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Welcome to the home of the Modern Farm Business® podcast, hosted weekly by Dean Heffta. Modern Farm Business translates proven methods and best practices from the business arena to today's modern farm leadership environment. We'll be learning from forward-thinking experts and discovering how to apply time-tested techniques to make real improvements on the farm.

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Apr 19, 2018

You can say it in many different ways—I'm too busy...I don’t have time…I just couldn’t get to it…I’m really swamped right now and can’t do it. BUT... Have we ever REALLY been too busy?

If I said I would give you $1M to get to downtown Denver in 2 days, you probably wouldn’t be too busy to get there. If your daughter was graduating from high school, would you be too busy to go to the ceremony? I’d bet most people could find the time in their “busy” schedules to work those things in. If that’s the case, then the issue isn’t a matter of being too busy—rather, it’s a question of priority.

So if that’s true, how do we decide what deserves our attention and energy? We need to separate our activities from our priorities. Our activities should be related to some important outcome which we are working toward. These outcomes help us to map out our path and the energy needed to achieve them. What traps so many people is that they let tasks that come up during the day or other people who have their own priorities dictate what needs to get done.

Take a moment to think about a day when it just feels like everything is clicking—you’re in flow. Sure, there might be challenges, but time seems to disappear. When you get to the end, it feels like it was a really good day. Odds are the reason it feels like a good day is because all of the work you were doing was aligned with goals you felt were important.

Now imagine a day when you are really busy—going from one task to another, meeting with this person and that person, etc. When you get to end and look back, you probably say to yourself, “Man, what an unproductive day!” That feeling isn’t because you didn’t actually do any work, it’s because the work you did wasn’t aligned with what you found valuable.

The key word in both examples is "aligned." We need our activities and our goals aligned if we’re going to feel truly productive. To work more intentionally toward that, here’s a structure you can use to help frame your thinking and planning:

  1. Taking stock of what’s important

What are the things you want to accomplish? What long-term outcomes are meaningful for you? These can be grouped into different categories like: business, health, family and so on. These become areas of priority. That’s the first level.

  1. Strategy: The “How”

Think about how to go about achieving this outcome—the strategy for how it’s going to happen. It’s identifying who you might need to reach out to for advice, figuring out what tools and materials you need, what hurdles you’re going to run into, etc.. It’s your plan. Every desired outcome warrants a strategy.

  1. The most granular piece is the “What”

This is doing the do. This is the place most of us spend a majority of our time—the minefield of being “too busy.” Without the What, we can never achieve our outcomes—but if we don’t manage the What, we are destined to simply be busy.

Rarely do we get into our car without a destination in mind. Whether it’s going to a meeting, taking a weekend trip or running the kids to a game, it naturally starts by first identifying a destination, then driving. So we start with a Where, then we decide the How. We think through some of the needs and constraints we’re going to have on the trip, and then decide which vehicle to take. The final piece is What we are going to do behind the wheel—shifting gears, driving the speed limit, using our blinkers...

We’d be crazy to simply get in the car, start driving and hopefully just end up at a place that has a reason for us to be there—but in our day-to-day life we sometimes wear our “busy-ness” as a badge of honor and get hung up on doing things, as though if we just stay busy enough we’ll eventually get to our destination successfully. So think of your map - the destination, the strategy for how you’re going to get there and the daily actions that need to be done to make it happen.

When a new task comes up or someone wants you to do something, rather than thinking about how busy you are, ask yourself questions like:  Does this task align with what you want to accomplish? Is there someone else that can do this instead of you? What happens if this activity isn’t done?

I hope this has given you something to reflect on as you look at how you invest your time and energy as a leader.

If you have questions or comments, email me at dean@modernfarmbusiness.com. Be sure to tell a friend about Modern Farm Business Podcast. Thanks for listening, and I look forward to being with you again next week!