Why You Shouldn’t Wait Until Deadlines: Self-Assessment & Other Stories

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It’s that time of year that all self-employed people dread. The self-assessment deadline is looming, and if you haven’t pulled your finger out and submitted yours yet, you’re living on borrowed time (or something slightly less dramatic).

But what is it that makes us wait until the clock has almost run out before we start working on those important tasks?

If you’re someone who often wakes up in a cold sweat because you’ve once again left everything until the last minute, it’s probably not a new experience.

It’s likely you were the kid at school who was up until past midnight on a Sunday finishing that essay you’d had a fortnight to complete. Were you always the last one in the office to get that report in? Packing for your holiday two hours before you have to leave for the airport? Doing your Christmas shopping at 5pm on the 24th?

If you are, you’re not alone.

I have a good friend like this; always rushing around and stressed to buggery, falsely believing that she has less time than everyone else. It’s not necessarily all down to procrastination (although that does play a part)…she’s just badly organised, not good at planning, and seems to always be saying, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’

I’ve already had her on the phone this week, lamenting the fact that she ‘hasn’t had time’ to sort her tax return out yet.

Now, I’m not saying that she’s not busy, but, in business, time-management is a vital key to your success. Leaving everything to the last minute, whether it’s self-assessment, emailing back a client, or getting a product out to a customer, is nothing short of self-sabotage – after all, if you’re running your own show, your reputation is everything.

Ok, so this is the serious bit: take your deadlines seriously! They give you something to work towards, sure – you know when your absolute endgame has to be completed by, BUT instead of thinking of trying to meet that deadline, think of it as trying to beat it instead.

Keeping ahead of yourself will give you a lot less stress, and time-wise you’ll have a lot more at your disposal to concentrate on what you’re doing and do a good job of it, instead of falling apart in the fire-alarm chaos that you’ve created for yourself.

If you’re someone who never beats your own deadlines or, like my friend, lives life so close to the edge timewise that she’s in constant peril of plummeting to depths she’ll get out of, you’re probably no stranger to the ‘extended deadline’ or the ‘final’ warning becoming a ‘final final’ warning, or to asking yourself, ‘why am I being outpaced by my peers and competitors?’

The solution is simple (and a bit harsh) my friends: just do the work and get stuff completed ahead of time!

If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘yeah but, Sally, as long as things are done by the deadline, what does it matter if I’m doing the work the night before?’

I’ll tell you. Here are my top reasons why you shouldn’t wait until a deadline is upon you before cracking on with what you should be doing:

  1. You’ll be less stressed. Running a business can be stressful enough without creating more by not getting your arse into gear when you have the chance.
  2. You can cope better when life throws you a curveball – which it will from time to time. If you’re planning on doing your tax return on the 28th and then on the 27th your house burns down (extreme example, but I’m trying to prove a point), then sure, you’ll have an excuse as to why you haven’t been able to do it for the 28th – BUT, if you wouldn’t be in this situation if you’d done it a lot earlier.
  3. It really does feel great to be ahead of a deadline – being under one is horrible. When you’re ahead of schedule you’ll enjoy your work more, trust me.
  4. You’ve got time to make improvements. It doesn’t take a genius to know that if you’re rushing to get something done, you’re not going to do your best work, and you’re not leaving yourself time to revisit your work to make improvements or corrections.
  5. You’ll avoid penalties – whether it’s financial, like late fees, or extra work. Why impose these on yourself because you can’t be arsed to get started a bit earlier?

Ok, that’s the preachy bit over – but you know I’m only saying it because I care – and you know it makes sense. So get yourself a bit more organised this year and notice the difference it makes to your business (and your stress levels)…and, for goodness sake, if you haven’t already – get your f******g tax return sorted!!!

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