5 tips for conquering the tax season marathon
What do tax season and a 1,001-mile bicycle race have in common?
More than you might think.
So says Greg Conderacci. The Business Learning Institute senior fellow is also an accomplished long-distance cyclist, and he says weary tax preparers can learn a lot from the 1001 Miglia Italia, one of the world's longest bike races.
"For years, I have found that business and, indeed, life imitate ultra-long-distance cycling," Conderacci writes. "All three activities are largely mental games. All three can strain the limits of endurance to the breaking point –- and beyond. All three demand a high level of decision-making while tolerating pain and exhaustion. And, finally, all three create profound insights into your character."
Tax season does those things, too, and it's fast approaching. Time to prepare.
Here's what the race taught Conderacci:
Lesson No. 1: Prepare to speak their language
There was more to the race than physical training. Conderacci had to learn Italian before climbing on his bike.
"Are you speaking your clients’ language?" he asks. "Do you know what their expectations and needs are in advance of tax season?"
Lesson No. 2: Pace yourself
"From the gun, the Italians in the pack tear down the road at more than 25 mph, as if the race is 25 miles and not 40 times that long. With the adrenalin pumping, the temptation is to follow -– and burn out early," Conderacci says. "... It’s difficult to do, but developing a work plan before the season and sticking to it can mean the difference between an exhausted, stressful first quarter and a sane one."
Lesson No. 3: Don’t ride alone
"Any bicycle racer can tell you: A pack can move faster, longer than an individual rider," he says. "The stresses of the season are best shared. Fight the temptation to 'go into the cave' and work alone. Find 'energy buddies' who will support you -– and whom you can support.
Lesson No. 4: Know where you are
There were few route signs and landmarks to follow during the Italian race, so Conderacci adjusted his strategy accordingly: "It’s clear that it’s better to go a little slower and not get lost than to go too fast and head miles out of the way. ... Understand that, at times, the workload may seem insurmountable. Slow down and look at the map. Remind yourself that, if you just keep going, steadily and surely, you will finish the race."
Lesson No. 5: Rest and recover
It was tempting for Conderacci to forego sleep in an effort to keep up with his competitors.
"However, ahead lies some of the steepest climbs and sharpest descents. Corkscrew roads with marginal surfaces that had been featured in this year’s Giro d’Italia. Not the kind of road to tackle half-asleep. I check into a bed-and-breakfast and sleep for six hours, which moves me far back into the pack. But I ride well the last day of the race and finish healthy."
The lesson? "Even in April, sleep is good," he writes. "It can save you from making the kind of mistakes that cost clients money and you a good reputation."
What do you do to survive tax season? Let us know, then check out these related resources:
- MACPA professional issues updates: Find one near you
- Advanced Tax Institute, Nov. 1-5: Day 1: Current events | Day 2: Business tax issues | Day 3: Estate planning issues | Day 4: State and local taxes | Day 5: Real estate and partnerships
- Nov. 5: Don Farmer's Corporate/Business Income Tax Workshop
- Nov. 18-19: Don Farmer's Individual Income Tax Workshop
- Dec. 3: Don Farmer's 2010 Tax Update