Taxed at work? 4 keys to staying healthy, happy, and productive


At the height of Daniel Moore's burnout, while leading a conference session similar to his June session at AICPA & CIMA ENGAGE 2024, he lashed out at an attendee in the audience.

"You know more than me," Moore recalled saying, "so come up here and teach it.

"I probably at that point knew it was time to walk away."

Walking out of a session is one thing. Walking away from his tax practice is quite another — something fellow ENGAGE panelist Chet Buchman said he has contemplated 20 or 30 times.

"We all go through real things, real struggles, real issues," Buchman said. "Sometimes it's good to just talk about it and share it and be a little bit vulnerable."

That's what CPAs Moore, Buchman, and Amy Vetter did during the ENGAGE session "Rethinking Tax Practice in the 21st Century: How to Stay Healthy, Happy, and Productive."

In the process, they shared four approaches for profession leaders to avoid feeling overwhelmed and instead feel more joyous in their journey.

"Everything that you're hearing up here is possible," Vetter said. "It just takes time and investment."

Take care of yourself

Moore, CPA, owner of D.T. Moore and Company in Ohio, reached his breaking point about six years ago.

"I lost the ability to dream within my firm, and it was negatively impacting my health, my staff," he said. "I wanted to do something for myself in a very selfish way to try to change that direction."

Four days of breathing exercises at a wellness retreat center in the North Carolina mountains turned into 100 days and turned into a way of life that began to turn around Moore's attitude toward his tax practice.

Vetter, who regularly leads morning yoga sessions at ENGAGE, enjoys self-care through exercise.

"It's whatever is going to bring you that moment of joy or bliss or freedom from the stress," she said.

Vetter, CPA/CITP, CGMA, is CEO of The B3 Method Institute, whose mission is to keep accountants — such as her youngest son — healthy and happy in the profession.

"It could be taking a walk, could be listening to music, could be sewing, could be taking pictures. It doesn't matter what it is," she said. "I've got a busy schedule, and I travel a lot. But I do not let that go, even if I have to get up early to do it."

Take care of your team

Buchman, CPA, CGMA, managing partner at Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Loyd LLC in Kansas, also values a commitment to self-care.

"I spend probably 30 minutes to an hour a day investing in what you would call self-help reading, nonfiction reading, business strategy, meditation, and thinking," Buchman said.

Finding an hour a day may seem impossible if you're struggling to keep your head above water, yet the panelists said it's essential to their newfound happiness. Buchman, in fact, eventually found 25 hours a week for his staff: His "Path to 45" project reduced staff's working hours during busy season from 70-plus to 45.

He readily admitted it took more than 10 years to get all the way there, but the incremental improvements wouldn't have happened at all if he — like an airline passenger putting on their oxygen mask before assisting others — hadn't worked on himself first and then passed on the benefits to his staff.

"It's incredible how much easier things get when you quit focusing on yourself," Buchman said. "But one of the hardest things to do is to quit focusing on yourself."

Vetter encourages clients to challenge themselves to be more vulnerable and transparent in one-on-one conversations with staff, earnestly asking employees, for example, "How am I making you feel during the workday?"

"When people start trusting you to be able to tell you the truth, that starts changing the relationship," she said. "The biggest thing is that your energy is contagious. If you start being too hard on yourself and that starts showing, then that energy transfers to the next person as well. It's really important that you're open to the process, and you bring people along with you as you're going through the process, hear what they have to say, and improve together."

The real impact of virtual boundaries

How, when you're short on time, are you supposed to find time to work on yourself and then find time to work on relationships with employees?

For Moore, one key to feeling like he wasn't always out of time was setting boundaries related to his "off" time.

"I attempted to stop and not look at my email on weekends and in the evening, which has changed my connection at home by not being distracted," Moore said. "I do get a chance to relax."

As a part of the process, Moore changed the email address he associated with things like restaurant reservations to a personal one to limit his need to access work email off the clock. He also respectfully discouraged clients from texting or calling after hours and found that when clients inevitably resorted to email, that was no cause for concern.

"I discovered that with most people, their thoughts are like little balls that are bouncing around, and they don't even remember what they sent in that email," Moore said. "So I'm like, 'Why am I wasting my time, my evening, my weekend stressing about it?'"

The Sunday litmus test

Although it may take months or even years to feel the full impact of making time for what's most important, Buchman can measure the impact by the way he feels come Sunday night.

"A handful of years ago," Buchman said, "I had a panic attack on a Sunday night. I just felt my heart racing."

These days, with the changes he has implemented, Sunday nights are much more pleasant.

"Sunday night, how do I feel about going to go work on Monday? For me, that's the litmus test," he said. "If I feel off or I don't feel happy, I take a look at my previous week, and then I also look at the next week. My previous week, what did I spend my time doing? Did I spend the majority of my time doing things that give me energy?"

To avoid a series of Sundays filled with dread, Vetter encourages clients to never lose sight of their pursuit of happiness.

"You've got to be brutally aware as a leader to step back and say, 'What do we need to stop? What do we need to keep doing? What do we need to start doing?'" she said. "We do that every six months in my organization because it's easy to get off track, very easy.

"We can come here, we can have great ideas, but it's the actual implementation and making sure you're staying consistent with it."

Editor's note: Those who purchased an all-access pass to ENGAGE can view this and other archived sessions and a new lineup of live ENGAGE+ sessions on July 17, Sept. 18, and Nov. 14 for additional CPE. If you didn't attend ENGAGE, you still can access this session.

— To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Bryan Strickland at

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