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Practical time management tips for farmers

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The only thing in the world we all have in equal amounts of is time, writes Jim Dockery, FRS Network health & safety manager.

Some farmers manage theirs much better than others.

I once worked on a very busy dairy farm and after 3 days in the job the farmer called me over at 6.15 pm and said to me “This has to stop we have to be finished work in this yard at 6 pm “

Wow, in all my years working with FRS on farms, he was the only one ever to say that, and today, he has an extremely good profitable efficient large dairy farm. He was a superb time manager.

Time management is a phrase associated with offices environments; however, it is not just for ‘corporates’, it also applies to farmers too.

On a farm, it never seems like there are enough hours in the day, and this is especially true when time is used inefficiently.

Time is an important resource. Excuses to efficiently tracking time management are often heard, “we aren’t in it for the money” or it would be ‘too depressing’ to know.

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This dangerous thinking is promoting the concept that it does not matter where farmers put their time as long as they are busy. Busy does not always mean profitable. With extra time and clarity, farmers could adapt their future planning.

Here are some practical tips to help plan time more effectively.

Plan your workday

Running a farm should be like running a business and any successful business starts out with a plan.

Take the time to plan – plan your day and plan your week. Ask the question, what would make this a good day for me? Or a good week? We call these goals. Goals should be achievable and realistic. Use a clear-thinking head when planning. Set good goals as in any business, challenge yourself but be realistic.

We all know that busy times on farms will require well in excess of 8 hours working time, but this can be offset in the summertime when shorter working time can be planned.

Write down four to five tasks/goals

Buy a diary, planner, or book or use the notes section on your phone to dedicate to time management.

You do not need to write down routine tasks like milking, feeding etc they will be done as essential work, but write out the other daily goals.

For example, spread slurry in the top field (11 am – 1 pm), prepare calving pens for calving season (2- 4 pm), take the tractor to the garage for service (4.30- 5 pm).

Write your list first thing in the morning, when your brain is fresh, do not write down too many (4 or 5 max) – you want these tasks to be achievable and always allow extra time for emergencies.

Put times on your goals

Estimate and allocate a time span for each goal.  It helps to focus the mind if you have a start and a finish time for each task. Your brain will process that information more effectively and help you achieve your goal.

Prioritise

Put the most important task on the top, the next important second and so on. Tasks that were not completed should be put on the task list for the next day.

Plan your personal day

Write down personal things that you want to do on each day. E.g. collect kids from school, get your haircut, visit/phone a neighbour and so on.

It is important to give time to personal things. It might be difficult to do sometimes with a busy work schedule, but it is important to allocate personal time and allow yourself to take it.

Strike off completed tasks

There is great satisfaction in striking the biro across the page when a job is finished. It gives a sense of completion and is an effective way to see the progress you have made that day.

Goals accumulate

If you succeed in completing four or five key or priority tasks every day at the end of the week you will have 30 jobs completed or put another way, 30 goals achieved. In any type of workplace that is a good week’s work.

Review

The army has a policy called PDR (Plan, Do, Review). This can be applied to any business or indeed farm.

Review your tasks as you complete them to see if you would make any changes for the next time. Also, it is important to review the hours spent on tasks.

Note, if you over or underestimated how long certain tasks take and adapt your plan going forward. It can also give you an indication of where help on the farm is needed and at what times.

Time management training in farming

FRS operators are following the current Covid-19 guidelines to safeguard the health and safety of customers and themselves.

Find out more about the services FRS offer at your local FRS Office. Visit here for more information.

Contact FRS on (0505) 22100 for time management training in farming.

Training can be done with individuals or groups i.e., discussion groups, on ZOOM or Teams during the current pandemic.

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