Sooner or later, everyone who has a farm or a horse laments: “If I only had more time ...” Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day. Sure—we can get up earlier or stay up later, but burning the candle at both ends will catch up with us eventually, and in the meantime it can make us grumpy, inefficient and possibly unsafe.
Here are five steps you can take to better prioritize your tasks, maximize your efficiency in the stable and find more time for riding and the other “fun” stuff (that’s why we have horses, remember?).
Step 1: Think through your typical week.
Yes, I know there is no “typical” day or week in the barn or on the farm, but there are tasks that you do every day and specific things that must be done during each week or month. Give yourself 10 minutes and mentally walk through what you have to do this week, jotting each item down on a piece of paper. (This will get easier and take less time as you make this part of your process.)
Step 2: Admit that you can’t (or won’t) get it all done.
The first step to recovery is recognizing you have a problem. While this isn’t a 12-step program, there are bad habits you have to break. In order to do that, you have to recognize the problems. You might like to help Jennifer move hay this Thursday, but if you are going to get all your horses ridden and tuned up for the show next weekend, can you really afford that time? On the other hand, if you and Jennifer share hay and that’s how you get your horse’s feed cheaper, what else can you change in your schedule to allow you the two hours to get hay and get your horses ridden? Maybe you give up the movie with your girlfriends, or you decide you’d rather ride than watch the new episode of a TV show.
Step 3: Prioritize your list.
Is it nice, or is it necessary? Ask yourself this question as you go through your list. It might be nice to give your horses a bath this week, but is it necessary? If it is a priority to spend some “me” time with your girlfriends at the movie, what else can you swap for that evening out?
Step 4: Write your priority list down.
It doesn’t matter if it’s tacked to your tack trunk, pinned to the cork board in your barn or punched into memos on your cell phone: Have a written priority list. This will help you avoid getting off track and wasting time.
Step 5: Do this on Sunday night every week.
YIKES! Every week? Until you get into the habit of prioritizing your week (and no two weeks are the same), then you will find yourself scurrying around trying to get everything done. Or you will get involved in something and forget to do that one task that has a deadline, such as entering the clinic by a certain date.
Having that list to glance at will help you keep on track and ensure that you’re not distracted by “shiny objects” that come into your life. It will also ensure that what you deemed the most important things to be done this week have been marked off your list.
Once you start making your weekly priority list, you will find it takes less and less time to make your list and use it wisely. And understand that your list will change. If you have a horse that colics, or a friend who comes to town unexpectedly, or your load of hay comes in this week instead of next week, or you get a new boarder and have to clean out the stall and make room for her tack, you have to be flexible.
And a last bonus tip for you: Mark off the items that you get done! It will make you feel really good when you can see your list dwindling. Plus, as you become more efficient, you will find your list getting completed and giving you more time for the “fun” things you want to do.