3 tips to break up your workday and improve your mental wellbeing

Ferrone & Associates CPAsBlog

If you’re working from home, things can start to feel repetitive. This is a feeling that is being shared by millions, as people all around the world deal with working in the same place as they sleep, eat and raise their family. And it can be detrimental to your mental wellbeing.

Columbia University neuropsychologist Sanam Hafeez says:

“When our day is exactly like the last, and we are feeling stress about sickness, economic struggles, and the state of the world and our community, we can fall down a rabbit hole of anxiety and frustration pretty quickly.”

The solution is to get creative. You need to find ways to break up your workday and switch up your routine, both mentally and physically. Use these three tips to break up the day and improve your mental wellbeing.

1. Replace your commute

If you’re working remotely, your journey to work is significantly shorter than what it once was. Believe it or not, you probably performed some important mental preparation for work on your regular commute. Now, your brain is forced to instantaneously switch from “at home mode” to “at work mode”. It’s important to take the time to mentally prepare for work, and have some separation from personal life.

Rather than simply going to your desk and opening your computer. Think of things you enjoyed doing on the way to work and do them before you begin your day. Doing things such as listening to a podcast, taking time to enjoy your coffee or tea, or making a to-do list for after work can help your brain transition.

2. Segment and streamline tasks

You probably have three general baskets of activities:

  • Client-facing (getting needed docs, delivering reports, maybe even sales)
  • Colleague-facing (handing off work, communicating about deadlines, etc.)
  • Accounting work (compliance, reporting, and putting things together for clients)

Throughout a typical day, you’ll likely have multiple interactions with your supervisors, colleagues, and clients. Let’s say, you have 20 individual conversations. If it was just a quick note, there’d be no problem. But it’s usually not. 

Incoming documents, co-workers asking for things, new tasks being added to your calendar. Each of these each takes precious time out of your day.

Try some of these steps to improve your work.

Streamline tasks: The fewer tools you use to get the job done the better. And the more you understand everything you do in a day, the better you can organize it to get more done.

Once you have everything you do condensed and listed, separate them into two categories: deep work and shallow work.

Deep work isn’t an original concept, but it is effective. As a human, your focus and concentration fluctuate. Most aren’t able to spend 8 solid hours in front of a computer on a single task. Our ability goes up and down throughout the day. Block out two hours of time 2-3 times in your workday for “deep work.”

The rest (communication, etc.) is shallow work. 

Here’s a quick rundown to get in deep work:

  • Turn off as many distractions as possible
  • Make sure to clear your communications before you begin (check the inbox to ensure nothing is a 911, for instance)
  • Schedule the deep work time for those times when you’re most productive.

3. Tackle greater responsibilities

Sometimes, accounting firms become compartmentalized. If you’re good at tax prep, you become the go-to for those tasks. Great at developing forecasts? Budgets? Models? Discovery calls with potential clients?

The better you are at something, the more you may end up doing that very thing.

While (typically) this is a good practice for firms, it also leads to monotony. How do you change it? Ask for something different. A simple request to take on some different tasks — or at least learn how to do them — is a fantastic way to break up the day as an accountant. 

Asking for more responsibility isn’t just for your workday, it’s also a great way to prove your value and improve potentially rough situations in your firm. Many accounting businesses have increased their client load during the current global situation. People want to know how to get loans and how long their business can survive a downturn.

Strategies for asking for more responsibility:

  • Schedule a solid time with your supervisor, to get their full attention
  • Mention that you’d like to have some more responsibility
  • Also mention that you’ve settled in nicely at home and believe you can take on more.
  • List specific tasks you know, or would like to learn (building forecasts, how the firm handles budgets, etc.)
Ready to add some variety to your day?

Accountants have monotonous tasks. If finances were easy to organize and understand, the entire industry would dry up. But your days don’t have to run together. Break up your work, get focused, come up for air and clearly separate your work from home.