The farm to-do list never ends. There is always one more thing to be done, and then another chore pops up that needs taking care of. And of course, the weather always plays a factor in determining what does or does not get done and when.
Many farmers are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work to be done. What is the answer? Prioritization and time management! However, prioritization is not a skill that comes naturally to most farmers. How do you decide what is more important than another equally important task?
Stephen Covey’s Time Management Method
You may have heard of Stephen Covey, businessman, speaker and author of popular book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Covey had his own time matrix to determine whether you need to address a task immediately, postpone it, delegate it or eliminate it entirely.
By getting unimportant tasks off your plate, you can really look at the most important things that will propel your operation forward. To organize your tasks, divide them into four quadrants:
How do you use this?
• Use this matrix to prioritize each of your tasks according to importance and urgency
• Delegate or Outsource the Unimportant
• Then…spend your time focusing on the truly important
Quadrant 1: Important & Urgent
These need your immediate attention and cannot be delayed.
There are two distinct types of urgent and important activities: Ones that you could not foresee, and others that you have left to the last minute. You can avoid the latter by planning ahead and avoiding procrastination. Issues and crises, on the other hand, cannot always be foreseen or avoided. Here, the best approach is to leave some time in your schedule to handle unexpected issues and unplanned important activities. And if a major crisis arises, some other activity may have to be rescheduled. If this happens, identify which of your urgent important activities could have been foreseen and think about how you could schedule similar activities ahead of time, so they do not become urgent.
Quadrant 2: Important & NOT Urgent
Long Term Planning & Strategy
These are the activities that help you achieve your personal and professional goals, and complete important work. Make sure that you have plenty of time to do these things properly, so that they do not become urgent. And remember to leave enough time in your schedule to deal with unforeseen problems. This will maximize your chances of keeping on schedule, and help you avoid the stress of work becoming more urgent that necessary.
Quadrant 3: Urgent & NOT Important
Distractions that are urgent but not very important.
These activities may even be enjoyable, but do not move you any closer to your goals.
Urgent but not important activities are things that stop you achieving your goals, and prevent you from completing your work. Ask yourself whether these tasks can be rescheduled, or whether someone else could do them. A common source of such interruptions is from other people in your office. Sometimes it's appropriate to say "No" to people, or encourage them to solve the problem themselves. Alternatively, try allocating time when you are available so that people only interrupt you at certain times (a good way of doing this is to schedule a regular meeting so that all issues can be dealt with at the same time.) By doing this, you'll be able to concentrate on your important activities for longer periods of time.
Quadrant 4: NOT Important & NOT Urgent
Activities with little or no value to your long or short-term success.
These activities are just a distraction. They should be avoided if possible. Some can simply be ignored. Others are activities that other people may want you to do, but they do not contribute to your own desired outcomes. Again, say "No" politely and firmly if you can. If people see you are clear about your objectives and boundaries, they will often not ask you to do "not important" activities in the future.
• Use the matrix to prioritize your tasks according to importance and urgency
• Delegate or Outsource the Unimportant
• Now…spend your time on the truly important
If you are a farmer looking for strategies on how to apply Covey’s time matrix to your never-ending to do list, our Executive Farmers Network can help. By teaching you how to prioritize and learning from other veteran farmers who are experienced in managing their time, you can improve your skill set and become better equipped to manage your own day to day work on your operation.
Prioritizing your tasks will calm your daily whirlwind. You will have the time to focus on and accomplish what matters to you.