I don’t run marathons, but I think I know the feeling. You know, when the runners cross the finish line, and a mixture of elation and exhaustion appears on their faces. They’ve done something great and they know it. At that moment, all they really want is a shower and a gallon of water. That’s pretty close to how I feel at the end of a busy season.

Like running a marathon, busy season requires preparation, commitment, a whole lot of energy—and teamwork. Yes, you and your team have a lot of work to do. However, you need to maintain your well-being to do it well. Planning and communication have helped me to be my best self at work — and outside of work —even during busy season.

I’m an auditor, so my busy season stretches from roughly January through March. I start talking about it with my husband in early December to make sure we have a plan for balancing childcare and activities with the extra workload during busy season.

I communicate with my teams, too. In fact, communication is an essential component of well-being. When you can be open about your need for time away from work, you don’t need to feel guilty about “having a life.” I’ve always had commitments outside work that were essential to me. During the first few years of my career, it certainly was more challenging to strike the right work-life balance.

Fortunately, I learned to be more transparent about my external commitments, such as my volunteer and community activities with Junior Achievement, my church, and my alma mater, Xavier University. For me it wasn’t a choice about whether I was going to keep these commitments; it was how can I find a way to make it work? I learned to discuss my priorities with my team leaders. And they learned that they could count on me to uphold my commitments to our team and our clients.

That degree of communication is even more essential during busy season. And, fortunately, conversations like these are occurring more frequently across our organization. At the beginning of each project — and again before busy season — each of my team members and I have an opportunity to lay out our priorities and see how we can support each other in achieving them. Everyone gets a voice.

It’s my job as a leader to set the tone — and to model the behavior. Colleagues must see how it can work and know it’s okay to have, for instance, a date night during busy season or time to go to the gym throughout the week.

Once we started taking care of each other’s priorities as a team, I witnessed a real change in our people. They saw that busy season doesn’t have to take over their lives, and that it could fit into their lives. They had control. And having control, well, that’s as important to well-being as exercise and getting enough sleep.

Doing your best work starts with knowing what you need to do to work at your best. Yes, many days we need to put in long hours. However, in my experience, it’s much less draining on me if I’m able to put in my time at the office and then go home, have dinner with my family, and then finish up my work after the kids go to bed. Having that mental break makes me more productive and much happier.

So, before you start your busy season, plan how you will build in recovery — before and after you cross that finish line. And discuss it with your teams, leaders, and support network. Together, your team can support each other’s well-being and have a successful busy season! 

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