Distractions during busy season not only affects the productivity of your team, but also impacts employee morale when trying to meet tight deadlines. Whether it’s crunch time during tax season when the workload is even greater, or really any other time during the year, the goal is to maximize your efficiency and output.
Workplace interruptions are most commonly unplanned. The Washington Post reports that work interruptions can cost six hours a day, and a typical office worker is interrupted every three to four minutes! Regardless which profession you belong to, we all have times that are busier than others. Here are my tips to handle common interruptions and survive busy season.
#1. Plan for Interruptions
Whether you work remotely or in an office, and regardless of your position in the workflow, it’s necessary to plan for interruptions. Not planning for interruptions can often result in missed deadlines. To overcome this, while committing to a deadline or providing time estimates, consider adding a buffer for such disturbances. Worst case scenario, you’ll find yourself finishing your tasks earlier than expected, with additional time to accommodate that last-minute tax filing request from a friend or even taking a short power nap.
#2. Establish Proper Expectations
While it may seem obvious to provide your clients with proper expectations, this may be one of the most challenging things to accomplish when overwhelmed by daily tasks. Here are a few tips to help you establish the right expectations:
- “No later than” should be your favorite line when setting expectations with clients and/or team members.
- When requesting documents, be sure to provide a clearly defined timeline; this will help eliminate last-minute requests.
- Use “In case of emergency only” sparingly.
- It’s important to educate those closest to you about your seasonal schedule. This will avoid frequent calls, but also ensure the same support.
#3. Limit the Communication Channel
Take a moment and consider just how many different channels of communication you must monitor every day. Now, imagine if you streamlined those channels to the most important ones; how much time will that possibly save?
- Instead of using three different emails, use only one dedicated address by forwarding the other two to that address.
- Instead of picking up phone calls, use a call-back text options or even set your voicemail to divert the traffic to a dedicated Inbox.
- Delegate walk-ins to staff.
- A “Do Not Disturb” sign on your cubicle or office will help to avoid unnecessary chatter from colleagues who are on a coffee break or casual walk.
#4. Schedule Your Day
Smart means of communication is the most common addiction in the tech-savvy work age. Consider that the average person is likely to check their phone 47 times a day and look at email 15 times a day. I think one of the most time-consuming interruptions in our day is trying to respond to emails. While we understand that staying on the top of communication is important, overdoing it can jeopardize the success of your practice. In a quest to get the most up-to-date information, it may be difficult to suppress the urge to check your voicemails, texts, and emails, so schedule these tasks at reasonable intervals.
Based on my own schedule, the most successful times to incorporate communications in my day are the first thing at the beginning of the day, right after lunch and at the conclusion of my day.
While this schedule may differ depending on the volume of your communications, you can adjust the frequency based on your own needs. Regardless the solution, you may find it easier to gain acceptance from your clients by telling your them in your signature how often you check email; drafting an auto-response also will help handle the anxious and impatient sender.
#5. Relax and Recharge
Let’s all be honest: This is the most important and most neglected on this list. I want you to question yourself right now: When was your last meal? When did you last drink some water? Taking the time to wash that apple on your desk will provide your mind the silent pauses it needs to remain sharp.
However, moments of relaxation aren’t enough; it starts with proper planning. Each week, add 15 minutes to your grocery trip so you can flood your desk with healthy snacks to power your way through long days. Plan your day in a way that you remain fresh enough to handle unexpected situations and last-minute requests. Even if that dream vacation must wait another year, take one extra hour each week to find some special way to celebrate you.
Interruptions and distractions are part of our work life and mostly unavoidable, but by planning and managing them using proper methods and strategies, you can easily handle a busy tax season and other work throughout the year. It’s possible to train yourself to look past these distractions and regain your focus. Remember: Self-control is your biggest strength!