Are you are working harder and longer than five years ago? I don't have to see your hands to know the answer. A recent study showed the average manager was working at 120-130% of capacity; another way to look at it is that, at any given time, roughly 25% of the things you want to get done simply can't get done in the amount of time you have available.
The feeling of being overwhelmed is especially acute in ag. You're either working off the ranch, running your cows part-time; or you're running more cows, under more intense management with less help than in the past. I've even gotten into the habit, in making my daily to-do lists, of sorting tasks into jobs I must do today and those I'd like to do. Hardly a day goes by where I'm able to get into my "would like to do" category.
Ranching today can simply be overwhelming. Time-management experts all have a different way of saying it, but their advice basically boils down to one simple principle -- focus. Too many activities, too many tasks drain productivity and add to the frustration.
These experts recommend simply prioritizing tasks and tackling the highest priority item until it's completed. The bottom line is you can always increase your effectiveness, but you simply can't do it all. Therefore, you must know what's most important and feel good about getting it done.
This concept has really hit home with me this spring. We have two very able-bodied, hard-working and intelligent interns from a major university. Plus, we hired additional help to take care of office matters and the like. While we've gotten a lot more accomplished, we still haven't made a dent in the project list.
My attitude change came when I sat down and truly prioritized things according to value. Tonight, I may have a deadline due, I may have three pastures of fence that need checking, and six windmills that need their oil changed before we can go to summer grass, but I'm going to saddle four horses and heat check with the kids. Yes, I could do it with a vehicle, but it would be a waste of my most valuable resource -- time. I think these time management gurus are right -- it's all in the focus. -- Troy Marshall