Every moment of every day, now more than ever with so much information and choice, we make thousands of decisions from whether to put jam or vegemite on our toast to which dog to take to work (or if you are like us you either take them all OR the dogs decide themselves who feels like accompanying us through the farm gate), to whether or not to trust the weather forecast and take the punt and cut that paddock that’s locked up for hay -even though the gut feeling we get by looking at the sky screams out to us that the weather bureau has got it wrong this time! THIS PARAGRAPH IS A BIT LIKE THE LIFE OF THE UNCONSCIOUS FARMER – OVERPACKED, NO BREAKS AND NO PAUSES!
Many of our decisions that we make every day in life, we make on autopilot. This is a necessary or we would never get anything done. However every once in a while (even if it is just on the cusp of a new year) it’s healthy to take time to stop and review:
- Where we are at in life?
- Where we are going?
- Has our destination changed?
- Have we changed?
- Have our goals and what’s important to us changed?
- Do we need to change course?
- Are we at a crossroads?
- Do we need to take a new direction? – or do we just need to iron out a few bumps on the road that we are on before we continue along it?
The end of the year is a great time to raise a glass and toast our successes of that year. After the hustle and bustle of Christmas –which often sees an influx of city relatives lapping up the R&R of a visitors country experience – and catching up with family and friends it is nice to pause and take time to reflect on the year that we are about to leave behind.
An important part of planning for me is to first take stock of the year we are about to leave behind and celebrate our successes – both as a farm and as a family. I used to end the year ruminating over all the things we hadn’t achieved for the year but a couple of years ago I shifted my focus. Now we talk about all our successes and our highlights of the year; all the moments that we are proud of; the moments that made us smile; the moments we learnt from whilst also acknowledging the ones we would like less of in the forthcoming year. This review takes place sitting on our verandah with a cool beer -normally after a hot day in paddocks- gazing out at our beautiful black cattle and remembering how blessed we truly are; which as we all know is hard when you are up to your knees in S#*t in the cattle yards on a 40 degree heat day and everything is going pear-shaped BUT remember these are ever only isolated snapshots of farmlife – always take time to pause and reflect on the bigger picture…………and NEVER EVER make planning directives in the cattle yards J.
After our relaxing review, we allow the power of the pause to work its magic.
Summer normally means harvesting, cutting hay, soil preparation for autumn planting – so this means a lot of hours in the tractor for many a farmer. During this time in the tractor, the review of the year can incubate in your mind; as you drive around in nature concentrating on filling the sheds for the winter feed gap (which as I write this I realise is actually very alchemical in itself).
Then in the first week of the new year, what we do –here at Merlewood Angus- is we sit down and draw up a narrative / a kind of story board for the coming year; sometimes this is on paper but often it is just my husband and I sitting on the verandah ‘Chewing The Cud’. We brainstorm and no idea is too ridiculous – as a result we laugh a lot. This in itself is very medicinal. Then the next day we do actually sit down and commit our ideas to paper. This is where we draw up our goals for the year with some accountable quarterly milestones and update our farm policies where required. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy – it can just be an A4 folder where you write down a list of procedures so that everyone is literally on the same page or for the computer literate upload it to the cloud and use your smart phone to access a digital document. The format isn’t important. What is important, is that everyone can see the direction and goals for the year ahead and that everyone is on the same page. We can’t work towards what we don’t know.
People often ask me why I take the time every year to carry out this practice and my usual reply is :
“If we don’t take the time to plan our year we often end up reacting instead of responding which is a very inefficient use of our limited time and resources! Or unwittingly following someone else’s plan!”
Studies show that when we react, we are often in an emotionally charged state which leads to poor reactions; often resulting in undue stress for both ourselves and the cattle. Whereas when we have a plan in place and respond, instead of reacting our bodies are relaxed and little jobs no long escalate into big jobs. We all know how easy it is to drive past that broken gate and think “she’ll be right…….. I’ll fix it tomorrow” and the item goes on to our mental ‘Gonna List’ – what farmer doesn’t have a ‘Gonna List’ as long as his UTE tray! – and then, that little jobs becomes a big job when we are under the pump and don’t have the time or resources to easily respond to it.
For example, think the cows that have pushed open that gate that needed repairing the night before and you didn’t take the five minutes to stop and fix it properly……………so now the next day you find yourself spending an hour (which you really didn’t have, today of all days!) chasing them round and round the farm as you get yourself more and more agitated. Instead if you had taken the time to stop -even if it did mean a short drive to the shed to get that one tool you needed and didn’t have in your UTE- today’s escapade just wouldn’t have happened. So maybe your directive in your Procedures Manual upon seeing a broken farm gate is :
ALL broken farm gates (no matter how minor the repair) MUST BE FIXED IMMEDIATELY.
I’ll let you fill in your own blanks but you get the picture. This is just one small example but farm life is made up of many small examples and when we have a plan in place for the small stuff it frees us up for bigger things. When we have direction in our farm lives, flow happens and it allows us concentrate on the bigger picture – the dream that each and everyone of us has in our heart and brought us to farming in the first place. When we have direction and can chart and steer our course, and be captains of our own ship rather than tossed around in the stormy seas, farm-life opens up in new and wonderful ways.
We would love to hear how you plan on your farm?
Do you review your year – the good, the bad and the ugly?
Do you fly by the seat of your pants? – Does this work for you? If yes, why? If no, why not – or more importantly why don’t you change direction?
Please join the Cattle Conversation and share your story.
Looking for inspiration? I came across this article this morning in the latest edition of MLA Feedback http://v3au.zone-secure.net/drive/6703/262557/#page=7 Check out the article and fill out the “WHAT LEADING PRODUCERS DO” to springboard and benchmark your starting point for your 2017 review and planning.
In my next blog I will talk about the Sunk Cost Fallacy and why it literally drags us down and why it’s never too late to change direction and set a new course and more importantly why we should!