Manage time to best effect

It is important to spend enough time planning to enable the business to maintain profitability in the medium to long term and to grow. It is important to balance time on farm spent ‘doing’, managing (making decisions around the running of the farm) and planning (setting a direction for the business and planning how to make it happen).

To manage time effectively people need to learn how to plan. Time management is about thinking ahead, planning what needs to be done, who is going to do it and when it needs to be done. By planning what needs to be done you can then prioritise the more important tasks and make sure they get done first. Don’t waste time on unimportant tasks. People who plan well and manage their time have better control over their business.

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Tips from farmers who manage time effectively
  • Set out a seasonal plan every year. Include major dates such as the start of calving, mating start date, holidays, when crops will be planted and harvested etc. Using this seasonal plan lets everyone see the work requirements for the months and weeks ahead. For example, if calving is only four weeks away make sure that calf sheds are ready and metabolic cow treatments have been bought in. This is proactive rather than reactive.
  • Use a wall planner for an overview.
  • Prioritise what you need to do and spend time on the important jobs.
  • Use technology to save time. Using email or fax can reduce the time spent getting messages to people. Having a mobile phone for voice or SMS messages can help efficiency.
  • If a job is taking too much time and preventing other jobs getting done then think about getting someone else to do it.

Technology can be a time waster

Be careful not to waste time using technology. Mobile phones and email make it easier to contact you but it may not be convenient to answer the phone when it rings or to immediately reply to emails.

Have a clean-up day

Clear a backlog (mentally as well as physically): organise a clean-up day for the dairy, machinery shed, office or other cluttered work place. Get everyone involved so they feel part of having an efficient and clean work place.

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Working conditions around time

Working conditions also make a big difference to people’s view of a job. Short bursts of extra work or unattractive shifts can be accommodated by most, but if regular working conditions are unappealing it impacts on work-life balance because people are rarely able to fulfill other non-farm responsibilities or explore other interests. This makes retaining people (employees and family members) on the farm a real challenge.

The table below gives an indication of the attractiveness of working conditions to workers.

  Shift type Weekend work Working days
per fortnight
Hours b/w p.m. and a.m. shifts
Highly unattractive and/or uncompetitive conditions likely to be impacting attraction and retention for the farm   Split shifts or long day shifts (10-12 hours+) Often, expected, no reward in pay or time off 12-14  <10
Some unattractive and/or uncompetitive conditions  Set day shifts Expected weekend work with some reward in pay or time-off 11  10 to 14
Relatively attractive conditions, likely to be attractive and competitive to potential employees Day shifts that meet employee needs (e.g. early finish) Little or no weekend work and rewarded through extra pay or time off 10 or otherwise employee requested    >14

The importance of working conditions in influencing why people stay or leave a workplace is sometimes overlooked.

Use the Working Conditions tab in the People Analysis tool to assess the working conditions of people on your farm and compare them with an industry standard. You may like to have a look at this dairy farm example before you do your own farm assessment.

There are some conditions that are legislated through awards and minimum employment standards – read more in Employment and Reward section