Overcoming The Habit of Failing Ahead of Time

Have you ever wanted to do something new but found yourself hesitating before taking a leap, saying, “It’s probably not going to happen, so why bother,” or “I don’t know if I can do it”? Well, join the club. 

As accountants, it’s practically in our job description to play it safe. But here’s the thing: what if playing it safe is the very thing holding us back from unlocking our full potential?  What if the thing you want is just one nail-biting decision away?

As naturally risk averse accountants, we can often find ourselves in the all-too-familiar position of something I refer to as “failing ahead of time”.  In other words, because of a fear of failure, you actually fail before you even give yourself the chance to succeed.

By telling yourself it’s too hard, too confusing or too unknown, you fail to take action, not giving yourself a chance to succeed.  

You fail ahead of time when you stop yourself from pursuing something or believing in possibilities, convinced that you are protecting yourself from some future feeling of disappointment, sadness or shame. 

This podcast is where brain science meets accounting so I want you to know that failing ahead of time is your brain’s sneaky way of avoiding being uncomfortable.  It’s much easier to just think about something you want, than it is to take action to get it, put yourself out there, try different things, fail, and discover what works and what doesn’t work.  

We’ve all become accustomed to our comfort zones, but what if, just beyond that comfort zone, lies a world of opportunities we’ve been unconsciously shutting out?  What if being willing to fail is how we succeed?

Today, I want to explore why we sometimes sabotage our own success and, most importantly, discover actionable ways to stop failing ahead of time. 

The Comfort Zone Valve

Have you ever felt like there’s a mental valve in your brain, an invisible knob that turns off the tap of possibilities just when things start to look intriguing? Imagine it as the “comfort zone valve.” 

It’s that instinctive response telling us, “Don’t take the risk, it’s not worth it.” It’s like a safety feature in our brain that keeps us safe in the cave, within our comfort zones, shielding us from the potential discomfort of the unknown. 

The truth is that our brain’s default mode is to fear the unfamiliar.  Unfortunately, for many accountants we tend to have a collective sense of fear.   

Change, for us, can be intimidating. The fear of the unknown, of taking risks, is incredibly uncomfortable for accountants.

So why do we have this comfort zone valve in the first place? To protect us against disappointment. 

The truth is that we’ve become masters at convincing ourselves that it’s safer to stick with what we know, avoiding the emotional rollercoaster that comes with venturing into uncharted territory. But here’s the problem – this protective mechanism in our brain, while well-intentioned, can inadvertently hold us back.

Here’s the thing: by safeguarding ourselves against potential disappointments, we miss out on incredible opportunities for growth and success. It’s the unintended consequence of playing it safe. 

I once had a consultation call with an accountant who resisted the idea that I could teach him how to reduce his tax season hours from an average of 60 to 70, down to 40.  When I explained that I’ve taught coaching clients how to do this he said, “I’m just naturally skeptical.”

In other words, because he resisted the possibility I was offering him, he failed ahead of time by not even trying.  In a warped way, working 60 to 70 hours a week felt safe to him.

The thing is that we’ve become so accustomed to safeguarding against failure that we fail ahead of time without even realizing it. The irony is that this protective shield we’ve built around ourselves could be the very thing preventing us from achieving our full potential, professionally and personally.

Navigating the Fear of Failure

The fear of failure is like an invisible companion that walks alongside us in our accounting journeys. 

For example, let’s say you spot an opportunity for a promotion, a chance to step into a higher role. Yet, that nagging voice whispers, “What if I’m not ready? What if I mess up?” 

It’s the fear of failure that might lead you to hesitate, even when you have the skills to excel in that new position.  So what happens?  You fail ahead of time because you stop yourself from going after the promotion.

Or let’s say you’re thinking about starting your own practice. The fear of failure might chime in, “What if I can’t handle it? What if it doesn’t succeed?  What if I don’t know enough?” 

These questions could discourage you from pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams, causing you to fail ahead of time when you don’t take steps to start your own practice.

The fear of failure doesn’t just affect your professional life; it affects your personal life as well.

For example, let’s say you’re considering diving into the dating scene after being single for a while. The fear of failure might show up as thoughts like, “What if it doesn’t work out? What if I get hurt?” This fear could hold you back from exploring new connections and experiences.

I’ve coached many clients who unfortunately allowed themselves to fail ahead of time by giving into a fear of failure.  One of my clients, despite her expertise, allowed the fear of potential mistakes to hold her back until she realized she was failing ahead of time by not seizing opportunities.

Another client was dreaming of launching a consultancy firm. The fear of financial instability and the unknowns of entrepreneurship had him hesitating. Little did he know, he was failing ahead of time by not taking that first step.

Think about these scenarios; do any of them resonate with you? When was the last time you held back because of the fear of failure? Have you ever psyched yourself out of pursuing an opportunity, professional or personal, because the “what ifs” clouded your judgment?

Although you’re not alone in your fear of failure, acknowledging it is the first step to overcoming it. 


The Downsides of Failing Ahead of Time

Before we lived in comfortable houses with running water and Wifi, our human existence and survival was dependent on staying safe in caves and not being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger.  If you lived during that early time, you would have needed to be fully present and on guard, looking for and protecting yourself against danger all day and night.

The primitive brain that those early humans used to survive is the same brain you and I have now.  That part of the brain has come along for the ride as humans evolved from cave dwellers to Wall Street executives.

This part of the brain has helped us to be leary of strangers when we were young, and it’s also helped us to lock the doors of our homes at night before we go to bed.  It wants us, and everything we care about, to stay safe and sound for a very long time.

The same fear that kept our ancestors from being attacked by a predator is the same survival mechanism our accountant brain uses today.  In our present-day accounting careers, this same fear can show up as unnecessary doubt and hesitation. 

It’s the fear that tells us, “Don’t take that risk; it’s dangerous,” even when the only danger is the potential bruising of our ego.

This fear is like a well-meaning but overprotective parent. It wants to keep us in the cozy bubble of our comfort zone, shielding us from the discomfort of the unknown. But this protection comes at a cost.

When we succumb to this fear, we negatively affect our professional growth. Opportunities that could lead to learning, advancement, and fulfillment slip through our fingers because our brain perceives them as threats rather than chances for growth.

Think about it – the negative consequences go beyond missed opportunities. It seeps into our confidence, affecting how we navigate our career paths. That promotion you didn’t go for, the project you hesitated to lead – these moments accumulate, creating a pattern of stagnation.

Failing ahead of time isn’t just a fleeting moment of doubt; it’s a pattern that, over time, shapes the trajectory of our careers. The more we let unnecessary fear guide our decisions, the more we unintentionally hold ourselves back.

Practical Tips to Stop Failing Ahead of Time

Now that we’ve identified the comfort zone valve, explored the shared struggle of failing ahead of time, and delved into the downsides, let’s talk about practical tips to break free from this pattern. 

Here are actionable tips tailored for accountants to stop failing ahead of time:

Awareness is the First Step:  Recognize when you hesitate or doubt yourself. It’s like turning on a light in a dark room, making things clearer. 

For example, if you feel overwhelmed about leading a financial project, pause, acknowledge that feeling, see it as a chance to grow, and challenge the urge to step back. Being aware sets the stage for intentional actions and personal growth.

Challenge Your Default Thinking:  Our initial thoughts tend to be negative. It’s important to challenge them to break free from limiting beliefs and adopt a positive mindset. 

For example, if you usually think, “I’ll never succeed,” ask yourself, “Why not? What if I could?” By intentionally questioning negative thoughts, you make room for optimism and start believing in your abilities.

Shift Your Internal Dialogue:  Our internal thoughts are crucial. Instead of worrying about failure, shift your thinking towards learning and growth. 

For example, instead of thinking “I might fail,” tell yourself “I can learn from this and grow.” This change in mindset helps you see challenges as opportunities for development rather than something negative.

Celebrate Small Wins:  Recognizing and celebrating small successes is a great motivator. It boosts confidence, keeps a positive mindset, and gives a feeling of achievement. 

For example, just like finishing a tough work project – instead of just moving on, take a moment to celebrate. It could be a small reward, a pat on your own back, or sharing the success with a colleague. Celebrating these small wins keeps you motivated for bigger tasks ahead.

Set Realistic Goals:  It’s important to set goals that you can realistically reach. Instead of aiming for a big challenge all at once, break it down into smaller, doable steps. 

For example, if your goal is to handle a complex tax return for a client, break it into tasks like gathering documents, talking to the client, entering data, and filing electronically. Each step is like a mini-goal, making the overall task less overwhelming and boosting your confidence as you progress.

Embrace a Growth Mindset:  Having a growth mindset means being open to challenges, not giving up when things get tough, and achieving more success. It’s about enjoying learning and being okay with stepping out of your comfort zone.

For example, if you’re dealing with a tough financial analysis, catch yourself thinking, “I can’t do this.” Instead, switch to a growth mindset. Say to yourself, “I might not know how now, but I can learn. This challenge is a chance to get better at what I do.”  Remember, you’ve already failed if you don’t try.

Seek Support, Mentorship and Coaching:  Seeking support, mentorship and coaching means reaching out for guidance and sharing experiences with others. Connecting with colleagues or coaches who’ve been through similar situations offers a support network and expands your professional contacts, giving you new opportunities and perspectives.

For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed in a new managerial role, talk to a colleague or coach who’s been there. Share your worries, ask for advice, and learn from what they’ve been through. Their insights can clear things up, boost your confidence, and help you handle challenges better.

Learn from Mistakes:  When something doesn’t go as planned, see it as a chance to learn rather than a failure. This mindset turns challenges into valuable experiences. 

For example, if a project you managed didn’t go well, don’t focus on feeling like you failed. Instead, ask, “What can I learn from this?” Look at the project, find areas to improve, and consider it a useful lesson in managing projects. Seeing setbacks as chances to grow sets you up for success in the future.

Picture Yourself Succeeding: By imagining yourself succeeding, it helps your mind expect positive results. This lowers the worry about failing and gives you more confidence. Visualization is like a motivation boost, helping you stay focused and determined to reach your goals. Successful pro athletes do this all the time.

For example, visualize presenting a financial report to a board of directors. See the room, picture yourself presenting well, and feel the accomplishment. Doing this mental practice boosts your confidence, reduces anxiety, and gets you ready for success when the real presentation happens.

Remember, breaking free from the cycle of failing ahead of time doesn’t just happen at once, but with consistent application of these tips, coupled with a commitment to challenging your own limiting beliefs, will gradually reshape your mindset. 

As you implement these practices, watch how the narrative changes, and new possibilities unfold in your accounting career.  

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Overcoming The Habit of Failing Ahead of Time

Becoming a Smarter Accountant is all about overcoming the habit of failing ahead of time.  It’s about being comfortable with being uncomfortable and going after what you truly want.   

For example, one of my clients was a CPA who would often shy away from applying for promotions. The fear of things not working out held her back, and she doubted if she could handle the responsibilities that came with a higher position. 

It was like she had a mental parking brake in her brain that stopped her from progressing.

After working together and becoming a Smarter Accountant, she started telling herself, “What if I can do this? What if I grow even more by taking on new challenges?” 

This change in mindset helped her step into leadership roles she once thought were out of reach. She now no longer fears the unknown but sees it as a chance to become an even better accountant.

Another client had a habit of hesitating whenever a new accounting software was introduced in the office.  Because he had been a CPA for quite awhile, his brain would convince him to leave new technology up to the younger generation.

The fear of not being able to figure it out or making errors in the process also held him back. He would wait until his colleagues had mastered it before dipping his toes in.

Thankfully, after working together to become a Smarter Accountant, he decided to challenge his default thinking. Instead of seeing new software as a potential landmine of mistakes, he started viewing it as an opportunity to expand his skill set. 

He began embracing the learning curve, asking questions, and even volunteering for training sessions. As a result, he’s now one of the go-to experts in the office when it comes to adopting and adapting to new technologies.

Hopefully, these examples help you to see the power of overcoming the habit of failing ahead of time. It’s not just about avoiding the unknown; it’s about embracing growth and turning challenges into stepping stones. 

Remember what I said in the beginning – what if playing it safe is holding you back from unlocking your full potential?  What if being willing to fail is how we succeed?

When you learn how to stop failing ahead of time, you give yourself the opportunity to grow professionally and personally.

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me as I discussed overcoming the habit of failing ahead of time.  I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tools.

No matter how long you’ve been an accountant, here’s what I want you to know – having a sustainable, fulfilling accounting career shouldn’t be an uphill battle.

Imagine a professional life where stress and overwhelm take a backseat, where long hours and tight deadlines no longer define your days. If you’re ready to regain control, the 5-minute Smarter Accountant Quiz is your first step towards a more balanced and sustainable accounting career.  

This quiz isn’t about debits or credits – it’s about you.

You’ll be able to uncover the obstacles holding you back and unlock the key to a more rewarding professional life. Fortunately, your career doesn’t have to be overshadowed by burnout and frustration.

Simply go to the www.thesmarteraccountant.com to take The Smarter Accountant Quiz. 

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, you can simply go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com/calendar and book a free session with me.

Also, I would appreciate it if you could get the word out to other accountants about this podcast.  The more accountants find out about it, the more we can begin to change the narrative in the accounting profession.

The truth is that you’re already smart, but this podcast will show you how to be smarter.

How Accountants Can Successfully Use Parkinson’s Law

If better time management is something you’re interested in, this episode is going to be super helpful.

Let me start by asking – do you ever find yourself staring at a seemingly endless to-do list, wondering how on earth you’ll get it all done? Or maybe you’ve experienced the frustration of wanting to finish a task sooner rather than later but end up waiting until the last minute? 

If you can relate, you’re not alone.  In the fast-paced world of accounting, the struggle with time management and procrastination is shared by most of us, whether we’re in public or private accounting.  

I want you to know that it’s not your fault.  It has nothing to do with your capabilities and everything to do with your accountant brain.   

Many of us deal with issues with productivity, but today, I’m going to be diving into the solution: Parkinson’s Law.

But before I get into what Parkinson’s Law is and why it’s important for accountants to understand, I first want to address why accountants procrastinate? In my experience, there are three main culprits tend to be at play:

Our Work is Complicated and Takes Effort: Accounting isn’t a walk in the park. It involves complicated financial puzzles and demands mental effort that can make even the most dedicated accountant procrastinate, especially when deadlines are looming.

Stress and Overwhelm: The pressure we feel as accountants often leaves us stressed and overwhelmed. And do you know what doesn’t make it possible to get accounting work done efficiently?  Stress and overwhelm!  If you’ve ever felt like you’re drowning in a sea of tasks, you’re not alone. But here’s the truth – it doesn’t have to be this way.

Unawareness of Parkinson’s Law: Many accountants are unaware of this game-changing principle that affects how we manage our time. I want to help to demystify Parkinson’s Law and show you how it can be your secret weapon against procrastination.

So, what is Parkinson’s Law? In simple terms, it states that the time you give yourself to complete a task is how long it will take. Whether you set a month or a week, that’s how long it will take to complete.   

Seems straightforward, right? Yet, the impact of Parkinson’s Law on our productivity and success is nothing short of profound.

In today’s episode I’m going to unravel the many layers of Parkinson’s Law, understanding how it influences our work habits and, more importantly, how we can use it to our advantage. Imagine having the ability to take control of your time, accomplish more in less time, and create space for the things and people you love – all by embracing the principles of Parkinson’s Law.

If your time management could use some help, get ready to change the way you approach your to-do list. Parkinson’s Law is about to become your new best friend in the quest for efficient time management. 

Understanding What Motivates You

Last week I did an entire episode discussing the importance of understanding the Motivational Triad so if you haven’t listened to episode #37, I suggest you do after you finish listening to this one.  

Basically, the Motivational Triad is your brain’s natural instinct to always be seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, and conserving energy.  It explains a lot of why we do what we do and why we don’t do things we should do.

The reason this matters for accountants is because our work typically pushes against the Motivational Triad – it’s often not pleasurable, can be painful, and expends a lot of mental energy.  Unfortunately, a lot of the work we do as accountants does not align with the pleasure-seeking, efficient part of our brain. 

In fact, our work often demands mental effort and doesn’t offer the instant gratification our brain craves.

So, when faced with challenging accounting tasks, our brain’s default response is to procrastinate. It’s not because we’re lazy or lack dedication; it’s simply the Motivational Triad doing its thing. 

The trick is understanding this process so that we can navigate it more effectively.

One of the keys to conquering procrastination is acknowledging the Motivational Triad’s influence.  Instead of succumbing to stress, consider it a signal from your brain, telling you it’s time to manage your mental energy.

Think of it like this: when you know a storm is coming, you prepare by securing windows and stocking up on essentials. Similarly, when you feel the storm of stress approaching, it’s a cue to manage your brain. 

This might involve breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable steps or giving yourself brief breaks to recharge.

The secret lies in realizing that procrastination isn’t a personal flaw but a natural response. By understanding the Motivational Triad and applying strategies to overcome procrastination, you’re not just tackling accounting tasks – you’re mastering the art of navigating your own brain for peak performance. 

Brain Management for Time Management

Have you ever wondered why some days you’re on fire, and others you feel like you’re running on empty? That’s the magic (and sometimes mystery) of your brain. 

Understanding and managing your brain is the secret that no one else is teaching accountants about better time management.

Your brain is like the engine of a car, steering your actions and decisions. If you don’t know how to manage it, it’s like driving without a roadmap – you might get somewhere, but it won’t be the most efficient journey.

In order to be as focused and efficient as possible you need to think of your brain like a muscle; the more you train it, the stronger it becomes. When you understand how it operates, you can fine-tune it for peak performance.

Brain management is like having a personal coach for your brain. It allows you to sidestep distractions, stay on track, and achieve your tasks with precision. This is what I mean when I say I teach smart accountants how to be smarter.  

Since your thoughts create your feelings and your feelings fuel your actions, you want to use the right fuel for optimal actions. Your brain, like any engine, performs best when given the right inputs. 

In other words, if you’re letting your negatively biased brain offer thoughts that create stress, overwhelm, or frustration, those feelings are going to drive ineffective action.  

In a nutshell, brain management is the art of understanding, training, and fueling your brain for optimal time management. 

Why Is Parkinson’s Law Important?

Now that I’ve discussed the Motivational Triad and how important brain management is to time management, I want to explain Parkinson’s Law in a deeper way.  

In general, Parkinson’s Law states that the time you give yourself to finish a task is how long it takes.  Maybe you experienced Parkinson’s Law when you were in school – if the teacher told you that you have a month to write a paper, how long did the paper typically take to write?  A month.

On the other hand, if the teacher said you have a week to write the same paper, how long did it take to write?  A week.  Same paper, but based on the timeframe given, that’s how long it took to get the desired result.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. When you set your own deadlines, something fantastic  happens – you take control. It’s like having a magic wand that helps you finish tasks faster.

Self-imposed deadlines are that wand. They turn Parkinson’s Law to your advantage, keeping you focused and effectively tackling your to-do list or your workload.

Why? Because without deadlines, tasks tend to hide in the shadows, and we end up procrastinating. But with a self-imposed deadline – a goal to aim for – you become much more productive and efficient.  

Remember what I said about the Motivational Triad and how your primitive brain is motivated to conserve energy?  Well, by using Parkinson’s Law to your benefit, you will be amazed at how naturally motivated you become to get more done in less time.

This is why I get more done in the office and work the least amount of hours.  Because I know how to effectively use Parkinson’s Law.

It’s all about understanding that you’re the boss of your time. When you know the game, you can play it better.

Imagine finishing a project in a week instead of dragging it out for a month. That’s the magic of Parkinson’s Law in action. 

Imagine being done with tax season a week early.  That’s what’s possible when you effectively use Parkinson’s Law.  .

This isn’t just about checking off your to-do list; it’s about having control over your time so that you can create more time.  

The Benefits of Parkinson’s Law

There are many benefits of Parkinson’s Law, one of which is making decisions quickly, without analysis paralysis.  If you’ve ever spent way too much time thinking about how to start a task, Parkinson’s Law will be incredibly helpful.

With self-imposed deadlines, you don’t get stuck in the overthinking trap. You make decisions quickly and simply, cutting through the mental fog. 

Another benefit of Parkinson’s Law is the ability to prioritize effectively.  When you have a self-imposed deadline, suddenly, tasks line up, and you can see which ones are high impact and which ones can wait. 

It’s like having a spotlight on your to-do list, helping you focus on what truly matters.

No more getting lost in the sea of tasks because you’re in charge.  This isn’t about being busy for the sake of being busy; it’s about being busy with the right stuff.

The last benefit of Parkinson’s Law is the reduction of decision fatigue.  If you’ve ever felt mentally drained from making too many decisions, Parkinson’s Law is like a shield against decision fatigue, especially for accountants. 

When you set self-imposed deadlines, you’re not just managing time; you’re saving mental energy.  How?  Because there will be fewer decisions about when to do things because you’ve already decided. 

It’s like having a personal assistant for your brain, saying, “You focus on the numbers; I’ll handle the timing.” Less fatigue, more focus – that’s the Parkinson’s Law magic at play.

Applying Parkinson’s Law

Have you ever played a game against time? That’s exactly what Parkinson’s Law loves. It’s not about making time your enemy; it’s about making it your ally. 

How? Start by setting specific deadlines for your tasks and projects.

Think of it like a game timer. When you have a self-imposed deadline, it’s like setting the clock ticking. Suddenly, you’re not just doing a task; you’re super focused and productive because you have a set amount of time to get the task done.

It’s like turning every task into a mini-challenge, and who doesn’t love a good challenge?

Before you apply Parkinson’s Law, you need to break projects down into small bites so that your brain is onboard.    

For example, preparing a complicated personal tax return is incredibly overwhelming to your brain.  Instead of aiming for the finished tax return, break it down into more manageable pieces.

This might involve first reviewing the prior year’s return, then creating a checklist of data, then checking that all the data is in house, next asking the client if there is any additional information, next inputting the tax return data, then doing a general review of the return.  

For each task, you would create a mini-challenge by assigning a self-imposed deadline.  Not only is each piece more manageable since it’s broken down, but you’re giving your brain a boundary of time to keep you focused on the task at hand.  

In order to assist you in these mini-challenges, there are some tools that you’ll want to incorporate.  Tools like timers keep you on track and focused. 

Say you decide that you need to spend an hour on a task; set your timer, and dive in. When you know the clock’s ticking, suddenly, distractions fade away.

It’s not just about timers; it’s about finding the tools that work for you. Whether it’s a calendar reminder, a to-do list app, or a good old-fashioned alarm clock, these tools become your productivity sidekicks. 

Whatever works best for you, be open to trying different things.  For me, it’s setting a timer or alarms on my phone.  

When you get on board with using Parkinson’s Law, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to get more done in less time.  Something that might have taken 2 hours before, now “miraculously” takes 1 hour of focused time.

I promise, it’s pretty amazing what you can get done using Parkinson’s Law.

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Parkinson’s Law In Action

Now I want to share some real-world scenarios where my accountant coaching clients, like yourself, were able to put Parkinson’s Law into action.  

One client was dealing with a packed schedule and seemed to find herself stuck in never-ending meetings. However, after becoming a Smarter Accountant and learning how to effectively use Parkinson’s Law, she started setting specific time limits for each agenda item. 

Now, her meetings, whether with colleagues or clients, are focused, efficient, and end on time, allowing her to reclaim valuable hours for more critical tasks.

Another client was very project-oriented.  He used to feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of his assignments. 

After becoming a Smarter Accountant and embracing Parkinson’s Law, he began breaking down projects into smaller tasks, each with its own self-imposed deadline. Suddenly, what seemed like an insurmountable mountain transformed into a series of achievable steps, leading to timely and successful project completions.

Another client was a meticulous CPA and often found herself overthinking and second-guessing decisions.  Before we worked together she found herself getting caught up in analysis paralysis and often experienced decision fatigue at the end of each day.

After becoming a Smarter Accountant and setting self-imposed deadlines for key decisions, she realized Parkinson’s Law was her shortcut to efficient choices. The result? Swift decision-making without the mental fatigue, allowing her to move projects forward seamlessly.

Another coaching client was drowning in a sea of emails daily.  He started to work with me when he decided it was time for a change. 

Once he became a Smarter Accountant, he applied Parkinson’s Law by allocating specific time slots for checking and responding to emails. The result? He became a master of his inbox, responding promptly to important emails and avoiding the time lost in constant interruptions.

And lastly, one client was a typical multitasking accountant juggling numerous responsibilities.  She never felt like she could catch up with her workload.

After becoming a Smarter Accountant, she used Parkinson’s Law to her advantage. She set self-imposed deadlines for each task, forcing herself to prioritize effectively. This not only reduced decision fatigue but also ensured that she tackled the most crucial tasks first, leaving the less pressing ones for later.

These real-world examples illustrate that Parkinson’s Law isn’t just a concept; it’s a practical tool that empowers accountants to work smarter, make efficient decisions, and achieve their goals.   By incorporating Parkinson’s Law into your own accounting toolkit, you’re not just becoming a smarter accountant; you’re becoming a more productive and effective accountant.  

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me as I discussed how to successfully use Parkinson’s Law.  I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tips.

Here’s what I want you to know – embarking on a fulfilling accounting career shouldn’t be an uphill battle.

Imagine a professional life where stress and overwhelm take a backseat, where long hours and tight deadlines no longer define your days. If you’re ready to regain control, the 5-minute Smarter Accountant Quiz is your first step towards a more balanced and sustainable accounting career.  

This quiz isn’t about debits or credits – it’s about you.

You’ll be able to uncover the obstacles holding you back and unlock the key to a more rewarding professional life. Fortunately, your career doesn’t have to be overshadowed by burnout and frustration.

Simply go to the www.thesmarteraccountant.com to take The Smarter Accountant Quiz. 

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, you can simply go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com/calendar and book a free session with me.

So make sure you check back each week as I help you go from being a stressed accountant to a Smarter Accountant.

Also, I would appreciate it if you could get the word out to other accountants about this podcast.  The more accountants find out about it, the more we can begin to change the narrative in the accounting profession.

The truth is that you’re already smart, but this podcast will show you how to be smarter.

The Motivational Triad

We all experience those days when motivation seems impossible, but what happens when those uninspired days turn into weeks and months? Navigating through extended periods of low motivation can be particularly challenging, especially for accountants.

Unfortunately, maintaining a strong work ethic becomes an uphill battle when your job fails to inspire you. So, what’s the solution?

This is where the Motivational Triad comes in, a brain science concept that explains why we do and don’t do what we do. 

The truth is that your brain is naturally wired to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and to conserve energy. Understanding this triad and learning how to leverage it can be the key to unlocking increased motivation in your life.

In the world of accounting, where we deal with complicated work day in and day out, understanding what drives us, motivates us, and gets in the way can be a game-changer. 

For example, let’s say you’re in the middle of a complex financial analysis. Since your brain craves immediate pleasure, you might find yourself checking email rather than focusing on the task at hand.  

And since your brain likes to avoid pain, it might overanalyze for fear of making a mistake.  And finally, because your brain wants to conserve energy, it will resist any part of the financial analysis that is unfamiliar and might take more effort than usual.  

The thing is that as accountants, we face daily challenges that push against the Motivational Triad, making it challenging to get accounting work done.  Whether it’s meeting tight deadlines, addressing discrepancies, or managing workloads efficiently, it’s incredibly important that all accountants understand the Motivational Triad better.

As I’ve said before in previous episodes, this podcast is the place where brain science meets accounting.  What I teach isn’t taught in any accounting classroom or CPE seminar.

Which is why this week’s episode is all about helping you unlock a new level of motivation and success in your accounting career.  Whether you’re a seasoned accountant looking for fresh insights, or just starting out and want to enhance your skills, I promise this episode will be a valuable resource. 

Understanding The Motivational Triad

When you understand the Motivational Triad, you understand the fundamental drivers of human behavior.  In other words, you understand what makes you tick. 

The truth is that the instinct to seek pleasure is woven into our very essence. We are naturally drawn to activities that bring us joy, fulfillment, and a sense of achievement. 

This pleasure-seeking instinct extends beyond the boundaries of professions, influencing how we approach challenges and experience satisfaction from our accomplishments.  In other words, our brains are drawn to things that bring us pleasure, whether those things are helpful or not.

In accounting, this instinct happens when we do what we’re trained to do. It’s the joy of solving financial puzzles and optimizing processes that lights up our motivation to seek pleasure.

The second instinct, to avoid pain, is a survival mechanism that’s been with us since humans lived in caves.  Whether professionally or personally, humans are wired to steer away from discomfort, challenges, and potential threats. 

This avoidance instinct plays a pivotal role in shaping our decisions and actions.

In the accounting domain, meeting tight deadlines and addressing financial discrepancies are prime examples where the instinct to avoid pain comes into play. The initial stress and discomfort associated with these challenges highlight the universal nature of the pain-avoidance instinct.

The third instinct, conserving energy, is also a fundamental aspect of human survival. Our bodies are designed to operate efficiently, preserving vital resources for essential functions. 

This energy-conserving instinct is a driving force for how we allocate our mental and physical efforts across various tasks.

In the context of accounting, automating repetitive tasks and optimizing workflows align with the instinct to conserve energy. The aim is to streamline processes which allows us to allocate our cognitive resources more effectively.

While the Motivational Triad is helpful in understanding what motivates us, it’s also just as important to understand how these human instincts collide with the specific challenges faced by accountants.

A better understanding of the Motivational Triad will explain why accounting work can be challenging, but also what to do about it.

The Pleasure Principle in Accounting

Now let’s dive deeper into each part of the Motivational Triad and learn how to leverage each motivator.

The first motivator is seeking pleasure.  The truth is that finding pleasure in the daily grind can be a game-changer, especially for accountants.

Let’s be honest – a lot of the work we do as accountants is not pleasurable, it’s often challenging, and can sometimes be boring.  Unfortunately, that becomes a big problem for our brain and the Motivational Triad.

This explains why we can fall into the trap of procrastination.  When our brain is not on board with the work we have to do because it’s not seeing the work as pleasurable or it sees it as challenging or boring, our brain would rather avoid it and do something else that it finds pleasurable.

I often joke that email is an accountant’s drug of choice, but that’s because of the Motivational Triad.  Our accountant brain would rather check email than figure out that complicated 1031 exchange calculation.

So what can you do to get your brain more on board with accounting work when a lot of the work we do goes against the Motivational Triad?  The first step is setting achievable milestones.

For example, let’s say you have a complicated tax return to complete.  To align with the Pleasure Principle and use the Motivational Triad to your advantage, it’s incredibly helpful to get your brain on board by breaking it down into bite-sized milestones. 

Instead of viewing the entire tax return as a daunting mountain to climb, conquer it step by step. Celebrate each mini-victory, enjoying the pleasure of overcoming challenges.

Transforming a complicated tax return into manageable milestones not only aligns with the Pleasure Principle but also taps into the satisfaction of progress. 

The second step of the Pleasure Principle is recognizing achievements.  Your brain thrives on acknowledging and celebrating achievements, big or small. 

In the accounting realm, where attention to detail is important, recognizing your successes becomes pivotal.

For example, let’s say you’ve meticulously conducted an audit, ensuring accuracy and uncovering valuable insights. To tap into the Motivational Triad you need to take a moment to own your accomplishment. 

Recognize the effort invested, celebrate the successful completion of audits or reports, and share the joy with your team.

Acknowledging achievements is not just a pat on the back; it’s a powerful motivator. It transforms the routine into a source of pleasure, creating a positive feedback loop that propels you forward. 

Whether it’s a balanced budget or a comprehensive financial report, recognizing these achievements gets your brain on board and transforms the demanding nature of accounting work into a fulfilling experience.

To help add more pleasure into your accounting work, consider these strategies:

Personalize Milestones: Look for ways to align your goals with your strengths and interests within accounting. Find pleasure in the specific aspects that resonate with you.

Create a Celebration Ritual: Develop a ritual for celebrating achievements, whether it’s a team lunch, a virtual toast, or a simple acknowledgment. Creating a positive association with accomplishments gives your brain a chance to make the connection between pleasure and accounting work.

Share Success Stories: Engage with others by sharing success stories. Celebrating collective achievements fosters a sense of camaraderie and mutual support.  Whether it’s posting something on LinkedIn or sharing with a coworker, sharing success can be an amazing motivator for your brain.

The truth is that by leveraging intrinsic motivators and incorporating these strategies, you can turn your brain’s natural desire for pleasure into your ally, transforming accounting work into a source of joy and accomplishment.

It truly doesn’t have to be a daily grind or drudgery when you learn how to tap into the Motivational Triad.

The Pain Avoidance Instinct 

Now let’s dive deeper into the second motivator in the Motivational Triad and learn how to leverage it.  This second motivator is all about avoiding pain.  

As I shared before, a lot of the work we do as accountants is not pleasurable and unfortunately, can be perceived as painful.  Tasks like complicated analysis, meeting tight deadlines, or addressing discrepancies may trigger the Pain Avoidance Instinct. 

Unfortunately, the discomfort associated with these tasks can lead to avoidance behaviors, negatively affecting productivity and causing stress.

The interesting thing is that in the realm of time management, our brain’s natural avoidance of pain becomes a significant challenge.  Balancing the demands of the job with the instinct to avoid perceived pain creates a unique challenge. 

For many of my coaching clients, this avoidance of pain often affects their time management skills.  Here’s the thing – when tasks are perceived as painful, the natural inclination is to postpone or avoid them altogether. 

While you might feel a momentary sense of relief, this pain avoidance behavior can lead to a backlog of work and increased stress. The Pain Avoidance Instinct, if left unchecked, becomes a stumbling block in effective time management for all of us.

So what can we do to deal with the pain avoidance instinct?  Here are some strategies to consider:

Task Breakdown: To get your brain’s cooperation, break down larger, potentially painful tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. This not only aligns with the Pain Avoidance Instinct by making tasks seem less daunting but also provides a roadmap for progress.

Reward Systems: Implement a reward system for completing challenging tasks. Associating a positive outcome with completing a perceived painful task can shift your brain from avoidance to accomplishment.

Professional Development: Invest time in learning new skills and technologies that can alleviate the pain associated with tedious tasks. Embracing innovation and staying updated can transform how certain aspects of the job are perceived.

Collaboration and Support: Seek support from colleagues, mentors, and coaches, and engage in collaborative problem-solving. Sharing the load and gaining insights from others can make challenging tasks feel less burdensome.

Understanding the Pain Avoidance Instinct is the first step in overcoming its impact on accounting work. By implementing strategic approaches and reframing the perception of certain tasks, you can transform your natural tendency from avoidance into engagement.

The truth is that when you make your work less painful, you make your time more manageable.  


The Conserving Energy Motivator

Now let’s dive deeper into the third and final motivator in the Motivational Triad and learn how to leverage it.  This third motivator is all about conserving energy.

In accounting, where time is of the essence, conserving energy is vital for being efficient and having a sustainable accounting career. Unfortunately, the demanding nature of accounting tasks and the constant need for meticulous attention can lead to burnout if energy conservation strategies are not implemented effectively.

Therefore, finding ways to strategically allocate energy becomes a cornerstone for accountants seeking to not only excel in our current tasks but also maintain a long and fulfilling career.

So let’s explore specific time management strategies that align with the Motivational Triad’s Conserving Energy principle, ensuring that we can be productive without paying a cost.

Let’s say you have a number of client requests that require attention. Just the act of writing everything down, deciding what’s a priority, and then calendaring it, you actually conserve mental energy that might have been otherwise scattered across various tasks.

The truth is that prioritization allows us to focus our energy on high-impact tasks, ensuring that the limited resources, both mental and physical, are utilized effectively. When it comes to accounting work, you want your brain to be as cooperative as possible.

Make sure you regularly assess and prioritize tasks based on impact and ease.  Tackling easy, high-impact tasks first, aligns with the Conserving Energy principle, creating momentum and ensuring that essential tasks receive attention first.

The second strategy for conserving energy is delegating appropriately.  The truth is that the skill of delegation is a cornerstone of conserving energy and maximizing efficiency. 

While we often find ourselves drowning in various responsibilities, not every task requires our direct attention.

For example, consider routine data entry tasks that are essential but don’t necessarily demand the specialized expertise of accountants. Delegating these to capable support staff not only frees up your time for more complex challenges but also aligns with the Conserving Energy principle.

It’s important to establish a framework for delegation, identifying tasks that can be effectively handled by support staff or team members. This not only optimizes energy conservation but also creates a sense of collaboration.

Hopefully you can see that by aligning time management strategies with the Conserving Energy aspect of the Motivational Triad, it allows you to streamline your work and optimize efficiency.  I say this to my time management coaching clients all the time, but in order to better manage your time, you have to first manage your mind.

Understanding your brain’s need to conserve energy will make your time management much more effective.

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Using The Motivational Triad To Your Advantage

Hopefully, you can now see the importance of the Motivational Triad.  The key really lies in understanding how to use the natural tendencies of your brain to your advantage.

One of my coaching clients was a Tax Manager dealing with complex tax returns that often seemed overwhelming. We decided to focus on the Motivational Triad, specifically her brain’s desire for pleasure.

Instead of viewing the entire tax return as a daunting task, she began to break it down into achievable milestones. She set specific, bite-sized goals for each section of the return.

Completing and acknowledging these mini-milestones provided her with a sense of pleasure and accomplishment, making it so much easier to get each tax return done.  In fact, after working together and becoming a Smarter Accountant, she realized that she was getting each tax return done in less time than the year before.  

She also decided to implement a celebration ritual for herself. After completing each mini-milestone, instead of just moving on to the next thing on her list, she took a moment to acknowledge each achievement, whether it was a small victory or a significant step forward. 

These simple moments of recognition not only boosted her motivation but also created a positive association between her work and the pleasure of success.  She was amazed at how much better she felt at the end of each day when she used the Motivational Triad to her advantage.

Another client worked for a mid-sized firm and was struggling with procrastination and time management, particularly when faced with tasks he perceived as painful.  I’m sure you can relate to those things that you’d just like to avoid.

After working together to become a Smarter Accountant, he decided to address the Motivational Triad, specifically his brain’s natural avoidance of pain.  He realized it was getting in the way of his productivity and that it was creating an issue where he was working longer hours than he wanted.

Instead of postponing or avoiding larger, potentially painful tasks, he broke them down into smaller, more manageable steps. This not only made the tasks seem less daunting but also provided a roadmap for progress.

We also talked about introducing a reward system for himself. Upon completing challenging tasks, he associated positive rewards, such as a break, a special type of coffee he enjoyed, or a short walk. 

This shift from avoidance to accomplishment, coupled with the prospect of a reward, motivated him to tackle tasks he would usually find painful.  By understanding and strategically addressing the Motivational Triad’s Pain Avoidance Instinct, he enhanced his time management skills and reduced procrastination.

He was also able to get more done in less time and have a life outside of work.

Hopefully, you can now see that a Smarter Accountant understands while there are plenty of day-to-day activities that work against the Motivational Triad, but addressing these issues and using the Motivational Triad to your advantage you can reduce the chances of burnout and feel better about your career.  

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me as I discussed the importance of understanding the Motivational Triad.  I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tips.

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, you can simply go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com/calendar and book a free session with me.

I’ll explain The Smarter Accountant 6-week Program and how you can apply it to whatever you’re struggling with.

So make sure you check back each week as I help you go from being a stressed accountant to a Smarter Accountant.

Make sure you go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com and take The Smarter Accountant Quiz. You’re going to want to know if you’ve been underutilizing your accountant brain so that you have a starting point for becoming a Smarter Accountant..

Also, I would appreciate it if you could get the word out to other accountants about this podcast.  The more accountants find out about it, the more we can begin to change the narrative in the accounting profession.

The truth is that you’re already smart, but this podcast will show you how to be smarter.

Dealing With Difficult Clients

Do you have issues with establishing trust or understanding difficult clients?  Are difficult clients making your job more stressful?

As accountants, we’ve all come across clients who are hard to handle, especially if you’re in public accounting. Some might not realize that their demands exceed their budget, while others expect us to work magic with incomplete information or jump at their every beck and call. 

The issue is that, if we don’t handle these situations well, we risk losing clients, the referrals they may bring, and our sanity. It might seem unfair, but dealing with difficult clients is a common part of being an accountant, especially in a service-based industry like ours.

Even if you carefully choose your clients or have had good relationships with them in the past, you can still encounter challenging clients. It doesn’t matter if your accounting practice is big or small or serves different types of businesses – dealing with difficult clients is something many of us face in the accounting world.

Although not all clients are problematic, when issues arise, they can take a toll on your emotions, time, and effort. Handling difficult clients, regardless of how good you are at your job, can unfortunately affect your ability to get work done and increase your level of stress.

In today’s challenging times, even clients who were easy to work with before might become more problematic. That’s why it’s essential to be ready for dealing with difficult clients because if your clients are stressed, they might pose more challenges for you as their accountant. 

Another important reason you need to learn how to deal with difficult clients is because when emotions run high, your intelligence gets low.  The truth is that stress impacts your ability to manage your workload, stay productive, and maintain your technical skills.

While you can take steps like pre-qualifying new clients or having clear engagement letters, there’s no guaranteed way to filter out challenging clients. Unfortunately, there’s no magic system to ensure you always work with cooperative, patient, or appreciative clients.

Since it’s not always wise or possible to let go of difficult clients, it’s essential to learn how to handle them effectively. So stay tuned because I’ll be sharing tools that can help you manage all your clients, whether they’re challenging or not. 

This way, you can support both your business’s success and theirs.

Understanding Different Types of Challenging Clients

I’ve been in public accounting for over 30 years so I’ve had my fair share of dealing with  challenging clients.  In my experience, there are generally four types of difficult clients:

Clients Dissatisfied with the Work Produced:  Some clients might not be happy with the financial reports, statements, tax bill, or other work you provide. They could question projections, dispute numbers, or even challenge decisions, making it a bit tricky to meet their expectations.  These clients also challenge their bill for services.

For example, despite sending preliminary financials to a client before preparing their tax return, I’ve had clients argue that their non-deductible entertainment expenses should be on their return.  I’ve even had clients try to have me take their child’s tuition as a continuing education deduction.  And I’ve had clients who doubled the scope of work but then argued why the bill was more than the year before.

Clients Dissatisfied with the Pace of Work:  Certain clients always want things done quickly, regardless of the time of year or the information they provide. They might expect you to perform like a magician, completing tasks at their preferred speed, which can add pressure to your workflow.

For example, I’ve had clients make a request and expect immediate results. They’ve known about a refinance with a bank for a month, but then tell us about it at the last minute and expect us to work miracles.   

Clients Dissatisfied with Professional Opinions:  In some situations, clients seek your professional opinion on financial matters. However, when you provide advice that doesn’t align with their expectations, they might get upset or disagree. Handling such differences in opinion can be challenging.

For example, I’ve had clients who sought advice on various business decisions and their tax implications. Despite advising against it, they proceed anyway. However, when later faced with an undesirable outcome, they blame us for not stopping them from making the mistake.

Clients Who Wait Until the Last Minute:  We all have those clients who consistently wait until the eleventh hour to submit crucial information. Dealing with these last-minute demands can be stressful, especially when they become increasingly demanding on top of their lateness.

For example, I’ve had clients who consistently submit crucial tax information at the eleventh hour. Their last-minute demands disrupt our workflow, causing stress and making it challenging to meet deadlines without compromising quality.

No matter which type of difficult client you’re dealing with – one dissatisfied with the work produced, with the pace of work, with your professional opinion or one who waits until the last minute – it’s important to recognize that facing difficult clients is a shared experience among accountants. Regardless of the size of your practice or the diversity of businesses you serve, challenging clients will always be a normal part of the journey.

In an ideal world, all clients would be easy to work with, appreciative, and patient. However, the reality is that various factors can contribute to clients becoming difficult. 

Economic uncertainties, changes in their business, difficult personalities, or personal challenges can transform once easy-going clients into more problematic ones.  But thankfully, understanding these major categories of difficult clients helps you prepare for potential challenges. 

By being aware of these common scenarios, you can develop strategies to navigate through them more effectively. Stay tuned because in a minute I’m going to dive into the reasons behind the stress associated with difficult clients and explore a tool to help you manage these challenges and maintain a healthy balance in your professional and personal life.

Your Brain’s Role In Understanding Stress with Difficult Clients

No matter what the situation is with a difficult client, it’s crucial to understand your brain’s role when it comes to stress.  The most important thing for you to understand is that it’s never the client’s behavior that creates the feeling of stress; it’s only ever your brain that is creating the feeling of stress.  

It’s essential to recognize that the stress you experience isn’t directly caused by what your clients do; rather, it comes from your thoughts about what your clients do. In other words,  if a client questions a financial report, the stress you feel is only coming from your thoughts about the fact that they questioned the financial report. 

The client’s words are neutral and don’t mean anything until your brain makes them mean something. And thankfully, what you decide to make something mean is completely up to you. 

The truth is that understanding why clients seem difficult really isn’t about the clients themselves; it’s about your thoughts about them and your desire for them to be different. It might be a tough idea to accept, but trust me, it can significantly change how you handle challenging clients, especially those who aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I want to make it clear that I’m not suggesting you keep clients who are being difficult or disrespectful. There are times when walking away is absolutely the right move for your well-being. What I am saying is that when you feel stressed about someone, whether it’s a client or someone else, it’s because you’re resisting how they are.

How would you know if you’re resisting how they are?  When you find yourself feeling more anger or frustration towards that person. It’s crucial to realize that your feelings of anger and frustration stem from thoughts about how that person should change their behavior; how they shouldn’t be the way they are.

The problem is that when you resist your clients’ behavior, it’s like pushing against a heavy door that refuses to open – it leads to stress, frustration and anger. Resisting how your clients act can create a feeling of being stuck, amplifying stress in the process.

And when you feel stressed, frustrated, or angry you cannot take effective action, especially when it comes to getting accounting work done.  You end up wasting time and energy that could be put to better use.

If you’re not aware of the thoughts that your brain typically offers when it comes to dealing with difficult clients, see if any of these sound familiar:

“They should know better; this is basic accounting!”

“Why can’t they provide the information I need on time?”

“I’m the expert here, why don’t they listen to my advice?”

“Waiting until the last minute is so unprofessional!”

“What is wrong with them?”

Here’s the thing – these seemingly harmless thoughts act as stress triggers, setting off a chain reaction of emotional distress. In other words, your brain subtly suggests that things should be different, and when they aren’t, stress creeps in, affecting your emotional well-being and especially your productivity.

Recognizing that your thoughts play a pivotal role in shaping your emotional response to difficult clients is a crucial first step in managing stress effectively. 

A Game-Changing Tool for Navigating Difficult Clients

Now I want to share a powerful tool that can transform the way you handle challenging clients. This might be the first time you’re really examining your interactions with difficult clients, and that’s an excellent starting point. 

Complaining about these challenging clients probably hasn’t been working well for you. Luckily, there’s a much better approach.

In my studies to become a Professional Certified Coach for Accountants, I learned the valuable tool called “The Manual,” taught by The Life Coach School. The concept behind The Manual is simple: we all have these unwritten rules or instructions in our minds for how we believe others should behave.

We all have Manuals for our children, partner, family, and friends. There’s nothing to be ashamed of because every single one of us has them. 

For example, my Manuals have covered what my children should and shouldn’t do to make me feel like a good mom, how my ex-husband should behave for co-parenting harmony, and even what my boss should stop doing to prevent my frustration. Naturally, my Manuals extended to how my clients should behave to ensure I can do their work without stress.

The key understanding here is that your unwritten rules for how difficult clients should behave is what’s contributing to feelings of anger and frustration because you wish they were different. But the truth is, no matter what you think, clients will act the way they do, whether you resist it or not.

As adults, we all have free will to behave however we want to behave.  Wishing someone was different is arguing with reality.

Speaking of arguing with reality, one of my favorite quotes on this subject is from Byron Katie – “When you argue with reality, you lose.  But only 100% of the time.”  The Manuals we have for other people are setting us up to lose.

It’s also important to point out that your clients also have their Manuals for you. Their Manual for their accountant might include expectations like “My accountant should be okay with me handing in documents whenever I can,” “My accountant should agree with my brilliant ideas,” or “My accountant shouldn’t charge me more.” 

The reality is, they’re acting based on their Manual for you, while you’re frustrated that they’re not following your Manual for them.

The hard truth is you can’t change your clients, just like you can’t change anyone else. In any relationship, you can make requests, but it’s crucial not to tie your emotional peace to someone else’s behavior. 

The main reason we all have unwritten instructions for how we believe other people should behave is because of how we think it would make us feel if they did what we wanted them to do.  The problem is that we are then putting our emotions in someone else’s hands.

For example, if my son texts me back right away, I’ll feel connected.  But if he doesn’t, I’ll feel frustrated or disappointed.

In other words, I’m making him responsible for my feelings based on my unwritten rules for him.  The same thing goes for our relationship with our clients; if they follow our rules, we feel respected, but if they don’t, we feel stressed.

By becoming aware of your Manuals, you regain the power to feel less angry, frustrated, and stressed.

One effective strategy I adopted was to view difficult clients as innocent toddlers. You wouldn’t take it personally or see it as wrong when a toddler falls while learning to walk or throws a tantrum; it’s just part of their development. 

Applying a similar perspective to difficult clients helped me navigate challenges.

For example, with a notoriously late and difficult client, I changed my mindset: “He always sends his tax information late. That’s just what he does.” Holding onto anger and frustration year after year was a waste of my time and energy, driven by the Manual I had for him.

It didn’t stop me from making requests that he hand in his information on time; I just didn’t hang my emotions on him being any different than he is.  It also didn’t stop me from setting boundaries and letting him know that if his information was late, he would automatically go on extension.

I just didn’t have the mind drama that he should be any different than he is.

So, if you find yourself angry or frustrated with a client, recognize that what upsets you is not their behavior, it’s your belief about how they should act. Acknowledge that you have limited control over changing that, and practice thinking a thought that helps you accept who they are. 

For example, “This is just Mary being Mary” or “Of course, Joe didn’t listen to me.”  The less you blame difficult clients for how you feel, the easier it will be for you to feel how you want, no matter how anyone else behaves.

When you release your Manuals for difficult clients, you also open yourself up to evaluating your policies and procedures. Perhaps there are certain boundaries that need to be established or changes on your end that you hadn’t considered.

Setting effective boundaries with clear consequences might be something you need to consider.

Here’s the thing – in these challenging times, don’t be surprised if you encounter more difficult clients. However, armed with awareness and a willingness to work on how you think about them, you now have a valuable tool to navigate through anyone, at any time.

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Effectively Dealing With Difficult Clients

As we wrap up this episode, let’s talk about what it means to become a smarter, more resilient accountant.

The truth is that difficult clients are not a rarity; they are a shared experience among accountants. Whether it’s a client who thinks you should be available 24/7 or one who notoriously argues about their bill, these challenges are inherent to the profession.

Accepting this reality is the first step toward developing effective coping strategies.  There will always be difficult clients, but you do not have to let them derail your efforts to be an effective, successful professional.

Becoming a Smarter Accountant involves recognizing the role of emotional intelligence in client relationships. Understanding that the feeling of stress only ever comes from our thoughts about clients, rather than their actions, allows for a more composed and strategic approach to challenging situations.

Here’s what I tell my coaching clients – instead of handing your clients the remote control of your emotions, take your power back by learning how to be more intentional with your thoughts.

As I shared, the tool, “The Manual,” will enable you to identify and reshape the unwritten instructions you have for client behavior. By releasing these manuals, you liberate yourself from unnecessary emotional burdens, allowing more constructive interactions with clients.

The truth is that clients don’t have to change in order for you to feel how you want to feel.  In fact nothing needs to change in order for you to feel how you want to feel.

A Smarter Accountant learns to view difficult clients through a lens of less frustration, like how you would understand an innocent toddler.  Shifting perspectives and approaching challenges with understanding can lead to more meaningful and productive professional relationships.

Another part of becoming a Smarter Accountant is setting realistic expectations. Acknowledge that difficult clients are an inevitable part of the journey, allowing you to approach your work with a sense of preparedness and resilience. 

This awareness will help prevent unnecessary disappointment and frustration.  Why would you want to prevent unnecessary disappointment and frustration?  Because those feelings lead to ineffective action as you’re trying to get your accounting work done.

And lastly, Smarter Accountants are committed to continuous learning and self-evaluation. Reflect on your interactions, especially with challenging clients. 

Regularly evaluate your policies and procedures, making adjustments to enhance communication and establish clearer boundaries.

As you integrate some of these insights, you’re not just mastering the art of dealing with difficult clients; you’re fostering a more meaningful and productive approach to your accounting practice. 

Navigating the complexities of client relationships is ongoing, and by embracing these strategies, you position yourself to thrive, no matter how many difficult clients you deal with.  

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me as I shared how to deal with difficult clients.  I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tools.

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, you can simply go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com/calendar and book a free session with me.

I’ll explain The Smarter Accountant 6-week Program and how you can apply it to whatever you’re struggling with.

Make sure you check back each week as I help you go from being a stressed accountant to a Smarter Accountant.

Make sure you go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com and take The Smarter Accountant Quiz. You’re going to want to know if you’ve been underutilizing your accountant brain so that you have a starting point for becoming a Smarter Accountant.

Also, I would appreciate it if you could get the word out to other accountants about this podcast.  The more accountants find out about it, the more we can begin to change the narrative in the accounting profession.

The truth is that you’re already smart, but this podcast will show you how to be smarter.

The Snow Globe Effect

As an accountant, we often find ourselves standing at the crossroads of decisions – big and small. Whether it’s choosing to pursue a new job, navigating the complexities of work-life balance, or even deciding what to have for dinner, decisions are an integral part of our daily lives. 

Yet, it’s not uncommon to experience a wave of doubt and regret after making a choice. For example, have you ever taken a new job and then wondered if it was the right move? Or have you ever struggled with the guilt of missing a school event for your child while juggling a demanding work schedule?

Studies have shown that since the pandemic, more of us are grappling with making decisions. In fact, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association published in October 2021, 32% of adults in the United States struggled to make basic decisions, such as what to wear, due to COVID-19-induced stress. 

Of course, regret was a pervasive emotion long before the pandemic, but we all had more big decisions to make than ever before. 

In another study, regret was found to be the second-most frequently mentioned emotion in everyday conversation (after love). Romantic regrets tend to be most common, and those centered on social relationships in general are felt more strongly than nonsocial ones — lending credence to the saying that nobody on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time working. 

Regret is one of those nagging feelings that creeps in after we’ve committed to a path, leaving us questioning our choices and wondering if the grass might be greener on the other side. 

Whether it’s decisions we make personally or professionally, we have a lot of pressure put on us to make the best decisions possible.  Society can make us feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders when it comes to the decisions we make about our lives and our careers.

A few years ago, my husband was grappling with the aftermath of a career decision so we coined the term the “snow globe effect” which I’m going to explain in a second.  We still use it today, and it’s become a great reminder of our brain’s role in making decisions and dealing with them once they’re made.  

I promise that no matter what your decision-making experience has been, you’re going to find this episode informative and enlightening.

Understanding The Snow Globe Effect

Imagine, for a moment, the classic snow globe sitting peacefully on a flat surface. It’s typically a decorative piece – a plastic bubble filled with water and glitter, showcasing a serene scene within. 

When undisturbed, it presents a clear, unobstructed view. But, as soon as you shake it up, the glitter swirls, creating a captivating but chaotic scene. 

The interesting thing is that the same thing happens in our brains.  

The truth is that our brains, like these snow globes, can be in a state of serene stillness when we’re going about our day. But then, someone says something or does something that becomes the equivalent of shaking the snow globe. 

Suddenly, our thoughts are clouded, swirling with doubts, regrets, and anxieties. It’s as if a snow storm of negative thoughts has been unleashed, obscuring the clarity we once had.

As I mentioned before, my husband was dealing with a situation where he had left his job for over 20 years and was starting to have decision regret once he started the new job.  When something was different or challenging about the new job, his brain would start swirling with thoughts of the past and how he might have made the wrong choice to leave his former job.

There were times when he could see he made a good choice, but there were other times when his brain was clouded with so many “what if” scenarios.  We began to use the analogy of the snow globe whenever his brain was swirling with negative thoughts about the new job saying, “You shook your snow globe, didn’t you?” 

It was our playful way of acknowledging those moments when the mental glitter starts to swirl, clouding clarity of our thoughts.  Every time he shook the snow globe, he experienced decision regret, making it challenging to look for all the ways that his earlier decision to leave his job was the right one.

The beauty of this metaphor, though, lies in the realization my husband had in the aftermath of this mental storm. He called me one day, saying, “I just realized something – if I’m the one picking up the snow globe and shaking it, I can also put it down and let it settle down.” 

In that moment, he grasped a fundamental truth – the power of choice in managing our thoughts.  Once he chose to leave the snow globe on the table, he not only started liking his new job more, but he laughed about how he should have left his former job earlier.

Snow Globe Moments

So now it’s your turn – think about a time when you’ve “shaken the snow globe” of your mind.  When have you been perfectly fine with a decision you made, going about your day and then all of a sudden your mind is swirling with negative, regret-filled thoughts.

Maybe you ended a relationship that wasn’t serving you well. Initially, you felt relieved and confident in your choice. Suddenly, days later, you find yourself overwhelmed with doubts and wondering if you made a mistake, especially when you miss certain aspects of the relationship.

Or maybe you made a significant financial investment based on careful research and analysis. At first, you felt confident in your decision. However, as market fluctuations occur, you begin to doubt your choices, questioning whether you should have invested differently.

Or perhaps you worked hard to become an accountant, doing everything to get the best education possible.  In the beginning you felt excited about your career choice, but now you’re questioning whether this is the right path for you.

It’s quite amazing when it happens, isn’t it? One minute you’re looking for all the ways that your decision was the right one, and the next, you’re trying to figure out a way to undo the decision.

I’ll never forget when this happened to me when I was divorcing my first husband.  I was very confident in my decision to divorce him, but one day things were very challenging with balancing my job, the kids, and being a single mom.

I remember thinking, “Did I make the right decision?”  I didn’t realize it then, but that’s when I shook the snowglobe and started thinking about things like the people who said I shouldn’t get divorced, about how I was ever going to manage everything financially, and how I had no idea how the divorce would affect the kids.

When the snow globe was on a table and the beautiful scene inside of me being financially secure and the kids thriving was visible, everything was great.  But once I shook that snow globe and began questioning my decision, everything became clouded over with confusion.

Have you ever had that happen, whether it’s a professional or personal decision?  Thankfully, like my current husband shared when he called me that day, if you’re the one shaking the snow globe, you can also be the one to put it down.

Navigating the Snow Globe – What to Do About It

No matter what twists and turns we’re dealing with in our lives, there exists a powerful tool within our grasp – the power of choice. Just as we choose our paths in the outside world, we hold the power to decide how we navigate the paths within our minds. 

Imagine reaching for that snow globe, recognizing that it’s within your control to shake it or leave it.  You get to be in control over your thoughts, feelings, and reactions. 

By doing so, we learn how to live more intentionally and how to have our own back when we’ve made decisions.  The truth is that your primitive, Toddler brain is motivated to keep things the same, so when making a decision that could change things for you, it will want to shake the snow globe, making you want to go back to what’s familiar.

Your primitive, Toddler brain wants what’s familiar, even if what’s familiar isn’t in your best interest.  In other words, my husband’s Toddler brain would rather have him go back to the old job than take on all the challenges of a new job.

It would rather he shakes the snow globe and regrets changing things than pushing himself out of his comfort zone, even if it means eventually making more money and making advancements in his career.  The funny thing is that it’s now been 4 years since he stopped shaking the snow globe and he’s so happy he put it down.

He’s much more successful in his new job and laughs about how tricky his brain was back then.  He now sees the power of the snow globe effect in many areas of his career and life as well.

As I’ve shared on this podcast, when you learn how to manage your mind, you can manage everything else.  You need to recognize your ability to be in charge of your Toddler brain by using your higher, Supervising Parent part of your brain more often.

So the question then becomes – do we shake or do we not shake?

In other words, do we succumb to the turbulence our Toddler brain creates, allowing negative thoughts to swirl uncontrollably? Or do we exercise the power of our higher brain, making the conscious choice to navigate the storm with intentionality?

Most of us don’t realize we’re shaking the snow globe continuously.  We’re complaining about the same situation or questioning the same decision, over and over.

We’re obstructing the clear view we could otherwise enjoy, without realizing that we could just let the mental glitter settle.  We can continue creating chaos or clarity – it’s truly up to us.  

The next time you grapple with a decision or a situation, consider a Shakespeare spirited question and ask yourself: “To shake or not to shake…that is the question.”  This question showcases our ability to manage the snow globe effect. 

Its simplicity lies in recognizing that, despite external factors, the power to shake or not to shake lies squarely within our hands.

Another reason it’s important to get a handle on the snow globe effect is that our thoughts, much like the swirling glitter in a snow globe, have a direct impact on our emotions. Recognizing this connection allows us to have much more control over how we feel.

And why does having control over our feelings matter?  Because our feelings drive our actions.

If you want to be effective at your job as an accountant, you need to have a better handle on the feelings driving your actions.  In other words, if you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or frustrated, those feelings are going to drive completely different actions than if you felt calm, focused, and in control.

The truth is that our thoughts, feelings, and actions are always our choice.  No matter what’s going on outside the snow globe, we always have the choice to pick it up, shake it, and create chaos, or put it down and enjoy the peaceful view.

Becoming a Smarter Accountant: Successfully Handling The Snow Globe Effect

Navigating the snowglobe effect isn’t just about personal choices; it extends to our professional lives as well. Whether you’re in public or private accounting, the lessons from the snow globe can be transformative. 

For example, one of my coaching clients found herself in a financial decision that left her questioning her choices. The pressure of managing her company’s budgets and making critical financial calls was taking a toll on her mental state. 

When we started working together she realized that she often shook the snow globe when she felt uncertain.  By first becoming aware of what triggered her to shake the snow globe and acknowledging the power of choice, she learned to navigate her thoughts, intentionally calming the storm within. 

Today, she approaches financial decisions with newfound confidence, understanding that, just like a snow globe, her mind can stay settled whenever she needs it to be.  

Another client is an entrepreneur and was facing a pivotal moment in his business when he had to decide whether to shift gears or stay on his current course. The weight of this decision brought on many moments of doubt and regret. 

By becoming a Smarter Accountant and understanding the snow globe effect, he recognized the power to put the snow globe down when his mind was swirling.  Once he gained clarity, he successfully navigated the business pivot, using the snow globe analogy as a tool to assess the impact of decisions on his thoughts, feelings, and action.  

In fact, the snow globe effect became a guiding principle, enabling him to move forward with confidence.

Another client of mine was standing at a career crossroads, torn between staying in her current job or exploring new opportunities. Her feelings of possible decision regret were affecting her daily life. 

By working together, she embraced the concept of choice and the snow globe effect. She realized that she could be much more intentional with her choices.  

She learned to put down her mental snow globe and let it settle. This newfound perspective empowered her to make career decisions with a clearer mindset, ultimately leading to much better career fulfillment.

Hopefully you can see that these client’s stories illustrate that the snow globe effect isn’t limited to personal decisions; it affects every area of our lives. Becoming a Smarter Accountant involves recognizing your mental snow storms, leveraging the power of choice, and allowing the settled clarity to guide decision-making. 

The truth is that the snow globe analogy can become a powerful tool to help you deal with uncertainty and the confusion that often comes with it.  

Here’s a simple guide to help you implement this analogy into your decision-making process:

Recognize the Shakes – Identify moments when your thoughts feel unsettled or negative.

Acknowledge that you’re shaking your mental snow globe, leading to possible decision regret.

Embrace the Power of Choice – Understand that you have the power to choose how you handle your thoughts.  Remind yourself that just like putting the snow globe down, you can have much more control over your state of your mind.

Pause and Breathe – When faced with decision regret or negative thoughts, take a moment to pause.  Create a space of awareness rather than reaction.  

Visualize Your Snow Globe – Picture the swirling thoughts and recognize that, with intentional choices, you can calm the mental storm.  Like my husband realized, if you’re the one shaking the snow globe, you’re also the one that can put it down.

Settling the Snow Globe – Decide not to let negative thoughts swirl endlessly.  Picture gently placing your mental snow globe back on the flat surface, allowing the glitter to settle.

Choose Your Perspective – Consider the consequences of allowing negative thoughts to dominate versus choosing a calmer mindset.  Ask yourself whether shaking the snow globe is helpful or not and consciously decide on your perspective.

Focus on Positive Aspects – Actively look for positive aspects related to the decision causing regret.  Seek reasons why your initial choice was the right one, allowing a more optimistic outlook.

Learn from Each Shake – Understand that shakes are part of life, and each one brings an opportunity to learn.  Reflect on what triggered the shake and how you can navigate similar situations more effectively in the future.

Practice Mindful Decision-Making – Approach decisions with mindfulness, considering the long-term impact on your mental well-being.  Be intentional about the choices you make and the thoughts you allow to shape your perspective.

Share the Metaphor – Introduce the snow globe effect to friends, family, or colleagues.

Encourage conversations around navigating decision regret and the power of choice using this relatable metaphor.

I promise you that by integrating these steps into your daily life, you can transform the way you handle decision regret and negative thoughts. You’ll learn how to put the snow globe down and just enjoy the view.

Well, that’s what I have for you.  Thank you for joining me as I shared the snow globe effect.  I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tools.

If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, you can simply go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com/calendar and book a free session with me.

I’ll explain The Smarter Accountant 6-week Program and how you can apply it to whatever you’re struggling with.

That’s what I have for you, but make sure you check back each week as I help you go from being a stressed accountant to a Smarter Accountant.

Make sure you go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com and take The Smarter Accountant Quiz. You’re going to want to know if you’ve been underutilizing your accountant brain so that you have a starting point for becoming a Smarter Accountant..

Also, I would appreciate it if you could get the word out to other accountants about this podcast.  The more accountants find out about it, the more we can begin to change the narrative in the accounting profession.

The truth is that you’re already smart, but this podcast will show you how to be smarter.