Your time is valuable—especially during planting season. Every hour is essential. How can you achieve the best results in every hour? Become a master time manager.
“Time management is not about time; we all have the same amount,” says Bob Milligan, senior consultant at Dairy Strategies and former professor at Cornell University. “Time management is about setting priorities.”
A current and strategic list of priorities will help you avoid a huge time waster: not knowing what to do next.
“If you don’t have a plan, you waste a lot of time figuring out what you have to do next,” Milligan says. “The real time management opportunity is when things aren’t urgent.”
Keep task lists for both yourself and your team. This could be on the whiteboard in the shop, a list on your phone or in a software program. “It is much easier to modify a plan than come up with a new one 17 times per day,” Milligan says.
During busy seasons, Milligan suggests starting each morning with a short meeting. Go over the plan for the day and ask two questions of the team: Does anyone need help? Did anyone learn anything that everyone should know?
This is not a coffee break. It is the framework for how everyone can maximize their time. “You set priorities for the day and then revisit the list during day,” says Joe Horner, University of Missouri Extension economist.
As your farm’s leader, you need to be prepared for this meeting each morning. At the end of every workday, create a short list of priorities for tomorrow. Consider this your “strategic planning appointment” or SPA, says Mike Scott, president of Totally Accountable Systems, a consulting and training firm specializing in team management.
“The two purposes for a SPA are to plan tomorrow today and to be fully prepared to operate in a proactive manner,” Scott says.
Create a recurring appointment to set your strategic plan and priorities. Scott suggests dedicating at least 10 minutes during the last half hour of the day. During these valuable minutes, identify all the important tasks that haven’t been completed and update your to-do list. Review any meetings or appointments on your calendar for the next day. Then, block out specific times in the day to complete the tasks.
How else can you maximize your time? Horner says smart time managers tend to start their day early focusing on the most important tasks before their day is interrupted. In addition, they only tackle one task at a time and have learned to be comfortable saying “no” to tasks or duties that aren’t important.
Plan For Productive Days
The Eisenhower Decision Matrix helps you prioritize tasks by putting them into quadrants based on importance and urgency. “It’s a simple tool that helps you plan your day by putting first things first,” says Joe Horner, University of Missouri Extension economist. Spend five minutes filling it in each day, then you can put it in your pocket and check it during the day. “If you get good at scheduling, fewer things fall into the urgent and important list,” Horner says.
Download the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.