Supercharge your productivity during tax season

  • career advice
  • January 11, 2017
Tax season officially starts on January 23, 2017, when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) begins accepting 2016 federal tax returns. For many accountants, this period through Tax Day (this year, it’s on April 18, 2017) typically means working long hours, including weekends, to meet high workloads.

How can tax professionals maintain a high-level of productivity and excellent client service without burning out during this 3-month busy season? Here are eight simple tips to supercharge your productivity during tax season.

Get organized

Plan for your weekly activities. Use your email calendar to set time for yourself to accomplish specific tasks.

Organize each week in advance. Take a Sunday evening and plan your activities for the coming week. If you’re a morning person, consider arriving at work 15 minutes early to do the same. Then, make a daily plan before you leave the office at the end of the day. This will help to keep you focused and on track. Set out your top five most important tasks to do first. Doing this will help jump-start your productivity.

Get moving

Tax season often means being bound to a desk for 12 to 15 hours a day. This can lead to accountants becoming more tired, grumpy or distracted. Research suggests that your effectiveness declines significantly after working in front of your computer for more than eight hours a day.

Standing up and walking around for just a few minutes every hour during the workday could lift your mood and combat lethargy without reducing focus and attention, according to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. The research suggests that brief walks are more effective at improving well-being than a single, longer walk before work.

If possible, set your calendar to devote five minutes every hour to physical activity, whether you walk up or down a staircase, along a hallway or just pace around the office.

Change your surroundings

Getting a fresh perspective during the workday can help you be more productive when working on taxes. When practical, leave your desk at lunch. Whether you’re able to get outside the office or simply eat in the break room with friends and colleagues, getting away from your desk will keep you productive and eliminate some of the tedium associated with working on the same project for long periods. Enjoy your lunch break, and return to your work with renewed energy and focus. Exercising during lunch, even if it is just a quick walk around the building, will also help to keep your energy up.

Tame your inbox

You can boost your sanity by keeping your inbox organized, especially if you get a lot of emails daily. Use folders and filters to reduce clutter. Also, dedicate time in the day when you do not check messages and instead just focus on work. This gives you uninterrupted blocks of time to work only on your projects.

Eat well

It’s too easy to gorge yourself with abundant unhealthy snacks that are around the office, especially when you’re tired or stressed. And eating heavy meals tends to make you tired and leads to decreased alertness. Instead, consume a balanced diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of water. Fill up a water bottle and keep it with you all day.  And although it can be a major challenge during tax season, limit your caffeine intake. This will make you feel better and work smarter.

Celebrate wins

Did you or your team just complete an important engagement or file a client’s challenging return? Be sure to take the time to acknowledge a job well done, even if it is taking a few minutes to say thank you to a colleague or giving yourself a pat on the back. These gestures will lift your mood and give you the energy and focus to perform at high levels throughout tax season.


Even top performers need time to disconnect and refresh. Allow yourself brief periods of time throughout tax season to read something fun, catch up with a friend or just zone out. Also, consider leaving early one day to have dinner with family or friends and then work an hour later another. These breaks and changes in routine allow you to refocus and get back to work in a more focused, productive way.


Plan a fun vacation or uninterrupted time to pursue a hobby or non-work-related passion post-busy season. This will give you a much-needed carrot to pull you through those long days. Plus, rest and relaxation is key to gearing up for a successful tax season next year!
You can supercharge tax time this year if you plan busy season and consider how you use your time at the office. It doesn’t take much effort to have a good workday, and the time you put into planning pays off. Focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel can make the most hectic days seem less taxing.

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