There are many words that can describe the emotions that run through the head of a military spouse when he or she hears those fateful words: “We have orders.”
It’s quite the rollercoaster.
If you’re a business owner and a military spouse, this rollercoaster may look very different. Depending on the timing, notice, and location of your change of duty station orders – you may be elated or completely devastated.
Let me be completely raw and transparent here:
I cannot tell you how many times I have spent anxious sleepless nights over the course of my time as a military spouse and a business owner.
We are getting ready to move in short order, with a two year old and a nine year old that we co-parent, my husband is still working full time, we’re getting ready to sell our house, and I have four employees and several clients to lead through this process while managing the day to day operations of a growing business. Did I mention I’m about to publish my first book and gearing up to start my Master’s degree?
It’s a lot, and I’m not unique in that struggle.
I’m sharing this because I know that most military spouse entrepreneurs reading this are either in a similar space, or you’ve been there before. This information is nothing new, but the growing number of military spouse business owners married to an active duty service member IS relatively new to the military community.
Because it is relatively new, military leadership doesn’t always consider the changing demographics of the military families within their ranks. It can be incredibly frustrating and even demoralizing for a military spouse entrepreneur.
Like many military spouses, I had my personal and professional goals long before we were given orders. I’ve had these goals long before I got married to my service member – and frankly, I don’t want to give them up simply because of my husband’s career. I shouldn’t have to.
Nor should YOU.
If, as military spouses, we cannot control when and where we’ll need to move our business, childcare, or maintaining general day to day structure – we are better served to focus on flexibility and continual progress toward our goals wherever we find ourselves. This starts with goal setting.
Today, I’m going to share six core elements for success in goal setting from what I’ve learned as a military spouse entrepreneur.
#1: Start with Grace.
The military spouse life is not for the faint of heart. I have stories, you have stories, and all of our military spouse friends have stories about times when military life has kicked you in the teeth. At this point, it’s expected.
With this in mind, before you start goal setting – remember to give yourself space to deal with the emotional process of moving with the military. Remember to give yourself space to be unable to accomplish every little thing that you want to during the move.
To be effective, you have to leave room to take care of yourself – otherwise, you’ll be no good to anyone else. And right now – your family, your employees, and your clients need you at your best – or at least a functional version of yourself.
Progress is the ultimately goal, it doesn’t have to be pretty. Because in this life, it rarely will be. That’s okay.
Let it be okay.
#2: Set Priorities, Objectively.
Now that we’ve established a foundation of grace, we can discuss priorities.
You are going to feel like you’re being pulled in 30 different directions on any given day. It’s just not sustainable over an extended period of time – you won’t be as effective as you need to be. So, we establish priorities.
When I say, “establish priorities” – that does not mean to disregard all of the many things you need to get done. It simply means to establish which tasks/areas are more important in the immediate future, and start working on those first.
When I start prioritizing tasks for any big or complicated project, I start by categorizing those tasks into smaller subgroups. For a change in duty station, that may be:
- Household Goods
- Kid’s Needs
- Important Documents
- Business Location
- Sales & Networking
- Health & Wellness
Then, I create dependencies between the tasks, and create priorities based on that information.
For example, if my goal is to open a new business location, I need to finalize closing out my current local lease. So, preparing to close the current lease and cleaning out my current office would be a priority over opening the new location.
I have found that time blocking also helps with managing priorities. I can dedicate certain parts to my day to different priorities, empowering myself to focus on that task list for each block. It’s not an exact science, but if you’re struggling with structure – it’s a good place to start.
As you start working through your priorities, you’ll slowly make progress across the board.
#3: Pick ONE thing to Complete Every Day.
As you work through your priorities and tasks, it may seem like you’re constantly spinning your wheels – not getting any closer to the end goal.
One strategy I use is to choose one task – big or small – that I can see through to completion per day. It may be making 50 sales calls to reach your goal of a new client that week. It may be painting all of the doorframes in the house to prepare your home for sale.
Choosing one task to complete doesn’t mean that you don’t work through your other tasks, or that once that task is completed you don’t move onto the next item on your list. It does mean that if nothing else happens, you’ve been able to take one more thing off of your list that day.
As a result, you’re making tangible progress. Every day.
#4: Use a Guide.
If you’re new to goal setting – it may not be the best idea to try and figure it all out from scratch right before a big move. This is where a goal planner can help!
There are several on the market, depending on your personal preferences. For me, I use the Clever Fox Pro Planner, and really enjoy working through the process as they have it laid out. Day Designer has a substantial following as well, and can walk you through a productive goal management plan.
If you’re a pro at the whole goal-setting thing – the bullet journal method works well for many military spouses. You can customize your journal based on your unique goals and preferences.
Personally, I use a combination of Clever Fox Pro Planner, the Clever Fox Budget Planner, and a bullet journal. Really, whatever works for you is the right option.
#5: Expect the Unexpected.
You can plan and prepare with the skill of a master goal setter – but the military has a habit of taking those plans and turning them on their ear. I’d love to tell you it gets easier – but you know I’d be lying.
What we CAN do as military spouse entrepreneurs is be prepared with contingency plans. If you have a goal that is important to you, you’re going to have to fiercely protect that dream from the chaos that may come with the military lifestyle.
Using the other tips in this blog, you can create a plan that is designed to be flexible on process – but not the ultimate goal. There’s always more than one road to get to your destination. You’re more likely to be successful as a military spouse entrepreneur if you start with the mindset that you’ll need to be prepared to adjust the plan.
Remember: “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”
#6: Never, ever, ever give up.
I’ve talked about the chaos, I’ve talked about the uncertainty, and I’ve talked about the struggle. If you’re a military spouse reading this article, chances are you were already aware of all of it.
If you are a military spouse small business owner, if you take nothing else from my words – remember that the journey can adjust, but you do not have to sacrifice your goals, your dreams, and the stability of your family business simply because your service member is active duty.
You will have to fight for those goals with everything you have – but it is possible.
I’m going to say it again – YOUR dream IS possible.
The journey may not be some fairytale, motivational-coach-rhetoric-filled experience – mine certainly has not been – but when you achieve that goal, it will be beautiful to you and your family. That is all that matters.
It is all going to be worth it.
And remember, you have a community of fellow military spouse small business owners – like me – who are cheering you on every step of the way. You always have a community to turn to if you need support. We’ve all been there – and we’ll understand.
“Never give up, never surrender.” 😉