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These days, we all have too much to do, and not enough time to do it all in.

Even leisure time seems to be fraught with the need to get to certain places at certain times, and our lives seem to need tightening down to the very last second to make sure we don’t screw up, miss appointments and deadlines, or simply let things slide.

This new pressure to perform well at all times can take its toll, and it’s more critical for business than in any other aspect of our lives.

When we work for ourselves, we lose out on a lot of the advantages of reporting to a manager. In an office environment, we have set objectives that need to be fulfilled each day, and when we reach the end of that list of things to achieve we pretty much know that the rest of the day is our own.

By the time it comes to five o clock, we are ready to go home safe in the knowledge that we have done what we needed to get by, perhaps a little extra on top, and we can enjoy the rest of the evening feeling smug and self-satisfied.

Working for ourselves is a whole different matter

The main difference between managing our own workload and letting someone else do that on our behalf is, when we set our own task list, it is never ending. Even if we say to ourselves, I need to achieve these six tasks today, when they are done we can’t quite let go enough to walk away and take the rest of the day or evening off.

If we know what needs to be done, and when it needs to be done by, we are in a much stronger position for making our business a success and also earning ourselves some time out to spend on other things than work.

I have a system in place with a colleague of mine, where each day we Skype each other and list the activities we need to complete for the day, in order to know we have done a good job for our respective businesses.

The following day, we check in with each other and tick off what we have done.

This works on many levels – we get to sense check our priorities with each other, and also it adds a little extra pressure on us both to hit our targets for the day. It’s making me more productive, and I wanted to share this trick with you as I think it’s a valuable thing to do.

A new approach…

When you have too much on every day, the best way to tackle it is to write a list, number it in order of priority, and tell yourself exactly what you are going to achieve, by a set timescale.

When this is done, you also need to reward yourself by walking away from your computer and taking time out. If we don’t have managers in place to do all this for us, it’s not too bad an idea to decide to manage ourselves in exactly the same way.

By taking control of our proverbial ships, and steering them in the right direction, we’ll get to jump off and go for a swim, from time to time!

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Section 9006 of the massive Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act will mean yet another huge paperwork burden for small business. It has to do with issuing 1099 forms; it has nothing to do with health care.

Beginning in 2012, all businesses will be required to prepare 1099s for all services and goods purchased from all vendors in excess of $600. Current law dictates that only services provided in excess of $600 must be reported via form 1099 and that corporations (with the exception of attorneys) are exempt from receiving 1099s.

Beginning in 2012, corporations will no longer be exempt, and purchases of goods must also be included. The passing of this legislation is an attempt by the government to close the $300 billion tax gap, which will help pay for health-care reform. So I guess it indirectly relates to the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act in which it was included.

Depending on the industry, many businesses must collect, report and pay over a variety of excise taxes, as well. How much does all that cost your business in bookkeeping and payroll preparation fees? Now business owners must report all business-to-business transactions. So purchases your business makes from Staples, Office Depot and other vendors are included as reportable transactions. You must obtain every vendor’s federal ID, track your purchases and prepare the form. This will involve many additional hours of bookkeeping time. It will be mandatory to get an accounting software upgrade because there will be a new form and new preferences to set within the software to track these numbers. It’s great for all of the bean counters who can double, triple and maybe even quadruple their 1099 preparation fees. But at what cost to the small-business owner who is attempting to recover from this recession and keep her business going?

Speaking of 1099 reporting, the situation gets worse. Beginning in 2011, all credit card processing companies must report annual credit card transactions in excess of $20,000 and 200 transactions submitted to them for processing by any business on a new IRS form 1099-K.

I thought there would be overlap, but just as I fretted about this possibility, the IRS came up with a solution. So pay attention! If you pay for purchases with a credit or debit card, you are not required to issue a 1099. The credit card companies will do so. No overlap after all. You are only required to issue 1099s for payments made via check or cash. So I won’t have to ask Office Depot for its federal ID after all. Because the format of form 1099 will change, we will all have to purchase the upgraded version of QuickBooks or whatever software is used for accounting and 1099 preparation.

It’s still going to be a massive amount of paperwork.

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