It doesn’t matter what time of year you are listening to this episode, if you are an accountant, you’re probably experiencing time drama to one degree or another. For those of us in public accounting, time drama is typically before the April 15th, September 15th and October 15th deadlines, while those in private accounting have other various reporting requirements that create time drama at different times of the year.
When I Googled the term “time drama for accountants”, the funny thing is that nothing came up other than the movie “The Accountant” with Ben Affleck and some definitions of time, so I’m going to coin the phrase “time drama” right here on this podcast. To me, time drama is simply the mental drama you experience around anything having to do with how you do or don’t use your time.
It’s something I’ve seen in myself and in most of the accountants I work with and coach. One of the biggest hot-button topics that I see for a lot of accountants is around the subject of time – how to manage it, how to create more of it, and how to balance it.
Time is obviously a precious commodity, especially for the accountant moms that listen to this podcast, but it’s also a precious commodity for all accountants. If you’ve been in this profession for awhile, you’ve probably experienced those “OMG, there’s not enough time” moments where you might have felt like you had a semblance of control over everything and then something gets thrown into the mix and it seems like the weight of it all will just crush you.
I know that might sound a little melodramatic, but I also know that most accountants feel that way, whether they say it out loud or not. In one form or another, accountants have many issues when it comes to time and the lack of it.
Maybe you’ve taken a time management course or you’ve read some articles or books on the subject, yet you’re still struggling with how to manage your time better or how to get a better sense of control over your time. The reason I wanted to do an episode on time drama is because if you don’t get a better handle on it, it’s going to kill your productivity and efficiency, creating even more problems with your time.
I think one of the worst things that can happen when it comes to experiencing so much time drama is that you damage your relationship with time. Whether you realize it or not, you DO have a relationship with time and if you aren’t paying more attention to that relationship, you’re going to pay the price in overwhelm, procrastination, and eventually burnout.
I promise you that once you learn how to deal with time drama, you will see a huge improvement in how you can get more done in less time, how you can actually create time, and in how you experience time. Once I challenged myself to deal with my time drama, it has literally changed everything for me at work and at home – I know it can definitely help you as well.
This week I’m going to discuss how to spot time drama and what to do about it.
How to spot time drama
Early on in this podcast, in episode #29 “How To Stop Being A Drama Mama”, I talked about how drama detrimentally affects your children emotionally and physically, but the same is true for you. Drama is just one of those things that we often normalize without considering the impact on us or on others.
But the most important reason you need to pay attention to any kind of drama in your life is because it can become a habit. You probably know someone or have seen someone like that , that’s made drama into an unhealthy habit.
The issue is that when drama becomes a habit, you will naturally look for relief in the form of buffering. Buffering is a term to describe the things you do in order to not feel a negative emotion, however, it also has a net negative effect.
For example, you feel stressed so you have an extra drink but then end up not sleeping well; you feel bored so you reach for your phone but then you don’t get things done; you feel frustrated so you eat more than you planned on eating but then you beat yourself up for giving in; you feel pressure so you stay late at work but then you damage your relationship with your spouse and kids. In essence, you’re feeling a negative emotion, you do something to get short-term relief from the negative emotion, but you end up with a net negative effect in the long run.
If you are like most accountant moms, spending your days constantly putting out fires, overwhelmed, and feeling as if you are responding from one crisis to another, you are naturally going to look for ways to feel better, but unfortunately, you’ll often burn out in the process. The reason so many accountants end up with burnout is because they fall into the time drama habit, reacting and doing things that produce a net negative effect which then adds more drama to their brains.
So the first way to spot time drama is to notice your buffering habits – notice the things you do when you’re feeling a negative emotion, that also have a net negative effect. If you tend to distract yourself with food, alcohol, social media, shopping, Netflix, or even work, you could be trying to feel better because of your time drama.
I’m sure it’s no surprise that most accountants believe that time is not on their side. They don’t understand how to stop overworking, how to get more done in less time, and they don’t know how to use their higher brain in order to be more efficient with their time – most don’t understand how stress, overwhelm, and anxiety are connected to time drama.
Thankfully though, you’re listening to this podcast and with a little awareness, you can get a handle on your time drama. Another way to spot time drama is by answering these questions:
- How do you feel about time?
- Do you blame time for your problems?
- Do you believe that time is not on your side?
- That there’s never enough time?
- Do you believe that time is difficult to manage?
- Do you procrastinate?
- Do you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious about time?
- Do you wish there were more than 24 hours in a day?
Time drama creeps up for a lot of accountants around deadlines. Unfortunately, if you’re not aware of it, time drama can derail you without your awareness of what’s happening. It often sounds like:
- This is too hard
- I can’t do it
- There isn’t enough time
- There aren’t enough hours in the day
- I’m just exhausted
- It’s tax season
- Everyone else is stressed about time
- There’s nothing I can do about it
The funny thing about time drama is that most accountants will argue that they're not being dramatic, they’re being truthful. They truly believe that time is the problem, but that sneaky belief is one of the best ways to spot time drama – time is NOT the problem; your thoughts about time are the problem.
If you are stressed, overwhelmed, and anxious about time, time is not the problem – you’ve just got time drama adding unnecessary pressure to your life. There’s no time management app, special planner, or practice management software program that can truly fix time drama – again time is not the problem.
Those apps, planners, and programs are just temporary fixes. They’re like trying to deal with a leaky faucet by putting towels underneath to catch the water, instead of fixing the leak – you have to stop the leak if you want to fix the problem.
What to do about time drama
Let me first confess that I have definitely been caught up in time drama just like you. I used to feel like there was never enough time, I was always feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and I would become catatonic on Sundays in order to prepare myself for another week of insanity.
My brain used to be filled with a lot of drama around the subject of time, but thankfully I’ve done the work I’m going to share with you. My promise is that you can be someone who might have a lot of dramatic thinking going on right now when it comes to time, but you can learn to change that.
The truth is that more often than not, time drama isn’t about your to-do list, how much work you have to do, the things your children are involved with, or the time of year – it’s typically about what your brain anticipates will happen in the future. The drama comes from your brain’s prediction about how everything is going to be horrible.
In essence, time drama is often catastrophizing, or looking for the worst case scenario. It’s created when you panic or stress over and over again, therefore, your brain starts looking at everything through that lens.
Think about it this way – it’s like when you stub your toe first thing in the morning and the entire day seems to completely go down hill. The lens you look through when it comes to time will always create your experience of time – whether that lens is focused and clear, or overwhelmed and frustrated.
The more you are stuck in a time drama cycle, where you’ve been frustrated with a lack of time and your brain anticipates even more of a lack of time, the easier and easier it will become to stay stuck there. The worst part is that the more time drama you get stuck in, the more time you waste – the more time you waste, the more drama your brain experiences – it’s a vicious cycle.
The more you see things through the time drama lens, the more you’ll anticipate failure ahead of time, especially those moments when something doesn’t go as planned, it doesn’t go the way you wanted it to, or something unexpected comes up. The more dramatic you are, the more you see things in a dramatic way, and the more time you waste in time drama.
Thankfully there is a simple way to get out of time drama. All you need to do is decide whether you have a problem or a project. How do you know the difference? Here’s the delineation:
- Problem – when we label something as a “problem”, we’re using such a loaded word, especially when it comes to describing time. When we describe time as a problem, it’s usually because we’re so afraid that we’re never going to get time under control. We wind up fearing a future that’s only difficult or bad. When something is considered a problem, it carries a heavy weight to it. It’s an unwelcome situation that is difficult to overcome. Labeling time as a “problem” means it needs to be solved, creating a lot of resistance to the idea of having to now come up with a solution.
- Project – on the other hand, when we label something as a “project”, we’re using a much lighter word. A project is just a planned undertaking designed to achieve a particular result. When you describe time as a project, all you need to decide is what’s the next decision or next step that needs to be made. What plan can you make right now to move forward? What’s one step you can take? When you consider managing your time as a project, as opposed to a problem, you think in a much cleaner, clearer way about time.
For example, let’s say you scheduled a block of time to answer client emails and you didn’t do it:
- If you describe the situation as a problem, you’re going to have thoughts like “OMG, what am I going to do now? I’m horrible with time management. This always happens.” With thoughts like these you’re probably going to feel confused, and feel shame or guilt. None of those feelings will drive you to take productive action.
- If you describe the situation as a project, you’re more likely to have thoughts like, “What is the next decision I need to make? If I’m committed to sticking to the block of time to answer client emails, what do I need to decide to do next?” With thoughts like these you’re more likely to feel curious and open. Those feelings will make it possible to take more productive action.
Another example is if you had an urge to do something other than what’s scheduled on your calendar. This happens to all of us because our lower brain is motivated by 3 things – to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and expend as little energy as possible – so if something isn’t pleasurable or easy, our lower brain usually has the urge to do something else. If that were to happen, where you have the urge to not do what’s on your calendar, you would manage time drama by deciding whether it’s a problem or a project:
- If you describe that situation as a problem, your brain is going to focus on some negative time in the future where you’re always going to give into the urge to do something other than what’s scheduled on your calendar. It’s going to catastrophize the fact that you had an urge to do something else.
- On the other hand, if you describe it as a project, your brain is going to understand that it’s normal to have an urge, but you’ll ask yourself what you need to do next. Do you need to practice allowing an urge without acting on it? Do you need to practice noticing what’s going on in your body when you have an urge? When you describe the situation as a project, you’re much more likely to think “Here’s the current situation – what’s the next thing I can do? What could I start implementing?”
Again, when you decide that a situation with time is a project and not a problem, it allows you to get out of time drama because time drama lives in the space of “I think I have a problem”. On the other hand, a project allows you to see that all you need to do is make your next decision.
It’s important to understand that when time is described as a “problem”, it’s going to be challenging to look at what you COULD do because you’re too focused on a dreadful future. When time is described as a “project”, it opens you up to possibilities that weren’t available when you thought you had a problem.
So hopefully you now understand where time drama comes from, how to spot it, and what to do about it. I can tell you from my experience with reducing time drama that as an accountant and a mom, it’s one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your family.
When time is no longer a problem, you have the chance to create so much more of it.
- Whether you realize it or not, you DO have a relationship with time and if you aren’t paying more attention to that relationship, you’re going to pay the price in overwhelm, procrastination, and eventually burnout.
- But the most important reason you need to pay attention to any kind of drama in your life is because it can become a habit, and when drama becomes a habit, you will naturally look for relief in the form of buffering.
You can schedule your FREE 20 minute call to diagnose your specific time management issue HERE