It’s getting to be that time of year again—heading into the holiday season and looking forward to celebrating with friends and family, while trying to stay sane with all the frenzy that comes with the territory. There is the push and pull between personal obligations and the need to wrap things up and make sure things are done right before the year ends.

Maybe you have holiday traditions that help you cope with the end-of-year stress. I kick off my holiday season on Black Friday—after getting up at dark o’clock and heading out with my niece for a quick stop at Starbucks, we then follow it up with a morning of shopping for the family we selected from our church’s giving tree. Reflecting on our good fortune and what small thing we can do to make someone else’s holidays a little brighter always helps keep things in perspective.

Such moments tend to be fleeting for those of us in finance, however. In addition to the personal stress tied to the holidays, the year-end close and prepping for the audit are also just around the corner. I polled some of our seasoned finance and accounting pros and asked for their best advice on how to prepare in advance and take some of the stress out of this season. Here are their top five tips for coping with the year-end chaos:

  • Plan it out: Gather the right team of constituents and stakeholders, and create a calendar that includes all the deliverables. Include some extra time for dealing with surprises—something always goes wrong. Remember last year’s unexpected audit requests? This time, you can build in some flexibility to the schedule and build off any lessons learned from the prior year.
  • Define roles and responsibilities clearly: Make sure your team understands the journey and all are willing to help each other. Understand who is doing what and be sure they understand as well. Every deliverable should have a preparer and approver assigned to it.
  • Communicate well: A well-defined communication plan is critical for success. Regular status meetings are a must, so schedule them up. Things change and unexpected issues arise. That’s part of the deal. Just be sure everyone knows the current status and can be flexible to re-focus as priorities change.
  • Conduct these reviews before year end: Do what you can in advance so that you can truly focus on the work at hand. Make sure you review the prior year’s SAB 99 and SOX deficiencies, ensure your current year reconciliations are up to snuff, and confirm that the high risk accounting areas have been reviewed. Be sure you have proper documentation to support the decisions that have been made.
  • Stay calm & support the team: Think about how you can support your team during this stressful period. There is no one-size-fits-all answer here; for some, ordering in dinner is what’s most needed while others would most appreciate a visit from the massage therapist for chair massages. What would be best for your team? You know your team and their needs!

It can be a slog to get through year end, as you look over past decisions, stumble upon gaps that need addressing, prepare for scrutiny, and hope you can keep surprises to a minimum. Get through it with RoseRyan’s “Checklist for a Smooth Year-End Close.” This handy resource helps you set up a proactive process. And remember, RoseRyan is just a phone call away—our finance and accounting pros are masterful at streamlining and making sense of the chaos, and are ready to help!

Pat Voll is a vice president at RoseRyan, where she develops our specialized finance and accounting solutions that take fast-moving companies to the next stage of growth. She provides strategic guidance to several practice areas, including corporate governance, strategic projects and operational accounting, and she manages multiple client relationships, develops new solutions for the firm, and oversees strategic and corporate culture programs. Pat previously held senior finance level positions at public companies and worked as an auditor with a Big 4 firm.