I have made several friends in the ag industry since I began farming in 2012. As farmers, we have information sources available to us ranging from local farmers to twitter. I always try to gleam a bit of knowledge from these sources. I was driving to a meeting with an ag retailer and had the opportunity to pick his brain for two hours. He sells fertilizer, chemicals and seed. In that position, he can see what farmers are doing right and can also see areas that need improvement.
I asked him, “what is the biggest problem you see with producers?” He definitively responded, “they don’t pay attention.” At first, I rejected his words. Paying attention, well of course I’m alert to happenings in our business. In fact, I pay attention to everything. After the initial rebuttal, I took a deep breath and thought more about what paying attention really means.
I wondered if I had been scouting fields enough, calculating cattle cost of gain correctly, and contacting the right amount of hay customers. I questioned if I focused too much time on less important activities.
This leads to a bigger question; am I paying attention to the right things? As farmers, we feel like we never do enough. There is always some task to be done. Maybe it’s something easy like putting mineral out for cows, or something intense like updating a cash flow statement in preparation for a meeting.
My dad developed a triage system several years ago. We focus on the most important things first. The first level is a job that must get done today. The second level is a job that needs to be done but can wait until tomorrow. The last level of the triage system is a job that can wait indefinitely. To note, third level jobs are like that cattle corral that has needed repaired for three years. We’ll get to it eventually.
This triage to-do list helps us identify areas of attention. We use it to keep employees productive and keep ourselves on task. The key, though, is identifying what to add then where it goes on the list. It makes paying attention a little easier.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.