Hundred-hour weeks, eyestrain, headaches, binge-eating of quick meals that often pack in as much fat as nutrition: Given the strain, what do preparers do to relax during this part of the season, when the workload starts to turn the hours to minutes?

“Not much,” said Enrolled Agent Laurie Ziegler at Sass Accounting, in Saukville, Wis. “We try to go out to eat one night a week for a break. I occasionally take a short, 15-minute lunch away from my desk in our conference room. I’m grateful for the 10-minute drive home from work at night to unwind.”

With reform looming and the tax landscape poised to change more than in several years, this season promised from January to thoroughly stress clients and preparers alike.

“I work about 100 hours per week this time of year. The only relaxing I do is going to sleep for a few hours,” said Trish Evenstad, an EA at Evenstad Tax Service in Westby, Wis.

For many preparers, kicking back is a matter of perspective. “I got my nails done today and that was a great hour,” said Helen O’Planick, an EA at HELJAN Associates in Manchester, Pa. “My best way to relax is to plan after-season trips.”


Blood flowing

EA Joel Grandon in Marion, Iowa, gets up and moves “at least twice each hour. On nice days, I usually walk for at least five minutes over the lunch hour to clear my mind and get my blood flowing. I also make time for lunch with a friend at the end of the week so work doesn’t become my only focus. I also try to get to the gym at least three times a week.”

WebMD recommends these one-minute slaving-over-1040s-at-your-desk exercises:

  • Do jumping jacks. If you're a beginner, try the low-impact version: Raise your right arm and tap your left toe to the side while keeping your right foot on the floor; alternate sides.
  • Run in place. Beginners, march in place.
  • Simulate jumping rope. Hop on alternate feet, or on both feet at once. An easier version is to simulate the arm motion of turning a rope, while alternately tapping the toes of each leg in front.
  • While seated, pump both arms over your head for 30 seconds, then rapidly tap your feet on the floor, football-drill style, for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.
  • Walk around the room as fast as you can. Take to the stairs -- two at a time if you need a harder workout. Do this 5-7 times a day.

“I schedule two late nights for client appointments only [and] have clients every other Saturday,” said EA Jennifer Brown of Implex Tax & Accounting in Clearfield, Utah, who exercises on a stationary bike at home.

“I take no appointments on Fridays so I can catch up on work that has come in during the week. If I need to, I work the Saturday I don’t have appointments,” Brown added. “Sunday, I do not check e-mails and my phone is off. I need that recharge.”

Of course, not everyone is feeling the crush: “This is my 37th year in practice, and I guarantee that had you asked me that even eight or nine years ago, I would’ve looked at you as if you had seven noses,” said Theodore Prioleau, an EA at Parkton, Md.-based Teddy The Tax Man. “Now, I’m hardly in the office on the weekends, even during the height of the rush. For instance, I spent about six hours on a recent Saturday, just watching television – watching television! – during the rush. And it was great!”

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Jeff Stimpson

Jeff Stimpson

Jeff Stimpson is a veteran freelance journalist who previously served as editor of The Practical Accountant.