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5 Steps for Maintaining Balance in the Ag Industry

Date: 
Author: 
Cassie Monger
Educational Opportunities: 
Articles
Interests: 
Young, Beginning Farmers, Women in Ag
Home > Education & Events > May 2019 > 5 Steps for Maintaining Balance in the Ag Industry
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Do you ever feel like when you cross one thing off your to-do list, two more things get added? There’s no doubt responsibilities on the farm and at home can pile up quickly. And, when faced with challenging times, it’s easy to lose perspective. Making decisions can be a struggle. You might become discouraged. You may even feel as though you’ve lost a sense of balance in your life. 

Meeting the demands of your business, trusted advisors and your family at the same time is hard, especially when striving to become better managers and leaders at work and in the industry. However, expanding your focus beyond the farm to ensure other important aspects of your life aren’t overlooked is essential to your personal and business well-being.

If you suspect your world is a little off-kilter, the following steps can help determine where alignment needs to occur. 

1. Assess the current balance. It’s no shock that farming demands a lot of time. An 80-plus hour workweek is typical. Even after putting in those hours, it may feel like you haven’t even scratched the surface of what needs to be done. Daily chores are a necessity, but assessing the current balance of farm work, business management and family time is just as vital.

Ask yourself, “What part of the business requires more attention?” You’ve likely heard the importance of being a low cost producer multiple times when working with your lenders and financial advisors. Do you ever pause to really consider what that means for you and your business? 

If understanding your cost of production is an area that needs more development, set aside some time to speak with your trusted advisors and identify how to enhance your financial reporting methods.  Find out what it will take to get you to the next level. Challenge yourself to look at your finances in a different way. It may help bring you more clarity and peace of mind than you expect.

2. Assess your family life.  For those in the industry, plans are typically tentative. Do your best to keep a balance of recognizing the needs of your spouse and family members, even as the family’s social life is dictated by weather. You may not see each other as often as you would like, so make sure the time you do spend with one another is meaningful. Your family provides values, love and support that can help motivate and sustain you through the trials of each day. What’s more, the next generation learns by what is demonstrated. The investment you put into your family today can affect the way those who come after you tend to one another.   

3. Willingness to make a change. One reason you may feel overwhelmed is because what’s currently being done isn’t working. Creating balance in all areas of your life requires a willingness toward change, even when it’s not easy. Keeping an open mind allows you to see things from a new perspective; it starts with trying new things, big or small.

Maybe you’ve noticed you do the majority of the talking during a farm team meeting or at home around the dinner table. Next time, make an effort to be the listener. I once read, “There is a strong difference between truly listening and just waiting for the next opportunity to speak.” Allowing someone else time to talk can lead to a new idea you hadn’t thought of before. Be the one to ask questions and get others to join the conversation.   
Developing a willingness to change won’t happen overnight. You need to recognize that it may take a smidge of courage to do so. Be prepared to experience setbacks from time to time. Don’t stray away from your mistakes. Instead, choose to learn from them and understand how to do better next time to reach your goals. I was once told, “To see a change, you must first make a change.” Be honest about what your goals are, identify what needs to change and have the confidence to see things through.

4. Identify limitations and focus your attention. With the conditions currently facing agriculture, those in the industry are feeling pressure. It can be tough to maintain focus when you’re trying to manage a business, raise a family, complete the daily chores, and respond to emails and phone calls. Many of us may want to believe that we have mastered the art of multi-tasking; however, it’s also important to slow down when possible to ensure things are done right.

Consider these tasks to help you focus and identify opportunities for lightening your load:   
  • Make a list. Write down everything that’s on your plate. Seeing it all on paper will help you understand all you’re trying to tackle.
  • Prioritize. Decide what’s most important. Focus more on what matters, and less on what doesn’t. 
  • Delegate. Don’t try and do it all yourself. Identify those in your business, family and community who can help you with your list. They are usually more willing than you realize. Determine the best use of your time and delegate the rest.
  • Multi-tasking isn’t for everyone. When you try to do too many things at once, you may end up not doing any of them very well. Be aware, hone in on the highest priorities and understand which tasks can wait. 
  • Finish the job. This speaks for itself. “Almost done” isn’t done. It will only create more work later. Finish what you’ve started before moving on to the next task.
Sometimes finding balance isn’t about trying to do everything at once. Understanding your limitations – and working within them – will help improve your focus and increase your productivity.

5. Self-Analysis-Reflect-Reassess. At the end of each day, perform a little self-analysis. Ask yourself what worked, what didn’t, what went wrong and what you can do to improve tomorrow. 

Set realistic expectations, manage your priorities and let go when necessary. Use each day to benchmark your progress in successfully managing the needs of your business and life away from the farm. 

Achieving balance in your work and personal life allows you to perform optimally in both areas. None of us can know how we’re doing in our lives unless we take time to assess our position. Decisions aren’t concrete; if something isn’t working, try looking at it in a different way. 
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