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Five steps to use ‘off season’ time more effectively

Sergio Kateryniuk/ThinkstockPhotos Man working at home
Farm’s winter season can be very valuable.

Have you ever thought of the winter office season as some of your most valuable time as a farmer? It might seem counterintuitive to think of what’s traditionally our ‘off-season’ as an important time. But when used well, that time can be truly critical to everything that happens in the operation the rest of the year – and to the overall success of that year.

Here’s why. When you’re strategic about how you plan to use your time during the winter season, you can multiply what you’re going to get out of it. Through planning, you can use the off season to make meaningful progress toward your biggest goals – and the biggest problems you face in your operation.

This is a different way of approaching the off season. It’s not just going to the same farm meetings you’ve gone to every year, or planning for the next crop year by using the exact same approach that you’ve always used.

Five steps to a better plan

  1. Create a plan for how you’ll use your time. This starts with getting an understanding of your goals for the farm for the next year – and beyond. Maybe you have some goals around the financial success you hope to achieve in 2018, or some farm growth goals. You might want to improve your relationships with your landlords and lenders or become better at negotiating. You may want to work on making systems and processes on your farm more efficient. Maybe it’s something like being more intentional in the way you’re working with and communicating with your employees, or becoming a more forward-looking farm leader.
  2. Determine and prioritize your top goals for the next year. You might rank them in order of importance as well. This can help inform how much time to devote to a particular skill or activity this winter, and what deserves top priority.
  3. Consider the types of resources you’ll use. Some of your goals might mean looking for very specific types of business books, articles or other resources like podcasts (check out our new podcast – Modern Farm Business). It may mean going to a specific sort of meeting – perhaps one that isn’t a ‘traditional’ winter meeting focusing on farming but rather on general business topics instead, that you can apply to your farm. Maybe you find you would benefit from working directly with an advisor to get plans for financial success in 2018 in place now, discovering different ways you can take steps toward your goals.
  4. Match the time you spend this winter and the specific learning actions you take to new insights that will actually help you move your farm forward. Otherwise, you could find yourself reading a lot of books or going to a ton of different meetings but not actually learning or implementing anything that makes a real difference in your operation.
  5. Make sure the time that you plan out now for the rest of your winter season is based around what your farm really needs. You might need to focus on getting solid, actionable financial plans in place for the 2018 crop year. If that’s the case, schedule how and when you’re going to work on that. Who do you need to consult with? Who needs to be informed about your plans? Who will help keep you accountable around taking action?

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

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