Friday, December 31, 2010

Zen Meditation Rituals

Tax season starts early for tax preparers. Catching up on all the new tax laws keeps my crowd busy from October on, sometimes sooner. By December 1st, preparations for the new tax season are in full swing: the new tax program is set up and tested, year-end tax panning extends the work day, and pre-appointments are set and mailed.

January brings the heavy workload of payroll reports and the first tax returns. Stress escalates as the demands on time rises; due dates loom around every corner make for long days at the office. And don't think performing at 95% will cut it. A 95% is an A in college, but a failing grade in the real world. Tax season is twelve weeks of final exams six to seven days a week and you are expected to get a 100% every day, every time.

Over my 27 years in practice I noticed a lot of tax professionals die young. Some live to a ripe old age, but all too many die in their 50s or early 60s. It also seems to me that many tax professionals die in early April when the biggest due date of all presses forward without mercy.

I attribute this unusual demographic to the building stress of tax season and the months spent locked in a room in a chair in front of a computer. If an animal were treated the way many tax professionals treat themselves someone would end up in prison.

The more vocal accountants seem to live longer; tax pros that beat the odds tend to exhibit a crankiness. Another type of tax pro that survives longer than the average is the one that learns to manage their time; no allowing the tail to wag the dog. I use several techniques to keep my sanity year round. Most days I take a walk in the park next to my office. If I have a ten-hour plus day, I take a walk.

Wisconsin can have nasty weather during tax season and a leisurely walk in the park is out of the question. I have a couch in a side room for a power nap, but power naps are difficult when a lot of things occupy the mind. This is where my secret weapon comes in.

Stress is the issue and sleep is not always the answer; reduction of stress is. I use Zen meditation rituals to reduce stress and get away from work for a while. Tax season or not, I use meditation. It relaxes and refreshes. Let me show you how I recharge with Zen meditation in ten to fifteen minutes.

Without any help from the boss (if you are not self employed like me) you can get a deep meditative break right in your office chair. Here is how: Sit up straight. Your back must be straight. Hunched over will not work. Your feet should be flat on the floor. Put one open hand in another and lay hands on lap. Touch thumbs to form an O with your hands. Close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Count each breath in and out as one, counting to ten breaths.

Racing thoughts want to intrude. Do not push them away. Acknowledge the thought, then set it aside. The breathing and counting are not a contest or a speed race. When you count ten breaths, start counting from one again. Read detailed Zen meditation instructions here.

No matter your job, or even if retired or unemployed, stress is a cancer to a pleasurable life. Take a moment out to relax and experience pleasure.

For the tax professionals that frequent this blog, I know some of your concerns. How can I take a break? I'll lose clients if clients catch me taking a walk in the middle of the day when I should be working?

To these arguments I relate a story from the mid 1990s. While attending a convention in Dallas circa 1996, Nick Murray, author of Serious Money, made it clear for me. He said that no one client is worth your business. The client is NOT always right, especially if the client is asking you to sacrifice your integrity, disengage your family, or put your health at risk. The biggest client you have, Murray related, is not worth suffering over. Life is too short for such foolishness.

Tax pros should take note. Clients want us to work twenty hours a day without a break and do it for a smaller fee. No sane person would subscribe to such stupidity. Over the years a few clients have left because I demanded a short break. Good riddance. My sanity, family, and well-being are more important than another hour of work.

Everyone needs a quiet moment, especially in stressful situations. Practice simple Zen meditation techniques. The other option is to die young.

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