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.