one. We still looked like quite a sight to observers (the waitress “you have your hands full!” Me… do I tell her this is not all of them??) But the dinner itself was quite relaxed. I drank a glass of wine. No one threw anything or screamed. All seasons change, eventually.
In other news: I am speaking at SXSW on Monday March 14 at 9:30 A.M. at the Marriott. Please come see me if you are at the conference! I would love to meet in person. If you cannot make the session, I will be signing books right after (10:40) at the bookstore.
My interview with Charles Duhigg ran at Fortune. I wish I could have just run the whole 3000 word transcript about his new book, Smarter Faster Better. It was a fun conversation!
If you are in Philadelphia, I am speaking on a panel tonight at the Free Library of Philadelphia (downtown) on Disrupting the Patriarchy. It is free, and you can register here.
17 thoughts on “It is only a season”
Funny – I was just repeating a variation of this to myself (over and over) this morning. We’re buying a new house, frantically fixing up the old one, I’m heading up a big promotion for a group I’m part of, and I have a book deadline in six days. It won’t always be like this … it won’t always be like this … 🙂
@kris – stop reading blogs! Get back to writing! 🙂
We went to dinner for the hubby’s birthday and only took the 11-month old. We didn’t have to buy him dinner and my in-laws were more agreeable to watch the potty-trained three and five year olds. The funny thing is that everyone kept asking if he was our first. LOL!
I’m trying to use this “it is only a season” rationale to get a lot of work done now, before the weather gets really nice. I love summer – being outside, playing with the kids, swimming, and having bonfires at night. If I get ahead now, there will be more time for leisure this summer. That being said, I better get back to work 😉
@Harmony- it’s funny, when I’m out with just the baby, I tend not to have people ask if he’s my first. Maybe I just look too old or jaded!
No! It’s probably because we looked so energetic and happy – it was the first time we had gone out in a while.
I had left a comment before as my husband is a CPA and right about now is the absolute height of the busy season for him. He has stopped exercising altogether and does a version of the split shift. Instead of doing a split at night, he does a split in the morning, getting up at some godawful hour (I’m sound asleep!) and returning at about 7:15am to shower, help get the kid ready, and say hello. At night he comes home on the later side (7pm), eats dinner, has family time, and falls asleep usually around 9pm. As his spouse, I do not like this schedule, but I know it’s temporary!
@CNM – hey, if you guys are getting him for 2-2.5 hours a day at this point that is not bad. And the end is in sight!
something that got me through LOTS of tough times in life: “I can do anything for x amount of days” It doesn’t even matter if x is 10 or 100. Just knowing there is an endpoint makes it doable.
I find the same thing with exercise. I can push myself harder when I know (and can countdown) how many more seconds/reps there are…when its open-ended, I just give up at some point because it seems neverending.
@Ana – agreed, and that’s probably the appeal of challenges like Whole30 and NaNoWriMo. I get the idea. Of course, when it comes to fundamental changes (like diet or exercise) I’d ideally want something I can live with forever.
OK, I liked. I could not do a whole30 for 30 days. This strategy also works better for things I have no real choice but to get through,, like a rotation in residency, an extended family visit, or (ugh) pumping.
My number one tip on the transition from day care to school is to try to keep your work schedule light around the end of the school year, because an amazing number of school things pop up. I have not completely absorbed this wisdom myself, but I get better each year….
(In other news, your posts are showing up in my Digg reader now!)
This sure hits home for me. I’ve worked in CPA firms for 35+ years and it gets harder every year. I dream about the things I’m going to do after tax season, simple things such as sleep in, take a walk, see my grandkids, go away for the weekend and do what I want to do, or nothing, if that is what I want to do. That is what keeps me going through April 15th. I also dream about doing something different with my life, maybe this year will be the year I do that.
I’m with Ana, I can usually power through if there’s an end in sight – it’s the undefined that is hard for me, even if it doesn’t last that long in reality.
I am in Austin & I will try to come see your talk! Or at least come get my book signed!
@Susan – awesome! Please come say hi! I am signing books 10:40-11 at the conference book store, right after the talk.
I just came out of a busy time – the fall and winter is usually busy for me anyway, but this year was especially so – we were implementing new software and my boss was tragically out of the office due to the unexpected death of her husband. I learned to rely on lean cuisine for lunch (on the days where lunch wasn’t provided by the company anyway) and lowered my laundry standards to “as long as we have clean undies we’re good!” I do have to say, though, that it did take a toll on me. I’ve found I *really* need to take a break in the middle of the day (even for a few minutes) or I do actually go a bit nuts. So I guess it was a good learning experience!