Dear Farmer: You Don't Have To Do It All!

You Don’t Have To Do It All!

As a matter of fact, you probably should not! Of all the homesteaders and local farmers I’ve met, the successful ones do not even try to do it all.  The ones that do try are frustrated, spread too thin and have either given up or are just about to.

New projects, information, and things to try are everywhere on the internet and there will always be someone with a better idea or a new crop or a different breed of animal or a different method of doing things.  These might be better but then again, they might not. Maybe, just maybe, you are doing enough. Don’t stop tweaking methods and trying new things that you feel are necessary, or learning about new and better projects but make sure that you are able to handle additions without distracting from what you are already doing. 

Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” 

Walter E. Disney

Focus on what is important. Gardening, farming, and homesteading are a lot of fun but they are a lot of work as well and it can be overwhelming at times. It’s a big job. You can easily and very quickly spread yourself too thin and run out of time to do the things you need to do.  If you have to rush through things, it is extremely easy to make mistakes, do things halfway, or miss tasks altogether. There are times that this could set you back for even a year or two if you miss a planting or something similar that has far-reaching consequences.

Multi-tasking is a great way to mess up more than one thing at a time” - Anonymous

Plan what you are doing. Having a good planning process and schedule will help you avoid missing tasks you need to do but it will also let you know if you can “plug” a new idea or project into your operation.  Do plenty of research on how much time, effort and resources a new project will take. Not all additions or changes are bad and it may very well be that you should drop something you are already doing to allow for a new project.  It is also possible that your effort spent on a new project or idea would be much better spent improving or expanding something you are already doing

It may seem daunting to try to write down all of the things you do on a regular basis. It’s much easier to break it down into major categories and expand from there. For example: rather than try to plan out an entire garden for the year, start with the major categories of Spring, Summer, and Fall. Then taking one category, say Spring, break it down to crops you are going to plant. Then further break it down to varieties you’d like to plant, then tasks you’ll need to do to get each of those in the ground. You can also plug in costs, labor, time and other resources needed at this stage if you’d like to get that detailed. How much time for preparation, how much time for implementation, how much time for upkeep and maintenance?

Planning is simply a budget for your available resources. Without it you could end up working much more than you need to with poorer results on all fronts.

"When eating an elephant take one bite at a time."- Creighton Abrams 

Scheduling those tasks that you have now outlined will give you a timeline of when things need to be done. You’ve budgeted your resources in your plan, now budget your time to see if you’re able to do it all. Do it in the same way as your plan; one section at a time. Sit down with your plan and a calendar and plug the plan into your timeline.

Some people are able to just do this naturally in their head. I am not one of those people. Scheduling of all of my tasks helps to keep me focused on what I need to be doing right now and gives me a deadline for when things have to be completed. So if I’m missing a part or tool, I can table a project if it’s not a priority or run to town and get it if the project must be done today. When you’re hot and tired or frustrated, those decisions are not always made correctly. Scheduling takes the guesswork out of it.

The added benefit of a good plan and schedule is now knowing if you have enough time and resources to add something to your operation. Knowing your limitations on space, labor, financial resources, and time will make those kinds of decisions much easier. 

“If you talk about it, it's a dream, if you envision it, it's possible, but if you schedule it, it's real.” ― Anthony Robbins

Those two things eliminate a lot of stress. Decisions become logical problems rather than emotional dilemmas. You now know if you are physically and financially able to do the things you have to do and if you are able to plug in new things you would like to do.. Is how you’ve been doing it the best and most efficient way? Should you try and do it differently or scrap it altogether and try something new?  

Mistakes are less likely to happen and easier to manage when they do. No more flitting about from one project to another or forgetting a major task that should have been done a week or a month before you thought about it. Your schedule keeps you focused and on task in a timely manner. You are now a well-oiled machine cranking out productivity!

That efficiency will most importantly free you up to “stop and smell the roses”. You are now able to take a break and go do something with friends or family without the guilt of neglecting things that need to be done. If you don’t have time to do that after making your plan, you should reevaluate your priorities and plug some free time into your schedule. Even if it means doing less. I’m preaching to myself a little bit here. That was my main reason for getting organized. I would still participate in social activities but before a plan and schedule I would spend most of my time worrying about the things I should be doing at home. I didn’t have to feel guilty about taking a vacation anymore because it was in my schedule and a part of the overall plan.

“No work is worse than overwork; the mind preys on itself, the most unwholesome of food.”-- Charles Lamb

Try new things! Do or grow what you love! Chase new ideas down those internet rabbit holes! But for the sake of your sanity and your bottom line, stop right now and make yourself a plan to ensure that it is all balanced. It’s your key to success. Not just in business or financially, but in the most important way of all, mentally and emotionally. You can now control your work and your passion rather than letting it control you. You don’t have to do it all!