Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Farmers are hard workers. Something you might not know is, farming is full of some very monotonous activities. Activities that need to be done regardless of how boring the tasks are, the weather, if they are sick, or any other excuse we who work on a computer for a living can think of to avoid work.
Digital workers have a tremendous amount in common with farmers and we can learn a lot from them. Farmers have tried and true methods to get through the days and years doing what they need to do to make a living and support their families without going off the deep end from the monotony.
A Good Night’s Sleep
Many digital workers feel the need to work until the wee hours of the night. It’s almost a stereotype in movies for programmers to be up at 3:27AM, all jacked up on caffeine or energy drinks and writing code while blasting some sort of techno beat. Farmers aren’t that intense and realize the value of a good night’s sleep.
Being well rested and having a good sleep routine is a key factor for having the energy to complete everything the next day. They work hard all day so they usually have no problems getting to sleep at night. Humans aren’t made to expend energy continuously. We alternate between sleep and rest. As this NY Times article says energy is finite, but unlike time, it is renewable.
Although many of us can’t increase the working hours in the day, we can measurably increase our energy.
You might not need a full 8 hours of sleep, everyone is different. Utilizing an application for your Android, Sleep Diary Pro, you can calculate the time you need to go to sleep based on the time you to wake up or vise versa. Sleep Diary Pro will also help you track your sleep patterns.
The Power of Routines
Routines are extremely important on a farm. The chores — feeding, watering and milking the animals, cleaning up the barn, stocking the wood stove, tending to the fields/crops, etc. — need to be completed every day, sometimes twice a day.
Think about your day as a digital worker. You need to attend to emails, make calls, write a blog post, send your newsletter, collaborate with colleagues and clients, go to the gym, read and comment on other people’s site. And that’s a few things from an average to-do list. How many of those are actual money makers for you, and how many are tedious but necessary?
Setting a routine based on when you are most productive is ideal. Wake up, go to the gym and plan your day based on your money making activities. Batch your other tasks like social media and reading new industry related information and commenting.
Successful entrepreneurs like Jack Dorsey follow this rule to the letter. According to Buffer, the founder of Twitter and Square “themes” his days and stay focussed on the particular tasks for that day.
There is interruption all the time but I can quickly deal with an interruption and then know that it’s Tuesday, I have product meetings and I need to focus on product stuff.
Having a routine is what a lot of people trapped in a day job want to get away from, however, a routine is what keeps us plugging along and in the work mindset. Technology can help you take a motivating first step, and then allow momentum to take over. Finding the right routine may take some time, but once you start to find what works, you’ll be super productive.
Know Your Deadlines
On a farm, certain deadlines need to be met, as many are based on the seasons. You’ll need to get the fields planted by a certain time based on the typical weather patterns. You’ll need to harvest the crops within a certain amount of time or they will spoil in the fields, animals need to be milked and fed according to the clock.
The key, whether you’re a farmer or a digital worker, is to break down the project into smaller micro-goals. With micro-goals you won’t be overwhelmed and achieving these will keep you moving ahead. With all of the potential product management apps out there, you can try a few and see what works best for your needs.
Some project management apps like Asana are better for teams while a flexible project management app like Trello could be better for the individual with a strong visual orientation. Pay more attention to how the apps work for your needs. If you are struggling to learn a new method, you may want to look for something a bit simple.
Money is always a struggle on the farm, especially on a farm with a lazy farmer. If the crops aren’t cared for and harvested or the animals aren’t milked and taken to be processed, there is no income to be had. The trick is to not spend anything unless the money is in your account. And even then, being frugal is important. You never know what the future will hold for your livestock or crops.
Also, farmers rely heavily on their equipment. A tractor or combine isn’t a cheap buy or repair, so they need to keep a handle on their finances to either pay for or make payments on new equipment when needed.
The same holds true for the rest of us. Poor financial management takes productivity off the rails. Having a good money management plan is essential. Not being financially literate is no longer an excuse because today anyone can acquire an education thanks to online free courses.
Finding Creative Solutions
Walking around an average farm, you’ll see a lot of little fixes to pesky problems. Some are pretty common — welding a gate or adding a snow fence to cut down on the snow drifts — while other solutions may be a bit more out of the box. Most of the duties on the farm are manual labor. However, some of the tasks such as milking, have some automation involved. Having this sort of help increases the number of animals the farmer can attend to in a day.
You can be equally crafty with your day to day productivity. Processes are pivotal to the productivity of an individual or a small business. Any automated process for your small business will help you make time for money making activities.
Documenting a process is a good starting point. You might get insights to improve the processes for greater efficiency. But keep in mind that processes come with their own traps. Especially, for creative tasks. Fast Company says processes can kill productivity if we don’t re-examine them…
When people’s jobs depend on meeting metrics and maintaining the status quo, can you fault them for their reluctance to expend any energy toward creation and invention?
Go back to the way you do things.
For instance: Instead of being bound to the desk, can mobile solutions improve your productivity?
One way to go mobile is to use cloud storage and apps. Become a Dropbox power user or use Google Drive across your devices. Because each job has different specific needs, a combination of applications is usually the best solution. Finding an alternative app can solve a bottleneck at a lesser cost.
A farmer’s “Macgyver” attitude can be easily transplanted to our tech lives. Look into this Reddit thread for some quick inspiration.
Lessons in Sustainable Growth
Not everyone gets to experience what it’s like running a modern farm. The actual work being done, the long days and the strict deadlines all come with the territory. No excuses, the work needs to be done.
As digital workers, we feel like the world is coming to an end if a blog post fights us a little bit when we’re writing. Or when we have a client that’s being unreasonable. Remember, we can figure out a way. Just like farmers.
Farmers need to keep at it until the job is done. They don’t have a choice.
Learning how to grow your level of efficiency from generations of men and women who grow things will teach you how to stick to your deadlines no matter what. Spend your time working and growing.
What can you learn from the hard working farmers and their “get it done no matter what” attitude?