Balancing career and family is hard for any professional, but ag professionals often find themselves in an especially pressurized situation. With field work literally surrounding you, what are the best ways to ensure the things that matter get the time they deserve?

One axiom in the world of precision ag technology is, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” That’s also true when it comes to the pursuit of work-life balance, according to author and motivational speaker Laura Vanderkam.

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start by tracking your time,” Vanderkam advises producers. “Write down what you’re doing with your time, and figure out where the time actually goes.”

There’s a variation of this process for retailers and farmers who already keep a detailed calendar, says Christy Wright, author of the book “Business Boutique” and also a certified business coach.

“Take a schedule and pretend that it’s blank, and make your ideal schedule,” Wright suggests. “What is a perfect schedule for you? Set that next to your schedule. Then [figure out] how 
you can gradually and incrementally make changes to your schedule to get closer and closer to your ideal schedule.”

Just Say No. After the schedule is set, it’s time to defend it, Wright says. “You protect it by saying no,” she says. “If you wait until there’s time left over, it’s never going to happen. Life and everything else will just push you around.”

Don’t forget that “no” is a complete sentence, she adds.

“You don’t need a reason for it, you don’t need to justify it, explain it or excuse it,” she points out. “If you don’t protect what matters to you, no one else will.”

As important as a schedule is, Vanderkam says, a weekly or even a daily plan of attack is mission critical, as well.

“You have to have a plan,” she says. “That’s just the reality for those running a business.”

Crafting a plan is as simple as identifying a few priorities for the week, Vanderkam says. You should be diligent about setting a couple of priorities in each of three categories in your life: business, relationships and personal. By proactively thinking through all three categories, you can take a big step toward ensuring no one area is neglected.

Threads Of Success. People who achieve a healthy work-life balance have some common behavioral tendencies, Vanderkam says. For example, people who feel like they have a lot more time do more reflective activities such as journaling, meditation or prayer. They also spend a significant amount of time with family and friends.

The reverse is also true, Vanderkam notes. People who say they don’t have a lot of time tend to spend significant periods of their daily life alone watching television or consuming social media.

Adequate sleep is another important factor, Vanderkam says. When you get enough sleep, you’ll be in a better mood, have better focus and have a lower probability of making unnecessary mistakes.

“The time you skimp on sleep is not helping you,” Vanderkam says. “Getting enough sleep doesn’t take time, it makes time. You will be paid back the next day.”

Keep in mind work-life balance is not a cookie-cutter proposition, Wright points out.

“Life balance comes down to living from your values,” she says. “Because everyone’s values are different, everyone’s version of life balance will be different.”

Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. “It’s going to be imperfect,” Wright concludes. “Life balance is going to be messy because life is messy.”