My Writing > Stress Reducer Tool Kit

24 Mar 2005

Stress Reducer Tool Kit

Eileen Reppenhagen, QuickBooks ProAdvisor

March is the month to get set, get ready, and GO.

Those of us who prepare tax returns do what I call a ‘Tax Run’ which qualifies as a marathon from April to June when the last of the self-employed returns are filed.

I still envy the accountant I met who did not tell his clients that the deadline shifted from April 30 to June 15. He is finished by April 30 and takes time off in May every year. Every year I think, if only I had thought of that!

April to June makes up 25% of the year. I hazard a guess that 35%, 45%, or even 50% of your annual revenue is generated during this time. Do you lose yourself, your connection to your loved ones? Do you suffer from burn out after June 15 and spend July recovering? How are you preparing to win the ‘Tax Run’ this year? How do you train for any kind of marathon?

My Vancouver Sun Run Clinic Leader, Judith Hutchinson, is a fitness coach for marathon runners, and a marathon runner herself. I asked Judith, how do you train for a marathon?

Judith suggestions include:

Advance Preparation

  1. Have a plan; make appointments with yourself to train on a regular basis every week.

  2. Keep a log of how you are doing to reward yourself.

  3. Hire a coach, join a club, or run with a buddy to keep you motivated.

  4. Start well in advance in order to build your strength and endurance.

  5. Outfit yourself with proper gear, the right shoes and clothing, which will make a difference.

Training Routine

  1. Warm up your muscles before your exercise with short dynamic stretches.

  2. Start off slowly until your muscles warm up.

  3. Do intervals or speed work, and hill work interspersed with slow running or walking.

  4. Do cross training to give muscles a break and to develop alternative strengths as your muscles get out of balance if all you do is run. Good alternatives are weight training, swimming, cycling or cross country skiing.

  5. Stretch at the end of each session to increase your flexibility for the next training session.

Success Strategies

  1. Take breaks, days off to give your muscles and your body a rest. Muscles require rest in order to mend those micro tears that strengthen them.

  2. Obtain professional help if you have an injury, injury management is critical to your success.

  3. Get lots of sleep.

  4. Drink lots of water to ward off dehydration.

  5. Do deep breathing exercises.

  6. Eat a well balanced diet that includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

How many of those marathon strategies could we apply to the ‘Tax Run’?

You should know by now that I have a home based practice and some of my comments are based on the luxury of NOT having a store front office.

Advance Preparation

  1. Plan by making appointments for a fitness schedule at least 3 times a week. Plan to make movement a part of your day at every opportunity. If you are just talking to a client, suggest that you walk and talk to take advantage of every opportunity to move.

  2. Schedule your work. I’ve provided you with a work scheduler excel spreadsheet to use as a tool. Knowing what you have accomplished and what still has to be done will ease your stress.

  3. Build yourself a team. Build networks with other accountants, lawyers, financial planners, mortgage brokers. Hire a person to clean your house, maintain your yard, wash the cars and definitely hire someone to help with administration so you do the work that pays the most and delegate, delegate, delegate. If it’s taking away from you charging out at the highest rate, hire someone to get it done. If the garage needs cleaning out and it’s stopping you from being productive, hire someone. You get the point.

  4. Prepare you own tax return and draft tax returns for clients whenever they arrive, even if they are incomplete. You want to know how the software has changed and the only way to do this is to use it. Trying to figure out the medical schedule in the 2004 T1 should be on your list now, not in mid-April.

  5. Outfit yourself with proper gear. What do accountants need as gear? Well, it could be an exercise ball to sit on. Clients love to joke that their accountant is ‘on the ball’. It could be a few weights and a rubber band tied to a post on the back porch. It could be air in the tires of your bicycle so it’s ready to ride, with the helmet on the handle and the lights in working order. It could be a new pair of runners with inserts so your feet don’t burn when you walk.

Training Routines:

  1. Warm up to tax season by making a list of everyone you plan to serve, tracking when their paperwork arrives the first time, when it’s all arrived for sure and when the return is picked up and efiled or mailed.

  2. Do you remember how hard it was to remember the procedures you used during the ‘Tax Run’ when an individual return had to be prepared in October? Start off slowly and find all of your notes and checklists, put them within reach and move other projects out of the way. Organize your space effectively at the beginning of the season so everything you use all the time is within easy reach.

  3. Look at your task list every day. Plan to accomplish at least one thing each day that you know you can complete. Prioritize your work based on: “what will bring harm to me or someone else if I do not accomplish this today, what needs to be done, but not right now and what can I cross off the list because it’s never going to get done”.

  4. Cross training. Take breaks. One accountant I know takes every Wednesday afternoon off to golf. Nothing stops him; he has a date with the golf course. It could be a workout at the gym every other day. It could be walking the dog every morning, extending the walk by finding new routes every day. It could be a half hour swim at lunch time. Go out for lunch and don’t come back in the afternoon. Go shopping. Don’t open up until noon. Give yourself permission to goof off!

  5. Learn to stretch your muscles. There are lots of Yoga classes around or you can buy a video called Stretch Pure and Simple from your local video store if you want to do it alone. Every time the phone rings, stand up and do some stretches while you talk on the phone. Stretching is silent. No one will know. Stretch your lower legs, upper legs, back, arms, your hands and neck. Breathe as you stretch. Your muscles need oxygen when you stretch. Stretching improves your flexibility, range of motion and balance.


  1. Plan to take spring break off with your family. Assume that all of your clients are doing that too. Trust me, they will not be calling you that week, nor will they call you on the Easter Weekend, which is the last weekend in March this year. When I first started my practice, I actually stayed home spring break week and Easter weekend figuring the work would pour in. Was I wrong! I learned the hard way when my clients appeared with suntans from Disneyland or Mexico. During April through June take days off in the middle of the week and work on weekends because it’s quieter. Turn off the phone and sleep in, don’t open the curtains. Provide clients with a secure drop area for dropping off their paperwork. Train your clients to make appointments, not to just spontaneously drop in.

  2. Getting professional help if you are not sure about something is critical. If you don’t know about the foreign property reporting rules, then mid-April is not the time to learn.

  3. Enough sleep will make a difference in how you view the world. My husband read something recently about how not enough sleep can affect your ability to lose weight. It seems that if your metabolism doesn’t get a chance to slow down, weight loss doesn’t happen. Apparently Thomas Edison never slept, he just took naps. So to each his own.

  4. Drinking water. My mother taught me something very valuable. I had to drink a lot of water for a medical test. She made me stop at a store for a drinking straw. It is so much easier to drink large quantities of water through a straw.

  5. Deep breathing. Oxygen feeds your body. Hunched over your computer for hours, your lungs will not take in enough oxygen for your muscles or your brain. Take breaks just to breathe. While you are breathing, look up in to the distance. If you are like me, you have placed your desk where you can look up at green trees, blue skies and eagles as they lazily spiral over a thermal just behind the house across the road. Rest your eyes by looking at the green in the distance.

  6. Eating habits. It’s really easy when you work at home to hit the fridge or the cookie jar. Plan regular meals with family. Take time to eat a balanced diet, connect with your loved ones, chew your food slowly, and enjoy a glass of wine. Go for a walk after dinner with someone you love.

May you walk away from the "Tax-Run" marathon this year being fit, healthy and ready for a holiday!






Eileen Reppenhagen, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Tel: 1.604.943.7414


Eileen Reppenhagen




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