It’s a hard time to be having a hard time. For those of us who are able to work from home and have remained gainfully employed or self-employed over the past few months, it feels selfish—even callous—to acknowledge how stressed we might feel.
Oh, quit whining, says the inner voice (mine sounds like my grandma). You have a job! You don’t even have to leave the house to do it! Do you know how lucky you are?
But that doesn’t change the facts. Despite how fortunate we are relative to others, many of us work-from-homers are nevertheless living through the most challenging period of our lives. We’re doing more with less, managing multiple roles, trying to bridge gaps with often flawed and unreliable technology, ping-ponging between times of crunch and times of existential uncertainty.
This is particularly true for accountants and bookkeepers, many of whom have to conduct painful conversations, manage mountains of loan paperwork, come up with impossible budgets, and make . It’s normal to be feeling tired, foggy, unmotivated, irritable, or any combination of emotions right now.
And as lockdowns ease, even though thousands of people continue to die daily from COVID-19 and a potentially deadlier second wave looms ahead, anxiety and dread are entirely rational responses to the idea of “returning to work.” Of course, the alternative—staying inside indefinitely and letting millions of businesses and families go bankrupt—certainly isn’t ideal either. We’re stuck in a national quagmire, with no easy way out.
Whew. I’m exhausted just writing that. Point is there are numerous sources of pressure and things to worry about—big and small, long-term and short-term. It’s the perfect recipe for burnout.
Here are a few ways financial professionals (and anyone else) can take care of themselves and avoid burnout right now:
1. Set and respect your own boundaries.
When you work from home, it’s all too easy to fall into a pattern of constant multitasking: taking care of the kids, checking email, cooking dinner, concatenating cells on a spreadsheet, vacuuming up pet hair, folding laundry, talking to your manager, and texting with your old college roommate all at the same time. It can feel like you’re always working and never working—always looking at notifications but never having enough time to do what needs to be done.
You can undo this pattern by setting firm boundaries—between work hours and non-work hours, between times you’re available and times you’re not. Be clear about these boundaries with your boss, clients, and colleagues. Share your work schedule, and stick to it. If your boss emails you at 12:30am on a Saturday, wait until Monday morning to respond. Consider setting away messages or autoresponders if people don’t get the message. Switch your devices to “do not disturb” mode or snooze notifications when you’re off the clock.
During working hours, communicate to your family members and/or co-inhabitants that you need time and space. Close your door, if possible; otherwise, perhaps you can listen to music or white noise, or use earplugs. Try to keep your workspace separate from your living space—avoid doing work where you eat, sleep, or hang out with other people.
2. Triage projects and deadlines.
Some deadlines are immutable—e.g. financial reporting deadlines. Others are somewhat more arbitrary. Take a chunk of time every day or every week to list your current projects and sort them by order of importance and progress. What’s due soonest? How important is it? How far along is it? How much leeway do you have in delaying it?
Prioritize the projects that are truly essential and time-sensitive, then work on the things that are closest to being done first. The more projects you can knock off your to-do list, the more productive you’ll feel—and the more productive you’ll be. It’s about freeing your mental capacity. Ideally, you’ll eventually transition from juggling deadlines to completing the most important projects ahead of time.
3. Break tasks down into their smallest components.
This is a strategy known as microproductivity. Rather than thinking of a project as complete only when everything is done, you shift your focus to completing each discrete element of the project, one by one.
As workplace productivity expert Melissa Gratias, Ph.D., explains: “Breaking tasks down helps us to see large tasks as more approachable and doable, and reduces our propensity to procrastinate or defer tasks, because we simply don’t know where to begin.”
This strategy has numerous benefits. For one, it allows you to actually finish something in between diaper changes, for instance, or while waiting for water to boil. You don’t necessarily need to set aside 4 hours of uninterrupted working time—3 hours of which might be spent staring at a blank screen.
Microproductivity also reduces errors because it minimizes the number of things you have to keep in your brain at any given time. According to Dr. Gratias: “If we rely on our memory, we’ll stop at every step of the task and think, ‘What am I supposed to do next?’ Those stops are opportunities to get distracted, get off track, or miss a step.”
Third, this method of working provides you with ongoing feedback, positive reinforcement, or both. Depending on the nature of the project, it can help you keep lines of communication open with organizational stakeholders who would otherwise need to wait weeks or months to take a look at something.
4. Stay connected.
Speaking of communication, it’s vital for financial professionals and others to stay in touch with their teams while working remotely. If you’re not doing so already, consider holding a daily or weekly scrum meeting, as well as regular one-on-one meetings with your immediate supervisor and with individual members of your team. These conversations provide crucial opportunities to check in, stay up-to-date on current priorities, and delegate tasks. Don’t let yourself or any of your co-workers operate in silos—you’ll risk errors and fatigue.
In addition to work meetings, make time for non-work-related get-togethers. Virtual movie nights, dance parties, yoga classes, and other seemingly frivolous online events can translate into better overall collaboration and communication, according to AI startup Memory:
“Without being in the same room, it becomes harder to read and relate to others—important emotional context can get lost or misinterpreted, and relationships with colleagues weaken. Communication can feel stilted and transactional, and you may even feel guilty about any conversation that isn’t directly related to work.
But bonding is part of the job—effective teams are built on meaningful connection, inclusivity and trust.”
Plus, remote happy hours and the like help you structure your day and give you something to look forward to. It’s easier to log off when it’s time to log off, when everyone else is doing it.
5. Do something enjoyable every day.
You’ve probably heard this advice several dozen or several hundred times by now, but you really need to make time for yourself. It’s not optional. As a workaholic, I’ll frame this in terms that make sense: if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to do your work. You have to stop working at some point today so you can continue working tomorrow. Frustrating, I know, but it’s true.
Spend at least an hour every day on something that’s purely for you: reading, taking a walk, going for a jog, indulging in your hobbies, watching trashy TV—whatever makes you happy, make a habit of doing it. Keep in mind that you’ll need to cope with stress one way or another—it’s best to choose something healthy and sustainable.
6. Ask for help when you need it.
Say it with me: “We’re all in this together.” Yeah, yeah. From car manufacturers to beer brewers to dog food brands, practically every company in existence has proclaimed that it’s here for you during this challenging, historic, unprecedented time. Usually, that means “please continue to buy our products and services.”
At inDinero, we’re more interested in seeing our clients succeed. Make no mistake—we definitely want to stay in business—but our #1 goal is to use our accounting platform and expertise in the service of organizations like yours. We know how difficult it is for financial professionals and business leaders to make ends meet right now. We’re here to help you save time and run your business as efficiently and effectively as possible.
If you need accounting, tax, or financial decision-making assistance, schedule a free consultation with one of our experts.