One topic that continually fascinates me is time management. How can I get more important work done faster?
As the leader of your farm operation, your hours are filled with important duties, tasks and people. Balancing responsibilities to your business and family can feel like an uphill battle.
Luckily, with proper planning and priorities, you can have it all, says Laura Vanderkam, time management expert and author. Vanderkam spoke at our Executive Women in Agriculture conference a few years ago. I still find myself going back to my notes from her speech, as well as the handful of books I have written by her on my bookshelf.
Here are seven tactics she’s found to help get the most out of every hour.
1. Mind Your Hours.
“The absolute best way to know how to spend your time better is to know how you spend your time now,” Vanderkam says. Keep a time log for a week, jotting down what you’re doing as often as possible.
“Figure out where the time is going now!” she coaches. “Knowing where the time goes means you can make changes based on accurate data. Without accurate data, it’s hard to know if you’re changing the right thing.”
Don’t be alarmed by what you learn. “The purpose of a time log is not to find out how much time we’re wasting,” she says. “It is to keep us from telling ourselves stories that aren’t actually true.”
2. Look Forward.
Everyone wants an extra hour in the day, yet most don’t have a clear vision for how they would spend it. Vanderkam suggests thinking big.
“Make a list of 100 dreams you want to spend more time on,” she says.
After you list all of the glorious world travels you have in mind, you’ll eventually start adding small—but meaningful—options, like visiting an old friend or exploring a nearby park or museum. What can you do tomorrow?
3. First Things First.
“Time is highly elastic,” Vanderkam explains. “We can’t make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we need to do with it.”
If you want to get a lot done in reasonable hours, then you can’t fritter away your peak productive hours on stuff that doesn’t matter, she says. Plan out your priorities for the week before you’re in it.
4. Move The Tiles Around.
Think of time in terms of the 168 hours in a week, not the 24 hours in a day. Picture each hour as a tile that can be assigned a priority.
“People say there aren’t enough hours in the day, and that’s true,” she says. Work can take priority one evening if it allows you to focus on family time the next.
5. Build In Extra Space.
In between important tasks, block out open space. “This time helps you seize opportunities,” she notes. “Wonderful things will come into your life if you have the space to deal with them.”
Prioritize your responsibilities to determine what you can ignore, outsource or minimize.
6. Nurture Yourself.
Add to your energy level. “Sleep and exercise don’t take time; they make time,” Vanderkam says. “Build in breaks to nurture yourself.”
7. Use Bits Of Time For Bits Of Joy.
“Small moments have great power,” she says. Spend that five or 10 minutes in line calling your family or team, or reading.