Ok, so when are you going to do your tax return? Come on, you’re reading this so you’re already on line, which is a start, and much as we at LivingwithKids love and cherish our reader there are times when you have to knuckle down to some proper work. So what is it that’s stopping you? If it’s not the tax return that’s weighing you down like a monkey on your back it could be sorting out your day to day accounts, paying your bills, even opening your bank statement sometimes takes second place to cleaning out the fridge or sorting out the laundry. So I asked Kim Stephenson, a financial advisor turned occupational psychologist who helps people tackle their financial demons, what it is that makes money matters so scary.
Money in general, and tax returns in particular are so bound up with basic issues like providing for our children, keeping a roof over our head and our status within our community that it is no wonder we find them frightening. Money is still the last taboo,” he said, “and the human reaction to something scary or dangerous is fight or flight.
“Procrastination is really just another form of fight or running away,” said Kim, whose book Taming the Pound, explains how we can make money our servant, not our master. “The reason procrastination such a powerful feeling is that usually flight works – if you can’t actually fight an enemy if you run away and hide it usually goes away. The trouble is, unfortunately tax, like death, never goes away if you run away from it and the consequences of avoiding it are quite nasty – they will track you down and they will penalise you so you do actually have to sit down and just get on with it.”
The trick, he said, is to try to reprogramme your brain and tell yourself that you are an organised person and that you do tackle things and get them done . It’s like giving up smoking – the only real way to do it is to say: “I am now an ex-smoker”.
It is, he admits, easier said than done but he does have a few tricks up his sleeve . So here are Kim’s ten tips to tackling your tax return – they work equally well for any financial paperwork you have been putting off:
1. Don’t beat yourself up for being disorganised – tell yourself that from now on you are a person who gets things done
2. Award yourself a reward for once you’ve finished – it could be a takeaway, a movie, a bottle of wine or all three!
3.Decide that instead of running away from the job in hand you need to escape the dire consequences of NOT doing it – ie the £100 fine for missing the deadline.
4. Realise that avoiding the job is making your more miserable than actually doing it.
5. START. Go online, log in, and face it – it’s already more manageable.
6. Work out exactly what paperwork you need to complete the job in hand – again once you know your enemy it stops looking so scary.
7. Set up a better system for next time as you go – it doesn’t have to be elaborate – a shoebox is fine so long as it’s a system you stick to and you know where everything is.
8. Keep going – the worst is over – even if you make a complete hash of it mistakes can be corrected – not doing it at all has far worse consequences.
9. Once the end is in sight remember how bad you felt before and compare and contrast – you are beginning to not only conquer your fear but change the way you behave.
10. Click send and reap your reward!