What I Should Do vs What I Do Do


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(Go ahead, giggle. I did when I wrote the title of this post)

To become a successful entrepreneur I’m supposed build an engaging blog and active media presence in the margins around my “day job”.  Those who have done this successfully are living testimonies that it really does work, but I’ve been struggling.  It’s taking a toll on my health, the relationships with my wife and daughter, and my effectiveness in everything that I should do.

Why? Because I’m not doing what they did.

Let me explain…

In order to be successful, I’m supposed to follow some recommendations.  I have a list of the most common recommendations the successful entrepreneurs who are killing it in the online space say have made the biggest changes in their businesses.

I want to emulate them, so I should do what they did to experience some of the success they have.

First, I’m supposed to wake up early

This idea came from Jon Acuff and has turned into a successful book by Andy Traub called “Early to Rise“. It’s supposed to afford me the extra “margin” to work on “my stuff”.  Before I can work on my stuff there are the following best practices and responsibilities shared by the most successful entrepreneurs:

  • Read my bible: So many people I want to emulate have said time spent in The Word makes a huge difference in their day. I agree – I used to do this. Spending as little as 15-20 minutes in The Word really did set my day off in the right direction.
  • Read blogs, leave comments, and schedule social shares: Michael Hyatt talks about his morning ritual of reading, commenting, and curating blogposts into Tweets that can be scheduled throughout the day. It helps create connections with interesting and influential people as well as his fan base. Some fans will reciprocate and visit your blog to post a comment. Comments make our blogs look more engaging, more alive, and thus more welcoming to new readers. Average time to be spent: 60 minutes.
  • Write a blog post: Google loves fresh content and my readers/viewers/listeners want more. Writing a new post every day is one way Seth Godin has become such a talented and popular writer. Average time to write a 300-1,000 word post: 60-90 minutes (on a good day!)
  • Exercise: Studies have shown that exercising in the morning is better than at night. It gets our metabolism going and energizes the brain. Another reason is because most people get home after a long day at work exhausted from performing at a high level and put it off for another day. Recommended time: 20-30 minutes.
  • Take care of the dog: It doesn’t take much to satisfy our Beagle. Let him outside, play with him for a couple minutes, and feeding him is all Cooper needs. Estimated time: 10-15 minutes.
  • Spend time with my wife and child before the day beings: What the heck am I doing all this for if it isn’t to be with my family? Spending time – any time – with my daughter before school gives her a sense of stability and security. No matter how hokey my send-off might be, she knows I love her and I hope that feeling is carried with her through the day. Estimated time: At least 10 minutes, preferably 20-30 minutes.
  • The Three S’s: The morning ritual should include taking care of personal hygiene and mother nature. Average time: 20 minutes.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast: They say it’s the most important meal of the day. Cereal and milk isn’t bad for you but I have found oatmeal with chopped dates is better. Tip: This activity can be combined with spending time with the family in the morning, thus 0 additional minutes to my day.
  • Drive to work: I don’t have a traditional commute, but the average American drives 25-35 minutes to work.

If my work day begins at 8am and I want to accomplish all of the above “recommended morning rituals”, which can take between 200-245 minutes, then I would need to set my alarm for 4:40am – and that’s only if I spend the minimum amount of time doing things like writing, commuting, and spending time with my daughter!

Where was the time to work on my stuff?

What I do do

My wife started working from home last year. This allowed her to sleep in and wake up at the same time our daughter does: 6am.  I don’t want to wake her by getting up any earlier, so 6am it is! (You can tell I’m really disappointed, can’t you?)

This is what my mornings at home look like:

  • I take care of the dog by letting him out and then feeding him: 10 minutes.
  • My showers are quick and getting ready for work isn’t a big deal. Let’s call it 20 minutes.
  • Check email: Important messages from clients? Maybe a good infographic to curate on Twitter? Oh look, here’s a notice that it’s time to pay the cell phone bill. This triggers another 15-20 minutes doing online banking and replying to important messages. Total time? 30 minutes at least.
  • Spend time with family: My daughter usually comes downstairs to eat breakfast at 7am. That’s when I join her. Then she goes to the bus stop at 7:30am. Actual time spent: 30 minutes.

I don’t have a specific time to arrive at work (I’m at the tail end of my employment with the “day job” where I make my own schedule and travel a lot). This means I can do some of the supposed-to-dos after my daughter gets on the bus.

However, there’s only so much time in the day. For me to read, schedule, write, and exercise would mean I wouldn’t leave the house until 10:30am. Um, that just doesn’t work.  So things get put off or don’t get done at all. Writing every day just doesn’t happen in my world. Reading the Bible, regrettably, has taken a back seat to email (I should be struck by lightning for writing that out loud) and I have forgotten what this “exercise” thing is.  The late start means I finish the day late as well. If I’m in town then I might take the dog out for a walk or take care of a household issue. The rest of the evening is spent with my wife and/or daughter.

A person with a regular work schedule is more likely to set an hour aside to work on their side-hustle without interrupting the family life at night. I do a lot of the blog, podcast, and website stuff while away from home. 90 percent of my podcasts have been recorded in a hotel room. Currently, as I write this, I am at a truck stop having lunch before finishing the 3 hour drive home.

That’s worth something, right?

Wrap it up Steve

What’s the point of this article? The world gives us lots of advice about what we should do to leave a corporate job and become entrepreneurs. There’s just no way to follow ALL the advice.  We need to find balance – and that is not an easy thing. Getting things done faster isn’t always an option (can you shower faster?)

I’m not trying to make this into a profitable hobby, God has much bigger things in store for me. I’m working hard to make this a successful business that can support my family and afford me the chance to spend time doing things that will improve me while serving others.

Finding life/work balance is nearly impossible when trying to make the leap. If it takes money to make money, I need to sacrifice time to make time. It’s just not going to happen overnight. I need to be smart with every free minute, sacrifice where it makes sense, and keep turning the flywheel until it has gained enough momentum to keep turning on its own.

You probably don’t have the same goal as I do, but have you given up something in the short term to work on your long term goals? How has that improved your life?

Share your ideas and successes in the comments below.

About Steve Stewart

6 Responses to “What I Should Do vs What I Do Do”

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  1. Preachin’ to the choir. I’m a depressive with chronic fatigue. I’ve had to prioritize what I can get done over what I want to/think I should get done. It’s difficult as a Type A personality, but I’ve learned.

    It comes down to my setting major and minor goals for the week. No more than two major ones and usually just one. Then some minor goals, prioritized by urgency. I try to get at least one or two things done each day, and I just accept that some will have to wait.

    It’s tough, but I also save a lot of energy that I used to spend beating myself up about my shortcomings. Which leaves me more energy to get errands done, so win-win!

    • Have you tried something like David Allen’s Getting Things Done to stay organized and efficient. I know it works, I tried it once but let it go to the way side. A lot of people are that way with their finances – they try budgeting but give up when it isn’t working the way they want to.

      And I’m with you on the “beating myself up about my shortcomings” part. If I’m slacking off watching TV with my wife I feel like a loser by the end of the night. Good thing I can feel good about the “with my wife” part.

  2. Dawn says:

    I don’t do mornings well and I am probably doing my new blog all wrong lol. But it is not my priority, and I think what I read above is your family time is your priority and your reason. That is really good! This is an honest answer to some of my blogging questions/thoughts. What are we really willing to sacrifice to do this?
    Since my motivation is not money but camaraderie in blogging my debt, I feel a little more relaxed.

  3. Wow. This post is perfect for me right now. My goals are more humble – trying to break in to the paid writing world. I’m not good with learning curves though – especially when technology is involved – and it’s all so new. I do find myself struggling with the “to-do” advice I get. Is it effective? Ethical? Worth the sacrifice in time? And am I equal to it? Thanks, Steve.

  4. Michelle says:

    I am so glad that you wrote this post. I think that we’re all given suggestions and ideas about how we’re supposed to ideally work towards whatever goals we’ve set for ourselves. I had a really difficult time with this because: I had chronic exhaustion, commuted around 4 hours a day, am not a morning person…so I started taking vacation days and mental health days so that I could create more space in my week/days/months to work towards what I was dreaming of achieving. Then, I hit the point we’re I decided it was time to leave my job. And, when I left my job I hadn’t done some of the things that people “say” you should do. I did what I said I needed to do…for me 🙂 You will figure out the best process and balance for your own situation. Just tune us out! LOL!

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