Busy Season-Big 4 Accounting Firms

How To Survive Big 4 Busy Season
5 Comments

Busy Season…..The mention of the words raises the blood pressure level of every Big 4 accountant. The long hours, tight deadlines, and constant pressure can be grueling for even the most veteran accountant. It starts around mid-January and lasts through March for auditors. For tax accountants, it lasts all the way until April 15th. It can be easy to lose your mind during this time and become burnt out. In fact, busy season at a public accounting firm is often why most choose to leave the Big 4 world.

In order to help you survive your current busy season or the one you may encounter your first year as a Big 4 CPA, I have put together a list of things you can do to make it through this tough time.

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  • Accept the long hours: The long hours are going to happen no matter what client you have. If you accept this going in, you’re going to be much better prepared going in. Further, expect to work the weekends. Maybe not Sunday, but probably every Saturday. One year I had to work 30 days in a row while I was on a SEO audit. 30 Days!
  • Try to work in some exercise: During my second busy season, I made it a point to work out at least three times a week. Sometimes it was before work at 5:45am or after work at 11pm. Either way, I made sure to get it in. I also worked out at least once on the weekend. A quick 30 minute workout is a great stress reliever and it also helps keep you fresh at the office.
  • Go out to lunch with your team: On the public audit I was on, our team would go out to lunch almost every day. I made sure to always go. It’s a great break from being in the office and you also are able to talk about something other than work. You’ll start to build a camaraderie with your team as well which will help everyone get through the long months.
  • Enjoy the little things: Along the same line of team lunches, enjoy the little things that occur during busy season. Relish bagel Friday or make it a point to bring in breakfast every Friday to share with the client. Be the one to make coffee or drink runs in the afternoon. At one of my clients, we would always have someone go get Sonic drinks. We saw this as a nice reward each day and it was something to look forward to.
  • Do things on the weekend: No matter how tired I was or how early I may have had to wake up the next day, I always tried to make it out with friends Friday and Saturday night. It’s another great way to de-stress. Being with friends will always bring up your spirits.
  • Find great music to listen to or even checkout podcasts: Days at the office are long. You need something to get you through them. Finding some great music or listening to your favorite podcast is a great way to make the day go by faster. I highly recommend Spotify.
  • Plan your after busy season vacation: Planning my upcoming vacations was a great distraction from busy season. It’s how you reward yourself for all the hard work you put in the spring. Go big with your vacation. One year, I traveled non-stop for two weeks. It was awesome.

Busy season at a Big 4 accounting firm is tough and no one looks forward to it. If you come across someone who does, they’re lying. In the end, use the tips above and come up with your own little things to help you make it through. At times, it may seem as though you won’t make it, but you will. We do every year.

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Russell

About Russell


Hi, I'm Russell, author of The Big 4 Playbook and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Texas.

Before writing The Big 4 Playbook, I had the privilege of working as an auditor and tax consultant for several years for a Big 4 Accounting Firm. I am one of the few CPAs to serve as both an audit senior and a tax senior for a Big 4 Firm. During my time at the Big 4, the clients I served included Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies, government organizations, hedge funds, and more.

I earned my Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Boston College and my Masters in Accounting from Vanderbilt University. I experienced the rigors of the Big 4 recruiting process at both levels of my college career, and I created The Big 4 Playbook to share the lessons I learned along the way with you.
Busy Season-Big 4 Accounting Firms

How To Survive Big 4 Busy Season

5 Comments

  1. Dan

    Concerning busy season (for tax) – is it fair to say that it begins after MLK day? I am starting in the fall and have been invited on a holiday the very first week of January. Just wondering if there is any chance of making this happen at a big 4 firm. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Russell

      Russell

      Yes, you should be able to take off on holiday the first week in January. I have before. Just make sure that you ask for that time off as soon as you start at the firm. Busy season starts for most the week before MLK day. I was always working on MLK Day and had to take the day off after busy season was over.

      Reply

      • Dan

        Great! Thanks so much for your feedback. My plan is to work right up until Christmas and then take the week between Christmas and New Years off as well as the week right after New Years. Hopefully it won’t be a problem. Thanks again for your feedback. Really appreciate it.

        Reply

        • Russell

          Russell

          No problem! I’ve taken that same 2 week vacation before. You should be fine.

          Reply

  2. chin

    I am not a CPA yet but im planning to work in an audit firm after passing the exam. I just wonder if I can survive the pressure and the complications of the audit world. I feel like my confidence is not enough. I am just an average student and im very much confused on what career/field I should take on after becoming a CPA. Everyone I ask says that working in audit firm will give me the best experience.. I am so confused.

    Reply

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