This tends to be the time of year for accounting firms to host “after busy season” parties. Maybe you have one coming soon?

The end of busy season is definitely something worth celebrating! But how much celebrating did you do before busy season ended?

I’ve coached many accountants who tell me things like, “We don’t even take a pause after we meet one deadline to acknowledge it happened. We just keep our heads down and move right on to the next one;” or “We don’t celebrate often enough as a profession.”

Can you and I conspire, together, to change this?! What if we learned how to take a breath after we accomplish one thing, to acknowledge and celebrate it? How might that change things in our profession?  

Survival Mode

Let’s first examine how we view busy season, because I think it will explain why we don’t celebrate very much.

In reflecting on busy seasons I was a part of…many times I viewed them as a time of survival where the only real milestone (the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel!) was getting through March 31 (or April 15, or any other big deadline) without messing something up. It felt like a marathon that I was just trying to survive.

But busy season is not really a marathon. It’s more like a series of sprints with many projects and deadlines.

Your team met a deadline! Great. Before you can even blink, most accountants I know become focused on the next deadline (and the next five after that one!). Why?

Maybe it’s because you feel that conscientious people are too responsible to waste time, so you move right on to the next task. You feel that in order to survive the entire busy season, you can’t afford to stop.

When you do this, you deprive yourself of the positive reinforcement that comes when you give yourself permission to acknowledge your accomplishment in the moment. How might giving yourself a boost of positive reinforcement impact your energy level? Do you really only deem it worthy of acknowledgement at the very end of busy season?

Instead of focusing so much on simply surviving, what might change if you allow yourself some time to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements more consistently along the way?

Progress Mode

I bet there are times during your day where you do try to acknowledge your own progress. Here’s an example:

You finish a task that felt really good to finally finish. You look down at your to-do list to joyfully cross it off…but alas!! It isn’t on your list! You forgot to write it down!! So you write it down (even after it’s done), just so you can cross it off!

It may sound silly, but why do you think this happens?

I think it’s because you really want to give yourself permission to feel good about yourself, even if just for a moment. Crossing the task off your list provides visual evidence of progress. We feel like we deserve to feel good.

It’s also been proven that the more frequently you feel a sense of progress, the more productive you will be going forward. When you give yourself the opportunity to acknowledge small achievements, you increase your chances of future success.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld picked up a very important habit early in his career when he was trying to write more jokes. He keeps a calendar on his wall, and every day he writes jokes, he crosses out that date with a big X. The next day he does not want to break the chain of red Xs, so he does it again.

The momentum of accomplishing and then acknowledging the accomplishment, not only makes him feel good, it inspires him to accomplish more.

Celebration Mode

Instead of simply acknowledging progress, I challenge you to go further and seek out opportunities to celebrate! Our profession needs to celebrate more….but how?

Celebrating an achievement doesn’t require a lavish party. Here are four ways to help you and your team celebrate more often:

  1. Acknowledge the achievement

Notice and share what was achieved. If it was simple, just share that. If there were tough challenges involved, share those too. People especially enjoy looking back on accomplishments when they were not easy to come by. Even if you were on your own, state your achievement out loud or write it down.

  1. Appreciate the contributions

Identify one contribution each team member made (don’t forget yourself!). Even if you’re a team of one, remind yourself about your contributions to the milestone or goal.

  1. Learn from the journey

If it’s hard to find contributions to appreciate, I bet you can find at least one thing you learned from the process. If you aren’t sure, ask your team, “What’s one thing you learned?” Creating space to reflect on learning encourages a growth mindset and brings teams closer together.

  1. Celebrate physically with others

Shake someone’s hand. High five your team. (Side note: I thought it was so cool when I saw someone virtually fist bump another person via FaceTime the other day! So you can still do this, even when you’re not in the same physical space.)

Put the accomplishment up on a board and jump around like NCAA basketball teams do! Create some physical excitement in whatever way works well for your team. Physical celebration releases oxytocin (a neurochemical) in our brain, and we feel more bonded to those around us.

These four celebratory ideas fuel our positive momentum. Sure, you’ll always have more to do…more items to cross off your list…Why don’t you give yourself and your team permission to consistently celebrate your accomplishments along the way?  

See you in the DoP (Dimension of Possible),

P.S. Now that I’m done writing this blog post, I am checking it off on my list and going to find someone to high five!! 😊

“When you give yourself the opportunity to acknowledge small achievements, you increase your chances of future success.”