Friday, September 09, 2011

When Is It Time to Call in Help?

Tip of the Week, August 7 & 14, 2011

Despite being in the business of helping others, I'm the type of person who often finds it difficult to hand off tasks or to enlist the help of other professionals. There's just something in me that stubbornly insists on trying to be independent and tackling things on my own, even if they're boring or annoying, aren't tasks I'm good at, and take me a painfully long time.

But earlier this year, trying to do my own taxes--a complex undertaking in the best of situations, made even more convoluted by the intricacies of owning a business--finally put me over the edge, so I sent the IRS some money, filed an extension, and vowed to hire a CPA to take this weight off of my shoulders. I meet with him next Tuesday, and I can't wait. Yes, having him deal with all of my tax-related work will cost me money, and yes, if I had infinite time and patience (not to mention the desire to try to understand the tax code), I could do this work on my own, but it's time for me to wise up and acknowledge that it's best to enlist a pro.

Hey, All of This Sounds Familiar...
Here's the funny thing: I go through this logic with clients all the time. They're often convinced that they should be able to get organized on their own--after all, it's not rocket science (or the tax code)--if only they try harder or spend more time at it or just will themselves to do it.

But I remind them time and again that spinning their wheels or beating themselves up won't do them any good, and it certainly won't make them any more enthusiastic about doing what it takes to get organized in a lasting way. Why did it take me so long to apply this thinking to myself and my taxes? Both because I'm sometimes too stubborn for my own good, and because, like many of my clients, I had to reach the point at which trying to go on like I had was clearly not serving me anymore.

How Do You Know When It's Time?
When my clients email me or pick up the phone to call, they've often tried several times before to get organized on their own, to varying degrees of success, or they know right off the bat that the process will be less painful for them if they have someone there to lend a hand, whether that involves simply spending a few hours to help them get started or sticking with them every step of the way. But I never press anyone to work with me before they're ready, because I know the importance of reaching that point organically (see above!).

Generally, my clients know it's time to call in help when they don't know how or where to get started on their own, when they're tired of getting started but never really being able to finish, when they're feeling stuck, when they're overwhelmed, when they're bored, or when they've come to realize that they want to be more organized but just don't yet have the skills to make that happen solo.

If any of those reasons resonates with you, it might be time to enlist someone else to help you tackle whatever you've been avoiding or dreading, whether that's getting organized, undertaking an exercise program, or, say, finally wrangling your tax return into submission.

It's Not All or Nothing
Here's one final thing to remember about seeking assistance: it's not an all-or-nothing proposition. Find whatever balance of professional advice/assistance and do-it-yourself effort works for you.

For me, that means having all of my ducks in a row--my numbers crunched, my expense receipts organized, my past year's tax return at the ready--before I hand things off to Jason next week. For many of my clients, it means using our time together to plan, strategize, and deal with the most challenging or unexciting parts of their organizing projects and then committing to doing homework on their own to keep the progress going.

Whenever you might opt to call in help, for whatever reason, and in whatever way, I hope you'll find it as motivating and as liberating as I've found the prospect of finally enlisting someone to deal with a task I dread, and to do it far more efficiently and well than I ever could on my own. Here's to practicing what I preach, and to enjoying the same sense of accomplishment and relief that my clients do.