How to Conquer Busy Season

  • By Liz Briggson
  • February 9th, 2018

Jon Lokhorst, founder of Lokhorst Consulting, joined us February 8th to provide some much-needed respite from busy season.  Over 280 CPAs jumped online to earn an hour of CPE credit and hear Jon's tips for going beyond survival mode to thrive this time of year.  A simple, over-arching theme emerged: Mindset makes the biggest difference of all.  Thankfully, Jon shared three practical steps to encourage the adoption of a positive mindset.

 1. Revisit your 'Big Why'

One approach to thriving this busy season is to revisit why you became a CPA and why you do the work you do. We are all motivated at our inner core by what I call the Big Why. It’s a sense of purpose that gets us out of bed in the morning. It’s what enables us to push through problems and difficulties on the way to achieving our goals.

You may have chosen the CPA profession because you like to generate financial reports. Perhaps you became a CPA because you enjoy talking about financial data with others in a consulting role. Or you saw becoming a CPA as a step toward starting your own business someday. Maybe, it’s because you viewed it as a good career path and job security. Or a solid paycheck to provide for your family, send your kids to college and enjoy nice vacations.

Likely, your Big Why is a combination of reasons, both selfless and selfish, which is OK. Some of those reasons may have changed over the years. Whatever your reasons for being in this line of work, it’s a good time to write them out. Jot down a few bullet points or write a short paragraph. Capture the essence of your Big Why in a way that propels you toward the finish line.

Once you revisit your Big Why, create some visual cues to remind you of it during crunch time. That might involve keeping pictures of your kids or grandkids on your desk or changing the background on your monitor to a scene from your favorite vacation spot.


The Encoursa audience shared their favorite visual cues, which ranged from family photos, pictures of favorite vacations, and even CPA Certificates. One CPA keeps his double bass in his office, this provides both a hearty visual cue and a nice rewarding musical break!  Speaking of which, tip #2...

2. Build natural rewards into your work

In their book, “Self-Leadership: The Definitive Guide to Personal Excellence,” authors Christopher Neck, Charles Manz and Jeffrey Houghton distinguish between external rewards associated with work and rewards that are inherent in the activity itself. Paychecks, raises and promotions are examples of external rewards. These rewards are important but don’t generate the same deep satisfaction that comes from doing tasks that are intrinsically rewarding.

To the extent possible, arrange your work to devote as much time and attention as you can to activities you enjoy. You may be able to delegate or assign less pleasant aspects of the work to others (bonus points if they find those aspects enjoyable). When you have no choice but to tackle both pleasant and unpleasant work, concentrate on the enjoyment you receive from the pleasant parts.

For example, you may not enjoy preparing audit schedules but get fulfillment from meeting to discuss them. In that case, focusing on the how the schedules will be discussed at the meeting makes the preparation more palatable and the overall work more rewarding.

Another natural rewards strategy is to find a pleasant place to perform challenging tasks. That’s one reason I frequent my “branch office” (aka the local coffee shop). Tackling a difficult writing project seems less daunting in a warm, friendly environment with my favorite cup of coffee. As I make progress on the assignment, my confidence builds, which enables me to complete the work sooner and with greater satisfaction.


We paused for a polling question and participants ranked achieving goals as the most satisfying reward (26%).  This is encouraging, because we all know busy season offers no shortage of challenging goals to achieve!  Compensation (21%), flexibility to work remotely (20%), and recognition (17%) followed, with finding inherent purpose in work (13%) trailing behind (how's that for honesty, folks?).  If you are in the majority and find greatest satisfaction in achieving your goals, you might enjoy Jon's guest post about accomplishing your 2018 goals

3. Improve your self-talk

We all talk to ourselves. It may be in the car, while we shower or as we move from one meeting to the next, but we all do it in some way. If not out loud, we regularly carry on conversations with ourselves in our heads. Unfortunately, we often fall into the trap of negative self-talk, or using what Neck, Manz and Houghton call “sappers.”

“Sappers are destructive self-talk: they prevent you from achieving your goals and feeling good about yourself. They serve as self-fulfilling prophecies, because what you tell yourself every day usually ends up coming true,” per the authors.

The research bears this out. Effective use of self-leadership strategies such as positive self-talk increases self-efficacy, which is our perceived ability to successfully navigate challenging situations. Higher levels of self-efficacy lead to better performance and effectiveness. 


The concept of improving self-talk resonated with our audience.  Participants ranked this coaching tip as the one they plan to implement first.  Consider the difference if you were to change your thinking from “I don’t think I’m going to survive busy season” to “Busy season is a challenge but I’ve been successful in the past and will be this year, too.”  Try saying that a few times out loud.  I bet you already feel stronger and more capable!

Jon sends weekly emails to help you remember to put these coaching tips into action, you can sign-up here: Thrive, Don't Just Surive, This Busy Season Weekly Emails.  

At Encoursa, we are here to help you become the best CPA you can be. You can always view our upcoming webinars at

Now, go conquer busy season!


  • Busy season
  • public accounting
  • jon lokhorst
  • lokhorst consulting
  • encoursa
About the author
Liz Briggson
Liz Briggson

Liz is a licensed CPA in the state of Michigan and a member of the Encoursa team. Liz also provides business valuation consulting services and is actively involved in the Grand Rapids, MI business community through the Association for Corporate Growth.

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