Ask someone why they have an online business and they’re likely to flutter their eyelashes, look down modestly and say “Well, you know, my family is important and this allows me to spend more time with them.” Ask them about their dream and they’ll sigh and say “a six-figure business.” It’s possible to have both, but somewhere between business and family the priorities aren’t connecting.
The quickest way to find out what your true priorities are? Look at your calendar.
Look at it and think about how you spent the hours between opening your eyes and lunch and appointments and brushing your teeth before bed.
You have a noble idea that two of your priorities are your family and your dream of having a successful business. How much time does your calendar say that you spent on each? Go ahead and look. I’ll wait.
Did you look at your calendar and realize that you put off your daughter’s request to read aloud, you ignored your spouse’s hints at bedtime and you spent hours shopping for a planner but didn’t get around to writing a blog post?
Or maybe you worked from sunrise to midnight on aligning your sidebars and Googling business training, then consoled yourself that you were working on your dream and your family understands and when you-make-six-figures-you-will-all-go-to-Disney-World.
Hey, if you talk about your priorities and write them in your journal, but don’t live them in the daily hours, you’re fooling yourself.
Can you imagine how your child feels when he hears you tell your friends that your family is your priority but he knows that you were aggravated when he couldn’t find his other shoe because you wanted to finish answering emails? Or that you didn’t have time to eat supper with the family but you had time to make a new graphic for Pinterest?
Now I assure you that home is the best place for kids to learn that they don’t get everything they want and parents are not their personal assistants. There is nothing wrong with teaching children to wait and respect time boundaries. I’m not even saying that you have to give equal time to your family and your business.
I mean getting so focused on your business (because, after all, blog comments are more fun than laundry) that the house is in shambles and there’s no milk in the fridge and you’re constantly thinking would-those-kids-just-be- quiet-so-I-can-get-this-video-done?
Or maybe it’s cooking a full breakfast and running the school carnival and sighing I-wish-I-could-spend-more-time-on-my-business, which is a cover-up for being so afraid of putting yourself out there that it’s easier to be too busy.
Saying that your business is a priority and then putting off your newsletter and not getting around to posting on Social Media is a disconnect.
If you say your priority is one thing or another and you don’t live it, you’ll feel a constant, gnawing sense of guilt. Your brain will know you’re not doing it and it will cloud your thinking so that you feel like you’re going in circles.
Let’s not get all emotional about it. It is what it is. Step back and evaluate without a meltdown. Next, make a decision to live your priorities rather than just write them.
Get up from the computer and put in a load of laundry. Smile at your children and realize that they will be adults most of their lives. Make cookies and help with homework, yes, but let them know there are times when you work on business and these are the ways they can help.
Shake yourself awake. You might be wearing the “My Family is My Priority” t-shirt but you know you’ve been slipping. Your t-shirt might say something different but deep down you know you’re not living it and it’s time to get back to it.
You will be surprised at the clarity and relief you feel when you truly live your priorities.
It really comes down to the small choices. Determining to read aloud to your preschooler after lunch every day adds up to a lot of books. Making a decision (and following through) to write two blog posts a week adds up to 104 blog posts in a year. Figure out small ways to live your priorities and before you know it, you’ll be living your priorities.
There’s no perfect way to do this so don’t try. But stay sensitive to the small moments and think about where each of them leads. You don’t necessarily have to be the one cleaning the bathroom, but you’re the only one who can look into the eyes of your family and be patient and see things from their perspective.
Get rid of the vague sense of guilt by telling yourself the truth about your calendar. Decide what is really important to you, then actually do it. It’s so simple you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it before. When your calendar and your priorities are a good match, you’re on your way to that life you dream of.
**This post by Charlotte also appeared at KimGarst.com