There’s nothing like a deadline to jumpstart your motivation, so here’s one for you: April 30th. That’s the date by which your personal tax return must be filed and paid.

The good news is it’s still several weeks away! Plenty of time to get yourself organized and avoid the stress of a last-minute rush to file.

The key to making the most of these next few weeks? Understanding how to harness the power of motivation.

Motivation comes in waves

According to B.J. Fogg, a Stanford psychologist and the founder of the school’s Persuasive Technology Lab, motivation isn’t constant; it happens in waves.

Notice when you’re in a period of peak motivation and use it to your advantage. According to Fogg, don’t try to get everything done all at once – your motivation won’t last that long.

Instead, do things that make it easier to act when you’re feeling not-so-motivated. Think of it as the tax return equivalent of having a hot cup of coffee or tea within arms reach when you wake up.  

Here are six things you can do in your peak motivation moments to make tax time easier:

1. Get in the right mindset

Reminding yourself of how unenjoyable tax season is will only perpetuate the negative feeling. Try shifting your thinking to focus on how great it feels to be proactive and organized.

2. Break down “do my taxes” into manageable tasks

Every successful project starts with a plan. Write down exactly what “done” looks like, and the steps you need to take to get there.

For example: DONE is having all my receipts sorted by category, each in its own envelope. To get there, I have to check what categories I need (from last year’s tax return or call my accountant), buy the envelopes, and sort the receipts. Done, done and done!

3. Make a date (or two) with yourself

Don’t wait to have the willpower to get started. Schedule time in your calendar in advance for each of the tasks you’ve written down.

Be realistic about how much you can accomplish in one sitting. Consider breaking it up into a few hours over a couple of days.

4. Set the mood

When you’re ready to get to work, blast your fave music, light a scented candle, and have some snacks handy. Try to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. It might even be *gasp* fun! 

You might want to invite over a friend or two who also have tax organizing to do. Buddy up and keep each other accountable. Make it a tax party!

5. Work in sprints

Try using the Pomodoro technique.

Set a timer for 25 minutes and work uninterrupted until the timer goes off.

Take a five minute break.


6. Reward yourself

Give yourself a light at the end of the tunnel. Aside from the satisfaction you’ll feel from being proactive and organized, how might you treat yourself for your hard work?

Questions about getting ready for tax time?

Leave a comment below (I read them all!), say hi on Twitter, or send me an email at Oh, and in case you didn’t know…

I DO TAX RETURNS!!! Personal, self-employed, corporate – all of it.  Click here to get in touch.

Can’t get enough of that tax talk? Check out this blog about Incorporating Your Business.

Or if all this money stuff stresses you out, read this and feel better.


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