For more than two decades, tax season has been a big part of my life, so I have definitely developed a pattern to get through the busy time. Here are eight tips for you to consider:
- Exercise. I go into the season with some commitment to physical conditioning. From January through the April deadline, I budget two trips to the gym each week for a minimum of 30 minutes, and one weekend event of at least an hour. These activities always make me feel better – I release tension and get to see other people who keep me balanced. During the day, I may walk to a place for lunch, and many times, I will take a mid-afternoon walk around the block.
- Diet and Food. I will keep to a very normal routine for the three squares a day, but I also stock my office with all the food types that I know I will want to crave during the long hours of work. I stock several types of coffee that are only available certain times of the day as rewards for long hours of work. My last cup of coffee is often ground from beans for just the one cup. Afternoons are rewarded with Peanut M&Ms or Hershey’s Kisses, and I follow my energy levels, so I have power bars or granola to get some pickup.
- Clothing. My policy is business casual for the day. I like to look nice but not overdress. I make sure that everything is well maintained. I keep an extra set of clothing at the office just in case I do a “boo boo” and have a spill at lunch. On weekends, I wear jeans and a button-down shirt. I still have appointments, but can be more casual. On Sunday, I wear whatever I want because the office is closed to clients. I say just be comfortable; it’s your time to spend doing whatever you want.
- Sleep. I know that I do well on six to seven hours of sleep, with one night on the weekend with a bit more, so I always get my sleep. I also keep a notepad and pen next to my alarm clock, so that if I forget something, I can write it down and go back to sleep. I will routinely have clients commenting to me about how fresh I look and how I always have a smile. I cannot do that if I am starved for sleep.
- Sunshine. I try to be in the sun for a half hour a day, at an absolute minimum. It is just healthy and I feel better.
- Tools for the Trade. I equip my office with special things during tax season. For example, I have a Mickey Mouse card holder. Mickey is sitting behind a desk on a chair with a stack of paper on his desk. I have an Eight Ball, so if clients ask me a question that cannot be answered logically, I just go for the ball or ask them to do so. I have several First Pencils – you know, the big fat wooden ones? I tell the client I am ready to get down to business! I rotate my nice writing instruments during tax season. I also have a bunch of Hello Kitty mechanical pencils. I routinely will do work with them. They always bring a smile to my face because I have a daughter named Cat and we traveled to many Hello Kitty stores when she was growing up.
- Planning for after April 15, er 18 (for 2017, yes it is April 18). I find that I do better in tax season if I have some activities and events that I can do some thinking about, such as skiing in May and June, backpacking in Yosemite in the spring or early summer (the Falls should be magnificent!), and bicycling in late summer. With this kind of smorgasbord, it will give me some time while tax returns are printing, or between tax appointments, to take a break and think about something very different.
- And, the walk home. By late March and into April, I will limit my long evenings to two nights a week, usually Tuesdays and Thursdays, but it can be 11 p.m. or later. The four-lane street in front of my office will have almost no cars at that time of night. I can hear the Walmart truck, or a fuel truck, from 10 blocks away, barreling down the street at 50 mph or more in a 35 mph zone. I walk a block and then turn onto my street. Even though I live in Greater Los Angeles, my street does not have sidewalks or street lights. It always reminds me of growing up in Iowa, which was more rural. I will walk the half mile or so on my street in complete solitude. The stars and moon provide the light for my walk. No one is driving at that time of night. I get to my front gate and smile. This is the work and career that I have chosen. Sure, the hours are crazy, and there is some tension, but all in all, it is a good life.
I hope these tips help. Good luck!
Editor’s note: For more tax season tips, check out the article “20 Tips to Help Accountants Stay in Shape During Tax Season” by Karen Mattull.