Jean-Luc Bourdon
Jean-Luc Bourdon

Trying to Get a Handle on Busy Season?

Here’s a philosophical approach.

March 1, 2010
by Jean-Luc Bourdon, CPA, PFS

Busy Season arrives with a flurry of advice and reminders about maintaining work-life balance. While valuable to remember, our frantic workdays make this counsel difficult to heed. Imbalance simply will be. Like an improbable dream, lifestyle balance at this time of year can only be attempted on a best-efforts basis. Perhaps a different philosophical focus can harmonize the work-life equation and invigorate us.

CPAs are well equipped for this exercise. In addition to being hard-workers, CPAs are by nature philosophers. Indeed, our ethics requirements imbue us with a keen knowledge of moral philosophy. On that foundation, we can build a purpose to sustain our efforts throughout and beyond busy season.

Our hard-work and long-hours are generally viewed as a sacrifice - something given up and lost. The balance paradigm says: If work wins, life loses. However, from a different philosophical point of view, a sacrifice is not given up to something else (and lost), but given into something else. It isn’t lost, but transformed. What we choose to sacrifice into is therefore worthy of exploration.

For example, the enormous efforts required in parenting change child and parent alike. Parents may gain patience, teaching skills and outward focus. In this context, the idea that a sacrifice represents a personal loss can easily be exchanged for the view that it brings personal transformation.

Change will occur, for better or for worse. Working hard to fulfill selfish desires will make us greedy, while working hard for the welfare of others (family or otherwise) will deepen our altruism. From the same actions, a different focus brings a different outcome.

As it relates to busy season, our efforts can make CPAs:

  • More knowledgeable;
  • Burned out;
  • Experienced;
  • Frustrated;
  • Giving;
  • Entitled; or
  • Any combination of the above … and much more.

The change is often unconscious and falsely deemed inevitable. We do have the power to choose the intent of our work and shape what we become as a result of it.

“Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievements of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source. And it is hardly necessary to argue for the view that our existence and our activity acquire meaning only by the setting up of such a goal and of corresponding values.”

Albert Einstein

Einstein reminds us that reflecting on the ultimate goal of our work is helpful in sustaining efforts. Each morning, each of us has a different set of reasons to get out of bed and go on:

  • Biological (eat breakfast),
  • Pragmatic (pay the bills),
  • Mandatory (fulfill our duties),
  • Strategic (accomplish goals) or
  • Spiritual (seek meaning).

The reason(s) we choose to focus on will be the catalyst for the longing, stamina, direction and rewards tied to our work.

Giving our work to things too small for our sacrifices will build frustration. However, we can make our efforts worthwhile by changing our point-of-view and expanding the reasons for which we expend them. The goal is to make sacrifices and efforts energizing from the satisfaction they bring back to us.

As much as we try to follow advice on lifestyle balance in order to maintain our good-cheer and sanity, we are not likely to exercise much, eat well, sleep enough and spend adequate time with family and friends during The Season. As Victor Frankl said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” We can make our hard work a bargain price to pay by choosing a high-enough ideal: bringing needed help to clients, building a career, providing for our families, becoming the person we wish to be and more.  


To solve the work-life balance dilemma, simply put more life into work and more work into life. There is no set balance to keep and no sacrifice to lose. There are only choices to make about why CPAs do what they do. Those choices will determine how CPAs direct their busy season and how it transforms them. As our professional ethics make it easy to view our work as serving a greater public benefit, embracing it and focusing on higher pursuits can add spring to our step as we rush to work. With that in mind, let’s get right back to it.

Rate this article 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor). Send your responses here.

Jean-Luc Bourdon, CPA, PFS is a wealth manager with Walpole Financial Advisors, LLC (WFA) in Goleta, CA. He also currently serves on the UW-Platteville’s Distance Learning Alumni Advisory Board. The AICPA’s PFP Section provides information, tools, advocacy and guidance to CPAs who specialize in providing tax, retirement, estate, risk management and investment advice to individuals and their closely held entities. All members of the AICPA are eligible to join the PFP section. For CPAs who want to demonstrate their expertise in this subject matter apply to become a PFS Credential holder.

* His opinions and comments expressed within this column are his own, and may not accurately reflect those of WFA. This information is being provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute investment or tax advice. Nothing in these materials should be interpreted as implying the performance of any client accounts, or securities recommendations. Bourdon volunteers as financial literacy advocate.