ONAGA, Kan. – My kitchen island is full of stacks: summer camp and summer ball forms to fill out. 4-H projects to register and swimming lessons to book. A month ago, we planned a short family camping trip.
Then there are the work things to schedule. Planning meetings and conferences, and one of my favorite parts of my job, ranch and feedyard visits.
There is a lot of good in those sentences I just typed, but also a little bit of panic. How do I get all the people all the places they need to be? How do I decide what fits on our schedule and what we cut?
Do you ever feel that way as a cattle producer?
Calving season gives way to fence repairs and breeding, which overlaps with haying (and often a planting season sandwiched in between). Before you know it, it’s time to wean. Perhaps you’re also trying to balance an off-farm job and a family who likes to see you once in a while.
I know it’s not just me.
It feels like there’s never really a good time to be gone. I prep ahead of time, making freezer meals and arranging for rides. I try to plan around big events like preschool graduations and elementary track meets, but whenever I travel, it takes me away from the one place I’m needed (and love to be) most of all. That means I have to give it some mental energy before I purchase a plane ticket or fill out an on-line registration.
That approach might work on your farm or ranch, too.
If your goal is bigger than “making it through the busy season,” then that can help you focus on what matters most.
Here are some things I’ve learned to keep calm in the chaos:
n Delegate what you can. Maybe that’s hiring day help here or there, or outsourcing a job you used to do yourself. Could a custom fence crew give you more time to focus on breeding but still get the cows out to that pasture on time?
n “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you could get done today.” That was my grandpa’s motto. He’d fuel up the tractor before he left the field for the night, make the phone call first thing in the morning, or fix that piece of machinery well before it became an emergency. If you can do it today, do.
n Slay the snakes as they come. I have some friends who like to use that quote when life gets crazy. My grandma’s version was, “Don’t worry any further than your headlights shine.” You do need to plan ahead, but don’t let the worry of the dozen things you have to do Saturday kill your productivity or satisfaction on Wednesday.
n Expect the plan to change. When a babysitter gets sick or the weather cancels a baseball practice, I try to have a backup Plan B and Plan C. Sometimes a blizzard rearranges a story trip. Most producers have this “change on the fly” mastered (thank you, Mother Nature) but I still think it’s worth mentioning that being flexible is a solid survival tactic.
Overwhelmed, worn out and run down….when May rolls around, those can be pretty accurate descriptions, whether you’re a teacher or a mother or a rancher.
I’ve decided to look ahead as a way to set priorities and stick to them, to become more efficient and focused. It’s a chance to get better and keep panic at bay. Turns out, a busy future isn’t so unmanageable after all.
Next time in Black Ink®, Nicole Erceg will look at maximizing. Questions? E-mail [email protected]