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Where’s the most important place for you to spend time?

Getty Characters of people holding time management concept illustration
Figuring out where and how to spend your time requires a clear sense of goals and priorities.

When it comes to the number of things to do and ways to spend time each day, there’s no shortage of tasks and to-do’s that the farm leader could be working on. The number of “hats” that the farm CEO wears on any day – sometimes multiple ones at the same time – creates a long list.

However, time is a limited resource – especially for the farm’s leader whose time is quite valuable. You could apply the old adage and say that for farm leaders, time = money.

With so many things to get done and so little time, it can tempting for leaders to spend time on whatever is the most urgent at the moment. Some farmers call these urgent items “fires” that must be put out.

It’s true that there will be some necessary firefighting, and the leader will have to pause whatever else they are doing at the moment and solve the problem. That happens more often during the growing season when time is of the essence to make sure crops are taken care of in a timely manner.

Where’s your attention?

Sometimes, a leader can get caught up in responding to whatever “fire” or urgent item pops up at any given moment, even when someone else in the operation could attend to it, or that the leader could address at another time.

It’s very tempting – particularly in this age of cell phones, email and other technology that sends us notifications in real-time throughout the day – to respond to whatever is in front of us in the moment. Often, we might just want to check it off our list, simply to know that it is complete.

The problem is this: Leaders can start to pay attention primarily to urgent items simply because they are in front of them, rather than stepping back to first ask whether that urgent thing is also important to the farm operation and whether it’s important that the leader address it themselves or not.

(Reference this to learn more: Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, created a Time Management Matrix that illustrates “urgent versus important” in four different quadrants.)

An urgent matter

When this becomes a habit, certain things that are very important to the farm’s success can start to get pushed back simply because they don’t appear to be urgent. Often, this may be things like plans for the future, financial work, strategic plans, communication with landlords and so on.

Leaders might tell themselves, “Oh, I can do that later” or “I can do that anytime.” The danger isn’t when the leader addresses important crisis issues – it’s when every single thing that pops up starts to seem like a crisis, even when it isn’t actually critical to the operation.

There are times when marketing becomes an urgent matter for farm leaders – when marketing decisions need to be made in a timely manner – but there are also aspects of marketing that are very important to address yet may not be urgent at the time. I’m thinking of creating marketing plans that take the operation’s overall financial picture, future goals and needs into account.

Our team of market advisors help keep marketing plans and decision-making at the forefront by partnering with farm leaders. Get in touch with our team or get a free two-week trial of our marketing information service at

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 

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