Author: Ryan Hirsch, NASBA Multimedia & Video Services Manager
For many, time management skills are essential to successfully balancing a career with activities outside of work. Students and business professionals across the globe are all limited to the same 24 hours each day to juggle jobs, relationships, fitness activities, personal hobbies and the all-but-forgotten activity known as sleeping.
For CPAs, this can be especially challenging during peak tax seasons. As Sharon Gubinsky writes, "Preparing the tax return is not the difficult part. Dealing with complex tax cases and understanding the regulations and the applicability to your client is where the difficulty lies." That is one reason why tax season is so time consuming for CPAs. However, there are ways to achieve this balance, even during tax season, and we found several accounting professionals to share with us strategies they've found effective for excelling in this demanding career, while still finding time to enjoy life.
Diane Thiercof of the Oregon Society of CPAs believes simple adjustments can be made to cope with the increased amount of work that arises during tax season. During busy times, it is common for CPAs to work six or seven 9-10 hour days a week. She recommends starting the day earlier to avoid working late at night. "If you get into the office at 6 a.m. instead of 8 a.m., you can work a 10 hour day and still leave at 5 p.m.," Thiercof says. "This is especially handy on Saturdays…by noon you have already worked 6 hours and have your whole day ahead of you." Implementing this strategy allows individuals to maintain their normal schedules with friends and family after work each day.
Marissa Corbitt is a senior level CPA in the Assurance Department at Joseph Decosimo and Company, PLLC. Although she mainly works from her firm's branch in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Corbitt sometimes travels 3-4 hours to work from a client's office. Her suggestions include relaxing and planning enjoyable activities for the future. "I recommend getting plenty of rest and taking time for the people and the projects that you love," she says. "I always look forward to planning vacations during the summer." Corbitt also noted that some departments make an effort to keep spirits high by incorporating fun themes or running jokes throughout the season. This often alleviates some of the stress and tension that can occur during busy seasons.
Tory Stanley recently passed the CPA Examination, and began working at KPMG as an Audit Associate. Since joining the firm, Stanley says his typical day varies depending upon the needs of his clients, impending deadlines and other projects. Though he usually leaves the office around 6 p.m., he has also been known to stay until 1 or 2 in the morning to ensure that a client's case is completed in a timely manner. Regardless of when he gets home, Stanley says he always takes 30 minutes to an hour doing something he enjoys. "I love reading books about personal finance and investing, watching sports, talking to family and friends and listening to music." Making time for a personal activity allows individuals to decompress after each day.
Aspiring CPA, Chris Thomas, of Ernst & Young, warns against taking shortcuts or completely eliminating personal activities from your life during tax season. "Working long hours can tempt you to skip lunch or abandon your fitness routines in order to complete projects; but you have to make time for yourself," he says. "Failing to do so is just as detrimental as skipping an oil change for a car…it may save money in the present, but the car will eventually break down and need major repairs in the future." Thomas indicated that he also has the good fortune of working with a great team of coworkers, who often make the long hours more enjoyable than some might think.
Becoming a CPA is a challenging, yet incredibly rewarding career path for many. For students or financial professionals who are interested in becoming CPAs, Corbitt shares some advice. "I encourage you to keep up the hard work," she says. "You will be rewarded with a job that will begin your work in the accounting field and can lead you to the track of your choosing – tax, internal audit, public accounting, financial director. The choices are both plentiful and rewarding." The education and experience individuals gain on the road to becoming a CPA creates a firm foundation for the time management skills and commitment level necessary to excel in this profession. To learn more about becoming a CPA, please watch the video below.
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