The week before last I began the annual slog through receipts and invoices and interest income statements, organising and spread-sheeting and preparing for our annual visit with the accountant. This week also happens to be the annual event where I berate myself for not having kept up with logging the receipts and the income, and the mileage. The week that I promise myself that THIS year it will be different.
And yet. It never is.
Each January/February I participate in this week of regrets and recrimination for how I’ve handled (or not handled) preparing my tax papers, and each year I promise myself that I will do a better job of keeping up. I will stay on task. Each first of the month I will be sitting right here recording all my monetary deeds. And I do. Until about March or sometimes I stretch it into April. And then it just stops. And I don’t think about it until sometime in October, with a grimace, but I rarely ever sit down to catch up.
Perhaps I can attribute it to nicer weather in spring. Perhaps I am busier in April than in the more wintery months. And perhaps whatever free moments I possess I just don’t want to spend sorting receipts between what is a write off and what is a household expense.
So this year, as I sat down to sort receipts from the last 9 months and that voice in my head started in with, If you had done this each month it would be so much easier to take care of now, I decided that’s it. I need to re-work my approach to the whole tax organising job. Clearly, I am not going to take care of logging all the stuff I need to do for my taxes every first of the month because I’ve been not doing it quite successfully for quite a few years now, no matter how much or how loudly I scold myself.
So I asked myself: how can I re-frame this, leave out the guilt and recriminations I hand myself every year, and just get the job done?
My solution: Schedule a week in late January to pull all my papers and financial info together. Make the appointment with my accountant to keep myself on task, and there, voilà, it’s done.
So of course, I got thinking about how many other areas of my life this approach could work on:
- What are the places and situations in my life that I consistently don’t come through in a way I’ve decided I should do?
- What are the tasks that I consistently avoid until it’s deadline time?
- Where and when am I berating myself when there might be a less painful and easy solution?
I came up with my list, and it’s actually not too long, and I’ve also come up with solutions for just about all of the scenarios. Now get this: in all these situations, I am just re-working what I need to do around how I am already doing it. No re-teaching myself new behaviour that I will potentially resist. No setting rules for myself that I won’t follow. No telling myself I have to do it this way, because so-and-so or such-and-such said it works best that way.
My best solution is to do it the way I always have and build in some checks to keep me on task. That’s it.
My tax spreadsheets are almost done, and I have to say I feel lighter, and happier, and am looking forward to finishing up the tax stuff and feeling that sense of accomplishment. And, the process has gone much more smoothly without me berating myself the whole way through. In fact, it’s taken about half the time it usually does.
So what are some of the tasks in your life that you might avoid and then repeatedly get down on yourself for? And, how can you reverse the trend, get the tasks done in a way that makes sense to you AND not be irritated at yourself?