… from the bungalow

Procrastination and Tax Day Anxiety


printing calculator and tax formsSo here it is: tax day. Actually, it’s past the usual tax day because they gave us an extension until the 18th. And I haven’t started my tax return.

This past January, like in so many past years, I told myself, “This year, I’m gonna do it. I’m going to file my tax return in February. March at the latest.” And yet, here I am–again–in the middle of April, at the last minute, thinking about when I’m going to start working on it. I could be starting it right now, but I decided to wait, justifying it with messages to myself like, “The forms and papers I need are in the bedroom where Karin’s still trying to sleep. I’ll get my paperwork together after she’s up.” Only I know that we have plans today…

So begins the cycle of anxiety.

I think about the fact that we have plans today, which gives me a rush of sick feelings in my gut. I notice my fingers staring to flick, and I let out a big sigh. My mind immediately tries to go somewhere else; a sure sign of avoidance. It’s a sort of “fight or flight” response. Either push through the discomfort of this time-pressure situation I’ve placed myself in, or escape in my head by distracting myself with something else. I know it would be better (and I’d feel much better) if I pushed though it, but before I’ve even had a micro-second to think about that as a viable option, I’ve already fled. Off to thoughts of Facebook and blogging. I notice my nails could use a trim. Or maybe I’ll read that book for the upcoming staff retreat at work… Nah, I’m sure I’ll put that off until the night before, too. Blah.

I know why I do it. In February, I feel like I have lots and lots of time, so why bother with it right now? In March, it starts to come more into view, but it’s still very easy to find other, less uncomfortable things to do. By the time April rolls around, I’m starting to feel the pressure, but the immediate yet temporary relief of anxiety I get from escaping is too gratifying to look past it.

I know what effect it will have on me. Today I’m going to feel sick to my stomach, my leg will bounce, my fingers will flick, I’ll sigh a lot and I’ll probably be testy and/or depressed.

I know, I know, I know.

Yet, somehow, I also know that it will get done. This is a procrastinator’s worst enabler: accomplishment. If I’d had enough failures under pressure, I’d start to get the message that procrastinating is not OK. But I haven’t had that. Generally, things work out for me. I do have a bit of an issue with how well I focus, and while I’ve learned to cope with it with tricks, mindfulness, meditation and self-medication (caffeine), it most definitely improves when a deadline is at hand. But only when it’s immediately at hand. Any earlier than that and it just induces anxiety.

So I’ll make a list over another cup of coffee because getting it out of my head and onto paper helps. I’ll take lots of deep breaths. I’ll be aware of my feelings and mental escape tactics. And I’ll file my tax return.

Or maybe I’ll call H&R Block.

Are you a “procrasturbator,” as my little sister so affectionately refers to me? Does any of this ring true with you? What tactics to you use to get things done? Comments are always welcome! Please join me on Facebook. 🙂


Author: Chris

Introspection to a fault. College administrator, parent, soapmaker.

8 thoughts on “Procrastination and Tax Day Anxiety

  1. Ok, so why am I your polar opposite? The w-2s have arrived: do the taxes right now. I constantly fear what will come up if I delay. I think about things that need to be done, I like not thinking about them, so I do them.
    Altering Emily’s dress. I just wanted to finish it, get it out of my house and have it done with. It’s who I am. I refused to be ruled by time. Is there a gene for that?

    • Mary, I wish the discomfort of not having to think about a pending task was enough to motivate my butt into action. I have gotten better with this in certain tasks. And my tax returns are fairly straightforward. It’s not like they’re even difficult to prepare. Once I sat down to do it, I probably spent all of three–maybe four–hours.

      I think somewhere in my mind, I think that it’s supposed to take a long time, and so it does. I need to rethink my beliefs about filing a tax return. Remind me to read this post next February 1st.

      A gene? I’m not sure about that. I’m sure genetics have something to do with it, as do my upbringing, my astrological sign, my generation, etc. But the fact is, whatever the reasons, I chose to wait until the last minute. That’s on me. Maybe next year. 🙂

  2. I hate doing taxes so much that I always wait until the last minute, too. If the feds and the state owe you refunds, they don’t seem to care if you file on time or not. I suspect many, many people file late, but the IRS doesn’t tell anyone about it, or everyone would do it.

    So, did you get your returns in on time?

    • That’s an interesting point, Conrad. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

      I sure did! I e-filed my federal return Sunday a little after 11 p.m. and mailed my state return on Monday. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: All About Me(me)… | … from the bungalow

  4. We are both serious procrastinators. Even with stuff we WANT to do. Lame.

  5. Oh geez you are giving me anxiety. I started a business with an agreement that I will run it and my husband will do taxes. So I opted no to the tax class and decided its not my problem..until my husband decided to get a job that requires all of his time and the taxes are ” my problem” now.
    The quarterly taxes look like jibberish to me. I dont even know where to start. Or when– I have a 3 yr old who needs constant attention.
    Good luck to me!

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