Posted May 08, 2018
| Updated May 23, 2022

CPA Burnout is Real: Take These 5 Steps to Push Through

Are you distancing yourself from relationships, feeling a loss of personal accomplishment or just overall suffering from emotional exhaustion? You could be on the dangerous road to CPA burnout.

Whether your accounting firm is just starting out or growing by leaps and bounds, running your own business can be extremely stressful. You may never have imagined that your entrepreneurial dream could turn into an entrepreneurial nightmare, but CPA burnout is real.

Running your own CPA business means being all things to all aspects of your business. Not only are you the boss (the buck does stop with you), you’re the accounting expert, manager, marketer, quality control department and more. No wonder CPA burnout is so prevalent. Here are five tips to help you avoid burning out before your light gets a chance to shine.

1. Keep a Journal

For a few weeks, make the effort to write down how you spend your time. Be honest and record how much time each task takes. Even if you know it’s taking longer than it should, record the minutes or hours involved. Later, review the records and decide which tasks are taking longer than they should and what tasks you feel you are you wasting time on. Make sure you also consider the importance of the task to your business and whether or not you feel the outcome would have been the same if you had not taken that amount of time to perform the task. Also, make note of which tasks consistently get pushed to the bottom of your “to-do” list. Finally, make a special mark next to the tasks you think may be contributing to your feelings of CPA burnout.

2. Prioritize All Your Efforts

Once you’ve reviewed your activities for the past few weeks, go back over all of your tasks and rank them in order of which projects, clients and actions give you the best return on investment. There’s an old saying that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. Can you tell which of your tasks really need your attention, and which can be outsourced, delegated to an employee or simply dropped altogether? Have a peer or trusted advisor go over your tasks and get their opinions. Can you really justify why you’re spending your precious time doing certain activities? Are there some tasks that create pure stress because they’re not within your area of expertise?

For example, are you spending too much time on social media? Yes, it’s important, but you could be using it inefficiently or spending too much time on the wrong platforms. Make use of the analytics tools on each social networking site which measure things such as likes, shares and activity on your account. You should already have Google Analytics set up for your CPA website; check the specifics that show you which social media platforms drive traffic to your website so you can put your attention there. Better still, outsource social media to an expert.

3. Delegate

Sometimes CPA burnout occurs because business owners refuse to let go of any aspect of the business. As your accounting company grows, you’ll find it’s impossible to manage without bringing on additional help to ease your burden. If hiring full-time employees isn’t an option yet, try outsourcing certain tasks to freelancers or partnering with other businesses to offer services that are attractive to clients but aren’t in your wheelhouse. CorpNet offers compliance partnership options so you can offer incorporation services to your clients without creating extra work for yourself and your staff. Developing joint ventures with complementary or related businesses is a smart way to expand your reach without investing a lot of capital in new infrastructure, new hires, and overhead.

4. Strive for Work/Life Balance

You may never achieve the perfect balance between work and your personal life, but it’s still a good goal to take time out of every day for something non-work-related. Whether it’s setting aside 90 minutes for dinner and family time every weeknight or taking quick breaks throughout the workday to eat a healthy snack, go for a run or catch up with a friend, taking time away from your business can actually improve your productivity.

One study showed the highest-performing 10 percent of participants worked for 52 consecutive minutes followed by a 17-minute break—with those 17 minutes spent away from the computer. Another study suggests using a 90-minute routine to help you start and maintain productivity. According to the research, the human body operates on cycles called “ultradian rhythms” and during each of these cycles, there is a peak when we are most energized and a period when we are exhausted. You can try the 90-minute technique by working in 90-minute increments broken up by 20–30 minutes of rest. Obviously, there’s not one method that works for every person, but if you hope to avoid CPA burnout you’ll need to find some type of balance that works for you.

5. Build a Support Network

Finally, to avoid CPA burnout, it might be time to get some outside help. I’m not necessarily suggesting you find a therapist (although I do know a lot of people who get real solutions from their therapists). I’m just pointing out the reality of being an entrepreneur: It can be a lonely existence. No one but another entrepreneur understands all the responsibilities and worries you carry at all times. Bottling up emotions to keep your employees from worrying only accelerates burnout.

I make it a priority to make lunch dates and attend conferences on a regular basis to get out of the office and talk to other entrepreneurs. Not only do I enjoy the camaraderie, I also find talking to others jumpstarts my enthusiasm and creativity. Rarely do I come away from a meeting without a new idea (or five!). If you’re feeling restless, ask a trusted peer to meet with you regularly for inspiration or just some much-needed venting. You can also search for business networking groups in your own community.

Whatever you do, don’t let burnout get the best of you. Take steps to deal with the stress now, before it harms your business, and you’ll find a renewed passion for your business that’s sure to energize you, your employees and your clients.

<a href="" target="_self">Rieva Lesonsky</a>

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog She’s a nationally- known speaker, best-selling author, and authority on entrepreneurship, and for more than 30 years, she was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur magazine. Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs.

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