Make a Plan
It is easy to hear people talk about things you can do to make your business work better (and it even happens in this space). It is easy then to agree in your mind that following those steps would help you grow and succeed. It is much more difficult, however, to put these things into action. This can be more easily accomplished with one thing – planning.
One of the biggest problems when it comes to putting those things into action is procrastination. You think that the ideas sound great, you honestly intend to put them into action, but it gets pushed back in the mind to happening after another initiative is implemented or it gets a ‘next year’ appended onto it. When something lives in a mythical time period, actually making it happen is likely to also remain a myth.
So instead, what exactly are you planning?
It is fine if you read a great bit of business advice but are not in a spot to put it into action. That can certainly be a legitimate situation. Are you putting other things into action, though? There can be first steps, but they are only first steps if you actually take them. Forward momentum is critical, but also impossible to accomplish if no steps are being taken in that direction.
So then, do these plans exist somewhere other than in your mind?
It is necessary to have some concept about where you want go in our business, but if it only exists in your mind, then you don’t really have anything to be accountable to. Simply writing it down gives you a visual reminder, though, it forces you to think about the step and adds that extra layer of accountability.
But then, do you have a time period for when it is going to be accomplished?
If you don’t want things to remain ethereal, put a deadline on them. Even if you aren’t accountable to anyone else or anything other than your own written plan, putting dates on that plan will make it more concrete.
And if you really want to make it more concrete, make that deadline earlier than you think possible. If you only do things when they feel comfortable, you will not be accomplishing as much as you could. Comfort is nice, but big steps are more often taken when you are uncomfortable. Would you rather be comfortable now or be even more comfortable down the road because you pushed yourself a bit, tried new things, and found more success because of it?
So push a little bit, make those plans, and don’t be afraid to try new things. The more malleable you are, the more chances you are willing to take and the more adversity you will be able to handle. It is easy to have good thoughts about where you want to go, but you can get there faster than you believe.
Be mindful, be bold. Then even when some parts fail (and yes, they will), you will know that you tried and that is easier to take than wondering what could have been. And it won’t be as painful as it could be, for you will continue following the successful steps.
Connect to Us ~ Facebook ~ Twitter
Take a Break
Running a business involves a lot of work. Running a business should also involve a lot of breaks.
I know when you are in the heat of the action, it never feels like you have time to take a break. I mean, why should you allow yourself down time when your to-do list still has a dozen things on it? Because taking that time will could actually get you through that list faster than if you force yourself to remain hunkered down.
Those rest points can be difficult because they feel selfish. If you take it as just a thought exercise, however, I would wager that most people believe taking a break when feeling overwhelmed or frustrated can provide a needed reset and help you perform better when you return to the task. Also, I think most agree that they work better after a good night’s sleep.
Allowing yourself to get one can be difficult, though, when that to-do list is not finished.
I am not going to pretend to have any experimental data to prove this point, but I truly believe that those rest periods make you more productive and save time in the end. I mean, I’m sure I’m not the only person who has found myself frustrated while fixing my own mistakes on a task I tried to accomplish when a bit worn down.
And now it turns out that small breaks, even ones that can be measured in seconds, help your mind process what you’re doing and learn better. I came across this in an Inc.com article written by suspiciously appropriately named business writer Peter Economy.
This article discusses a study that has found that taking a 10-second break allowed participants to enter a short number sequence they just learned faster than those who did not take a break. It seems the brain really does work better if you give it a chance to take in what you’re doing.
So when you are in nose-to-the-grindstone mode, you may feel like you’re getting a lot done, but you may not really be processing what you’re doing. Sure, this can be fine for some mindless tasks, but for the most part, the more you remember about what you did the better.
Recently I have written about the wisdom of delegating tasks and prioritizing getting help from others when you feel like you are doing too much. That is one way to give yourself a break, but now we also see that is important to give yourself personal breaks within the work you are taking on yourself.
All told, let’s consider this in the mode of self-forgiveness. There is a level of hard work and perseverance that is critical to success. There is also a level of rest and relaxation, however, which is necessary to prevent burnout. This can be small – I mean who doesn’t have 10 seconds? – but just keeping it in mind that not only do you deserve some rest periods, but that they are beneficial, is key to long-term success.
Connect to Us ~ Facebook ~ Twitter
Simpler, Not Simple
Seeing as the IRS has not received any large increases in budget or staffing, it should not be surprising that the number of audits on individual tax returns continues to decrease. This is a phenomenon that I know I mention from time to time, but seeing as audits will forever be a fear of the taxpayer, it must continue to be addressed.
This is then when I continue to state that the small amount of audits actually carried out by the IRS does not mean that it is worth trying to get away with something on your tax return. Think of this way – if you are facing an audit, do you want to go into it knowing that you legally used the system to your advantage or that there is no way it is going to end without you handing over more money (or worse)?
This recent article from Accounting Today gives a quick look at how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could be affecting the audit landscape, while also acknowledging it may take a few years before those ramifications are fully understood. It presents an interesting theory that the TCJA may have removed a lot of complexity that could trigger an audit for the average taxpayer and shift the percentage of audits to the wealthy (even though their total number of audits is also on the decline).
One could say this is a good thing because it made the tax system easier for many average taxpayers, which is certainly true in some cases. The system did not suddenly become simple, though, especially in the current financial landscape where more and more people are earning income outside of a regular, full-time job. Having someone who can guide you to make sure you are using the system to your greatest advantage while making sure your tax obligation is satisfied should still remain the best tactic for making sure you do not have to face an audit.
Consider it doing your part to keep those audit numbers down by doing what you’re supposed to do.
Fewer audits is certainly not a way that the IRS is trying to be nicer toward taxpayers, but it is an inadvertent advantage. The agency is doing other things, however, in an attempt to be more taxpayer-friendly.
In the wake of the draft of a widely revamped W4 form, the IRS has also drafted a new tax return for seniors and a draft for a new 1040 form. I don’t know how large an effect these will have as the amount of taxpayers who fill out these paper forms without electronic assistance is ever decreasing, but the aims are good. Again, simplifying things doesn’t necessarily make them simple.
Also, the IRS recently sent out communication that points people toward their Interactive Tax Assistant, which offers answers to many tax questions. Keep in mind, though, that the best tax answers come from those who know your personal situation, so never be afraid to turn to us when you can’t find answers elsewhere.
Connect to Us ~ Facebook ~ Twitter
Want More Time Off?
Welcome back to the work week after a Thursday holiday that gave many people a four-day weekend. It felt good, didn’t it? Wouldn’t it be great to feel that way all the time?
That type of feeling is something I hear about occasionally from small business owners when it comes to why they started their business. That type of feeling is something I hear about constantly, though, from those who are looking to start a new business. A little more freedom and a lot more time off is part of the dream goal.
The fact that that falls off as a consideration among those who are already in the weeds is a telling thing. This decrease is not because those already in their business are so thrilled about what they do that they no longer want time off. Instead, it is because going into business for yourself is tough.
I do not want this to feel dire. Instead, I want this to be a call that you don’t have to do it all alone. Chances are you did not go to school for law. Chances are you never studied accounting. Chances are you find data entry tedious and maddening. Chances are you do not have a nuanced understanding of marketing. Okay, maybe you’re lucky and have some experience in one of these areas. So many small business owners, however, end up doing all these things and more. More … you know, like the thing you really wanted to do and make a business out of in the first place.
If you do all these things, you are putting yourself in a time crunch that will feel unmanageable, and possibly really is unmanageable for there are only so many hours in a day. Enlisting help, however, can feel impossible because most new businesses are also in a financial crunch. But if you don’t get help how are you ever going to get that extra time for yourself?
And sure, maybe you do not have enough funds to bring on an employee, but you probably have enough funds to put out a couple hundred dollars a month and get an outside company to help you in one of those areas. That then will give you more time you can put into other areas of the business, make more money, and then siphon off another of those areas to someone else. Eventually you may then be able to afford an employee who can take some of the load from multiple areas, and just imagine the time savings there.
The vision many have when they start their own business is singular – I am doing to do this. But let me say that the small businesses I work with that are the most successful are the ones who have more tasks being assigned to others. And it is very rewarding to be part of those “others” that is helping them succeed.
So hold onto how good that time off felt and don’t be afraid to make moves to help you get there. And know that we are there to help you out however we can along the way.
Connect to Us ~ Facebook ~ Twitter
July 4th Miscellany
I am writing this in the midst of July 4th week, which means not as many people are going to read this one. But it also means that many of you are looking for something to do that will make it appear as if you’re doing work while sitting at your desk. So for those people, here are three quick hits so that you don’t have to pay too much attention.
In a story that seems to be constant rather than breaking news, the IRS is looking to hire more employees. The steady decrease in the agency’s workforce has been a story for years, leading to fewer audits and longer waiting times when contacting them.
It’s a problem I can’t quite wrap my mind around if I think about it too deeply. This is clearly an institution that the government needs to ensure it is funded and able to function. It seems to be an afterthought when it comes to budgeting, though, with a constant need for increased staff.
So what my mind always comes back to is don’t expect any changes to come about in how the agency runs until the story is that the government is making a significant effort to actually move it up the priority list.
Also this week came news that there has been some outreach from the financial community to the IRS stating that the new W-4 form is overly complicated and does not represent an upgrade for workers. Also add this to the things that I cannot quite wrap my mind around.
Is it more complicated, yes, but why does this have to be a bad thing? I mean this is the agency actually reacting to an issue and doing something that directly addresses the issue.
The draft version of the form we have seen certainly will take longer to fill out than the current one. Those who have complicated tax situations may even have to confer with a tax professional to get full answers. But does anyone ever say that tax planning is a bad idea? There is just going to be more information and more ability for more people to allow their withholding to satisfy their tax obligation.
Work is not something one should shy away from when it leads to better outcomes.
Finally, the IRS put out some information this week for those who make money through a hobby. The line between a hobby and a small business can be tricky. No matter on what side of that line you fall, though, if you are making money, the IRS wants to know about it.
That information can be found here.
This is one of those areas where things can be really gray. Like do you really need to report if you made something for a friend who paid you $20 for it? I’ll simply offer a shrug here as a noncommittal answer, but if you’re doing something that could become a significant sideline business, these are issues you at least want to think about.
But not until after burgers and fireworks. So enjoy your holiday!
Connect to Us ~ Facebook ~ Twitter