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Don't get busy... Get Productive

If you own or manage a business, be that a farm, or any other type of business, you will no doubt have experienced “busy”. Busy is a bugger of a thing, because it generally is very different to productive.

Productive is that awesome state that you get yourself into where everything is happening as it should, you are flying through your lists of things to get done, your mind is clear, and everything is coming together. It can still be hectic, but it works.

Busy on the other hand, is what you brain does when it is overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by a seemingly endless supply of things to do and think about. It is a state of mind where thinking becomes clouded, your shoulders carry the tension of unfinished items everywhere, and before you know it you have achieved stuff all, you are more stressed than at the start of the day and the wheels seem to be falling off.

How do I know this? Because like the rest of you, I too get “busy”. That space where all you can think is “shit I’m busy”. But busy isn’t productive, and busy isn’t solving your problem. The biggest hurdle we all face when we are busy is actually starting something. Once we get it started, it generally flows through pretty easily.

The other natural human failing that comes into play, is that we tend to do things that we enjoy first, rather than the highest priority. Take for example, me sitting here in my office. I have two tasks that need to be done. Both are boring paperwork that don’t excite me at all. Then I remember that I should check with xxxx client to see how things turned out with our plan to fix xxxxx the other day. The paperwork was clearly a higher priority, but lets face it, I like finding out whether the plan with the client worked or not. So straight onto the phone find out. It wasn’t a priority, it was just more interesting.

That is the way we are wired. To be truly productive, we most often need to work against some form of natural instincts of distraction and procrastination. At the same time, the most productive people overall, are those doing something that they love, and that they are passionate about. It significantly limits the number of mundane components to their day, and keeps things constantly progressing.

So, what can we do about our “busyness”? The simplest starting point is to get every single thing that is worrying you, or unfinished written down. Get everything out of your brain and onto paper, or a whiteboard. Then simply sit down in front of it, and look at it. Assign some timeframes to each (how long will it actually take to do each task?) and start to work through the plan for getting them done, and getting your brain clear.

When I was managing a sheep operation, just knowing what was happening (backed up with data) helped me sleep at night. The data didn’t necessarily need to tell me that everything was going right, I just needed to know what was happening and have a clear plan around it. When I didn’t have that, worry and busyness took over. Things can be going badly, but be simultaneously amazingly stress free if you have a clear plan to deal with it.

At a time of year when hay, harvest, lamb selling, weaner calf sales, Christmas, holidays, the boxing day test, and whatever else, all come together…. Don’t get busy…. Get productive.

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