Tax season is a whirlwind for most bookkeepers, you are generally trapped in a state of juggling the financial affairs of multiple clients simultaneously. To have a smooth tax season, bookkeepers need to remember and meet various tax deadlines, remain organized, and maintain their accuracy. This can be easier said than done without some effective strategies with checks and balances to keep you on track. In this blog post, we’ll explore some practical and easy-to-implement tips to help you better balance the demands of multiple clients during your busiest time of the year.
Create a Master Calendar:
The first step to managing your clients’ deliverables for tax season is putting them in a format that helps you visualize what needs to be done. The best way to do this is to create a master calendar that outlines all the key milestones and deadlines for each client. This visual aid will provide a clear overview of upcoming tasks and help you allocate your time effectively. Consider using a unique color or label for each client. This visual coding will help you to quickly identify which tasks are related to each client. For example, use blue for Client A, red for Client B, and so on. Enter all official tax deadlines and any internal deadlines you’ve set for yourself into this calendar to help you visualize priorities and the amount of time you have to complete each task.
Some calendars allow you to add tasks and attachments to your entries. Take advantage of these features to store any relevant information, communication, or documents directly in your calendar entry so that you are not wasting time later hunting down information in your email inbox.
If you work with a team, grant your teammates access to your calendar so that they have a clear picture of your workload and priorities for the coming weeks. This way you can ensure that everyone is on the same page about your availability moving forward into tax season.
Regularly update your calendar throughout the season so that the information remains consistent, relevant, and current. Consider taking advantage of reminder features within your calendar to notify you when you are getting close to a deadline.
Once you have your calendar all organized, you can dive into tackling the work that needs to be done. The key to doing this effectively is to identify high-priority tasks and focus on completing them first. This could include deadlines for tax filings, client meetings, or any critical financial reports. Prioritization ensures that the most crucial tasks are addressed on time and you are allocating your working hours in the most efficient way possible. One good way to do this is to put your tasks into one of three categories; Urgent and Critical, Important but not time critical, Non-urgent, or can wait.
Urgent and Critical: Examples of this include impending tax filings, last-minute client requests, or issues with immediate consequences.
Important but Not Time-Critical: This category could include preparations for upcoming client meetings, detailed financial analyses, or strategic planning.
Non-urgent or Can Wait: These are generally tasks that are necessary but can be deferred without immediate consequences. This category may include routine administrative tasks, long-term planning, or less time-sensitive research.
Once your tasks are placed in these categories, start by completing everything in the “ Urgent and Critical” category. Once these are out of the way, focus on “ Important but not time-critical” tasks and so on. At the end of your day do a quick check-in of your tasks and re-prioritize remaining tasks for the following day.
Use Time Blocks:
Another strategy to help you create proper time to focus and tackle tasks is to create specific time blocks throughout your day or week to focus on different clients or types of tasks. For example, dedicate the morning to client A’s tax preparation and the afternoon to client B’s financial analysis. Time blocking helps maintain focus and prevents inefficient multitasking.
Leverage Task Management or Automation Tools:
A good way to supercharge your efficiency is to incorporate a task management tool or document management tool to help you stay track of your progress and automate some of your more tedious tasks.
A good tool to help automate document collection and keep track of your tax preparation progress is LedgerDocs. It has integrations with accounting software such as QuickBooks that allows you to streamline your document management process. Uploading, categorizing, and posting documents all in one place, freeing you from the burden of manual data entry and sorting. It can also automate some of your more tedious clerical tasks like requesting documents, reminding clients about missing information and fetching bank statements.
Batch Similar Tasks:
Grouping similar tasks is another good strategy to help you maintain focus and improve your efficiency. An example of this is handling all client emails during a designated time each day, and reserving another block for data entry. Batching tasks minimizes context-switching which reduces the amount of time it takes you to shift focus.
Set Realistic Expectations:
Another important strategy to help you successfully push through tax season is to be realistic about what you can handle in a given timeframe. Overcommitting yourself can lead to stress, errors, or a sense of paralysis induced by overwhelming anxiety. Be realistic with yourself and proactively communicate realistic timelines to clients to help them manage their expectations throughout the process of working together.
Delegate When Possible:
Delegating can be a bookkeeper’s best friend during tax season. If you have a team, delegate your tasks based on individual strengths and expertise. This will reduce your burden, and allow you to focus on higher-level tasks and help you make the most of your time.
Take Strategic Breaks:
Do not let the busy season lead to neglecting your mental well-being. Make sure to consistently schedule short breaks between tasks to recharge your mind. These breaks can improve focus and prevent burnout. Use techniques like the Pomodoro method, with short, focused work intervals followed by brief breaks to help you maintain your focus and motivation.
Set boundaries so that your work doesn’t bleed into your personal life. Try to put your work responsibilities aside when you are at home, and take the time to relax and recharge so that you are fresh for the next workday
Regularly Review and Adjust:
Regularly review your time management strategies and identify areas for improvement. Be flexible and willing to adjust your approach based on the evolving needs of your clients and the tax season workload.
Don’t get stuck in the usual rut this tax season. Put our strategies to the test and see how much smoother this tax season can be compared to years past.