A small business owner battles pandemic procrastination to plow through the daunting chore of filing income taxes.
I always hated doing income taxes! Even during my first career as a staff accountant at a large bank, I hated doing taxes. I loathe the whole process even more now that I own a small medical practice and must spend 20-30 hours wading through piles of insurance remittances and expense receipts. When the federal government and my state extended the filing deadlines this year, I eagerly took advantage of that opportunity to avoid the dreadful horror of doing my taxes.
Now, as tax deadlines loom closer, I must repent for my sins of pandemic procrastination and disorganization. Throughout the year, I toss all credit card and bank statements, receipts and insurance statements into a filing cabinet drawer. By the end of the year, I end up with a gigantic banker’s box stuffed with hundreds of slips of dog-eared paper. Just the thought of sorting through this mountain of confusion triggers a mild panic attack.
So here, I share my strategies to muddle through the chaos of filing my income taxes in spite of pandemic procrastination.
Set an External Deadline.
My first task consists of scheduling an appointment with my tax attorney, who files the actual return based on my income statement and supporting documents. I purposely allow myself 2-3 weeks to sort through my tangled disarray of several slaughtered trees. Believe it or not, my tax attorney assures me that I am more organized than most of the small business owners he serves. I wouldn’t dare show him that banker’s box which I eventually transform into useable documentation. Since I don’t want to disrespect his time by canceling at the last minute because I procrastinated, I feel compelled to focus on the detestable task at hand.
Break Project Down into Chunks.
Okay, I suffered through this wretched chore of preparing my income taxes many times before. Having gotten a little smarter from past tax mishaps, I broke down the colossal project into small tasks that take 30-60 minutes. For instance, the first task is to sort through that odious banker’s box and organize the jumbled clutter into folders, envelopes and rubber-banded stacks. Then I review all my bank statements to itemize expenses . . . you get the idea.
Identify Your Most Productive Time.
I don’t get much of anything done before 9 a.m. That’s why my earliest appointment times for clients start at 10 a.m. At the end of my workday (usually around 9 p.m.) I’m not much good either. So, I aim to schedule tax-task time between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. before I attempt any other work projects. I can tolerate deplorable tasks better when I feel rested and focused.
Reduce Pandemic Procrastination with the Five-Minute Rule.
Although my tax tasks typically require 30-60 minutes to complete, I always start each one with the self promise that I will work on the task for five minutes. If I can’t stomach the task after that brief time, I permit myself to stop. And believe me, I gave myself a lot of permission during this pandemic year. However, as I gradually acclimated to the project, I managed to stick with it for more extended periods.
Seek Little Rewards.
After I complete each horrid task, I treat myself to a break in which I sit on my deck and enjoy a favorite cup of tea, a healthy snack and a peaceful view of nature.
Do a little Each Day.
Even if I only survive five minutes at a particular tax task, I still make a point to tackle the dreaded project each day. After a while, I start to see progress, which encourages me to keep at the daily pursuit and reduce pandemic procrastination.
Light at the End of the Tunnel.
Finally, there comes the point where I can’t stomach the sight of dog-eared receipts or scrolls of adding-machine tape any longer. Now I start the tax-task marathon. I set my goal that I will finish this distasteful torture so I can enjoy my life again – even if it takes all day. Fortunately, it usually only takes a couple of hours. Panting to the finish line, I focus on how happy I will be when I am done! My pandemic procrastination will finally be over.
It’s done. It’s over! I don’t have to deal with banker’s boxes, faded receipts or scores of confusing insurance statements for another year!
Of course, I briefly consider the possibility of developing a system to organize my banker’s box full of paper for next year. Nah! Will procrastinate on that til next year.
Image is under license from Shutterstock.com.
Video can be found on YouTube.