The Day After...5 minutes and 5 questions to make the work of taxes, work for you.
It’s the day after taxes were due for 2017, and if you’re anything like me, you never want to look at another spreadsheet, receipt, account ledger, 1099, or email from your accountant again. Well, maybe a 1099, they’re okay.
But, I’m going to ask you to keep your files open for just a few minutes longer. You can shove your receipts into a shoebox and throw them into the bottom drawer of your desk and hope no one ever asks you about them ever again in just a little bit. I promise.
But right now, you’ve done so much work. You’ve compiled a year’s worth of information, dredged through emails and receipts and paperwork and invoices. You’ve flipped through your notebook and 3 different calendar apps to determine where you were when and who you were with and whether your conversation warrants a write-off or not. You’ve reconciled bank records with receipts and filled in any blanks with other forms of documentation. You’ve worked your butt off to make this deadline and meet your responsibility as an American and as a working professional.
Take five more minutes so all that work can work for you.
If you take the time to look at those numbers and systems that you’ve compiled in their entirety, there is so much to learn from them. With just five minutes and five questions, you can find yourself in an entirely and wonderfully different situation come this time next year.
It’s worth it, don’t you think?
So, keep your shoebox or desktop open for a few minutes more, and ask yourself:
1. How does what’s on paper compare with my experience?
You could have made so much more money in 2017 over 2016 and been miserable the entire time; or less and completely carefree. Or you could have been stressed in March, pumped up in May, ready to throw in the towel in September and completely inspired and on fire in November.
When you compare what’s on paper to your memory of your experience, what do you learn about what is really important to you?
2. What systems can I put in place in the next two weeks that will help me better prepare for next year’s tax process?
Perhaps you need a new banking or accounting system. Perhaps pre-paying your taxes on a quarterly basis would not have you feel the crunch so acutely come April 15. Perhaps you want to work with an accountant or someone specifically versed in your type of business. Perhaps you want to incorporate. Or perhaps you simply want to set aside one spot where all your receipts go, shoebox or otherwise – no matter what. (There are also some really great apps out there that let you scan receipts on the go and allocate them, but if shoebox works for you, go for it.) Or maybe you just want to learn more – ask around about how others handle their systems, and what works for them.
A few minutes of thoughtful preparation and research can help you streamline the system and feel more in control for next year.
3. What patterns do I see in my income or expenses?
All individuals and businesses have a natural ebb and flow throughout the calendar year. You might see that your new client inquiries come in at the highest rate at a particular time of year. Or your expenses significantly increase during specific seasons. If you are interested in making your business work well for your life, try layering your personal and professional patterns over each other and seeing how they work together. (For instance, if you work from home and your kids are home from school all summer, that could potentially impact your business. What do you notice the impact being?)
These patterns are important in considering your experience of your business. If you know that you panic when income is low, then knowing these patterns are common within your industry or specific business allows you the opportunity to adjust. Which leads us to question #4.
4. What strategic adjustments can I make in my planning that will help me leverage the patterns currently in place and improve my experience of my business?
As you’ve been planning and implementing for 2018, perhaps there are a few strategies that you’ve wanted to layer into your current business. Knowing your income and expense patterns can help you identify when might be a beneficial time to rollout those strategies. These strategies can range from knowing the best time to vacation, to when to introduce a new marketing campaign, to creating a new source of income for your business, and many more.
When you take the time to look at your year in its entirety and identify key patterns in your business and life, you can allow them to work FOR you, and create strategies that will help you feel greater ease and momentum throughout the entire year.
5. If I were to leap forward to this time next year and feel just a 25% improvement over right now, what would that change be specifically?
Tax season can be incredibly stressful for so many of us. It can highlight those areas of your business – be it income, cash flow, systems, organization, career choices, you name it – where we don’t feel completely confident or satisfied. But if you were to get specific and choose the most important area where you want to see improvement, what would that be? And what would improvement look like?
Go back through your answers to the above questions to better understand what is most important to you and what you want to focus your energy on going forward to help you see the change you most crave.
Please, share your questions, your comments, your a-ha's below.
And if you want to be in community supported by other amazing creatives making what they want to make in their careers, businesses and lives, join my Facebook Community Create Space here. Taxes - and many more fascinating topics - are up for discussion.