Is spending every possible minute on farm work the best thing for your dairy business?
Is there room on your farm for work-life balance?
It seems logical that the more work you put into something, the more you will get out of it, right? If you work 80 hrs a week, you will surely make more money and be more successful than those less ambitious folks who are only investing 40 hours. That may be true for a certain amount of time but, eventually, it can actually have a negative effect on your cattle business and, even worse, on your life and those around you. Here are a few tips to help prevent the farm from taking over your life.
- Where Have All the Weekends Gone?
Time was that farmers were the only ones tied down 24-7. Everyone else at least had weekends off. However the ongoing crises in the global economy and unreal lifestyle expectations have many people on a never-ending treadmill. Burn out no longer is that brush fire your mother started with her annual spring fence row cleanup. Today farmers have been joined by countless others who consider themselves to be tied to their job. The iPad, smart phones and other technological advances have expanded the working day until many are unable to distinguish between “ON” and “OFF”.
- You CAN Miss a Milking
Observers of the modern day farm family have noticed that the younger generations do not have as much trouble getting away from the farm. They are more willing than their parents to take some personal time. We’ve all heard the stories of Dad or Grand-Dad (or Grandma too!) who “never missed a milking in forty years! It was a point of pride. Then, lo and behold, one day it happened that they did not make it to the barn. Surprisingly, the world didn’t actually stop turning. We can learn from their experience and, provided it isn’t a life-ending interruption, recognize that there’s no real harm done. Trusting someone else with chores is a good team building exercise. Continuity is a great thing but passing the baton to someone else builds pride, commitment and teamwork.
- Back Away from the Barn
There is always work to be done on a farm. Mother Nature sees to that. It is up to you to find the time to be with others. Yes, this could mean working on the farm together but spouses or family members who work off the farm will appreciate it if you schedule your days in such a way that you can share some free time, when you both are not working. Sometimes farmers cheat on this and call all those community, sports and hobby commitments as “free” time. Having said that, even these are better than no time away from the farm at all.
- Keep the Cows out of your living room, kitchen and bedroom!
It’s too easy to pull out the laptop while sitting and watching TV in the living room or catch up on emails at the kitchen table. Oops I’ll just take one more call before putting out the light. This can turn the entire house into your barn office and can easily lead to a never-ending stream of excuses for doing just one more minute.. one more … one more! That big sign on your barn or at the end of the lane announces to the world that you are endlessly accessible for sales calls, fix-it advice or even a neighbourly chat. All good in their own time and space, but not every incoming call needs to rise to the top of your priority list.
- Preserve Your Private Time
Whatever time you establish as your time, make sure you don’t give it up. Let everyone know that there is a particular time that represents your time off. You will be more relaxed and the benefits to those around you will make everyone work to protect your personal time. The further removed from cattle breeding, the more your hobby will give you a boost. Take lessons to enhance one of your artistic talents, become a marathoner learn ham radio operation. The possibilities are endless.
- Are You Having Fun Yet?
Granted raising animals, planting gardens and, even, building and repairing things are considered hobbies by some people. It isn’t what you’re doing that defines the hobby but whether or not it is a break from your daily routine. Many have taken up golfing and enjoy the opportunity to clear their heads for three or four hours. Fresh air, relaxation and time with friends and family – that’s not a “must do” but a “want to”. This is a grey area for those who love their chosen field and garden. The measure of a great hobby is that you come back to farm work refreshed.
- Don’t feel guilty
Anyone descended from a long line of farmers has experienced the guilt when they take time away from the farm. You can always spot the farmers at vacation resorts or tourist towns. They’re the ones who are up at 5 a:m walking. Sure they’ll tell you they’re enjoying the sunrise or working up an appetite for breakfast but, just as often, they are feeling like fish out of water and not just a little bit guilty about the lazy beginning to each day. It’s okay not to work. Not working is actually beneficial. It gives you the ability to recharge and clear your mind. When you start to feel that guilt, immediately remind yourself that you need to separate from work and recharge so that you’re ready to go when you get back to work the next day or next week.
- Know when to stop
There will always be barn checks, field work and repairs. Do you know when to stop working? Spend the entire evening not thinking about bills to pay, getting ready for a barn meeting or the drainage problem in the back forty. Leave that for tomorrow. You will do a better job of it in the morning. Stop and smell the flowers. It is important that you do this for yourself and, also, that you respect the time of the other farm suppliers you work with. Everyone does a better job when they are rested. Does it really make that big a difference if you call at 10 at night or early the next morning?
- Have a “Cow Free” Time
It is hard not to share your passion for cows and, over time, the people you socialize with either share that passion or are interested in it because of their friendship with you. In farm families it can be quite easy to talk cows all the time. When you get into this habit you are cutting yourself off from being stimulated by something non-farm related. Actively seek out how other occupations are dealing with innovation, technology or whatever is the equivalent of the breakthrough of genomics. It is never a waste of time to hear about and be inspired by someone else’s passion for their work.
- Make time to accomplish non-farm related goals
While it isn’t unreasonable to plan to farm well into your sunset years, it can be rewarding to establish non-farm goals as well. What you want to establish are your own choices. At the end of the day you want your options to be open and not to feel forced to either work when you don’t want to or to suddenly be forced to give up what has been your single focus in life. Farm – Life balance is the goal.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
If you learn how to turn your Farm Off, you will also learn how to turn your LIFE on! Strive for balance in all things!
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