Budgeting Your Day

Two recent posts (here and here) were entirely concerned with money.  If you live in town your budget may not be radically different than living in the country…except it is easier to save money on food out here.  You could build a business in town though…say…lawn care.  Either place, how do you fit building a business into your schedule?  Not just running a business (mowing the grass) but building the business (finding more lawns to mow).

Stephen Covey shared time management quadrants in 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.  Those quadrants help you to identify what is important and what is not important then what is urgent and what is not urgent.  If you don’t get important things done in a timely manner they become urgent.  If you have nothing important to do…well, maybe you should revisit your goals….like…establish some.  Ideally, the bulk of your time should be spent on tasks that are important but not urgent, like planning out your week, building relationships, etc.  Though sometimes there really are fires you have to put out, your farm or business will not continue if all of your important tasks have become urgent.  Plan ahead and complete tasks before they sneak up and bite you.  For example, last year we were butchering chickens and the cows needed to be moved.  Their need to be moved became so urgent they took matters into their own hands.  That delayed our chicken butchering by several hours giving us an urgent and immediate need to sleep.

Julie and I sit down on Sundays (well, most Sundays) with our planners to line up our calendars.  We look at what is coming up this week and plan out larger events ahead of time.  This helps us avoid being double-booked.  It also helps us identify chores that are beginning to shift toward urgency…like butchering ducks.


So what is MOST important?  Moving cows is important.  Gathering eggs and feeding chickens is important.  But none of it matters if I don’t have any customers.  It is of the highest importance that I spend time building my business…building relationships…meeting my commitments.  In could write a whole series of posts about the importance of building your business and ways to go about it.  To keep it short, the business side makes the it possible for me to have cows because I would rather do nothing for nothing.  The most important thing to do is build my business in a myriad of ways, including this blog.

But it’s not always that simple.  There are only so many hours in a day.  With my work schedule (which I can’t modify) and with my commute (which is long) I get at most 3 hours to work on the farm on weekdays.  In the winter I work outside in the dark.  In the summer I work in the fog of mosquitos.  But the weekends are the real chance for me to catch up on chores.  On a typical summer day I get up early, check my live trap for kittens that trapped themselves then turn on the watering hose and go look at the cows.  Everybody still where they are supposed to be?  Good.  Then I mosey on over to the chickens.  Some mornings I go ahead and gather the 18 or so eggs that are already in boxes.  I move the chicken houses, check feed, fill water and head on home to shower and shave.  I usually remember to turn off the cow water when I’m in the shower.

Then a bunch of stuff happens at work and suddenly it’s late afternoon.  The paid work day has ended.  Once I get home it’s time to get moving.  I’m not heading off to play cards at the Moose and I’m not watching Wheel of Fortune.  I’m sharpening my chain saw, laying out the next day’s pasture or otherwise keeping myself busy.  Maybe broadcasting seed in the pasture, weeding or harvesting the garden.  Maybe just estimating pasture and checking recovery.  Maybe chopping the goldenrod the cows didn’t trample or picking up that pile of firewood I forgot about and the cows discovered.  I have to do my level best to knock out important tasks before they become urgent.  It’s getting late.  Better head in and see what the kids are doing.

Did you know I have children?  Sometimes they are out working with me.  Sometimes they are sledding while I’m cutting wood.  Sometimes they are hiding from bugs, playing legos, reading books or otherwise waiting for me to come inside and crack a few jokes.  There’s a good chance the kids ate without me since they go to bed at 9.  I have a few minutes to work my Lego magic, show them who is still king at Mario Kart and have a few laughs together.  Then the kids go to bed and I read a book.  At some point, I’ll turn to my lovely bride and ask her the question she knows is coming…”Want to watch Star Trek?”  Then later one of us will ask the other, “Why did we stay up late watching that stupid show?”


That’s a fairly normal day.  The evening varies widely but that’s about the shape of it.  How much time did I spend building my business?  Well, I didn’t really build my business, I just worked an hour in the morning, maybe 2 hours in the evening.  That’s plenty of time to run cows but not enough time to build a business and it’s certainly not enough time to raise broilers.  What can I cut out?  Well, I could go to bed earlier but it’s dark after 9 anyway.  I could skip supper…oh I already did that.  How about the kids?  Do they really need me around?  Shoot.

And don’t even get started on Julie’s day.  I have 12 hours of showering, driving, sitting and writing code.  She has 12 hours of …well, I asked you not to get me started.

Weekends are, if anything, worse.  Basically the same chore list plus an opportunity to attack bigger projects like putting up hay, butchering chickens or hauling scrap to the scrapyard.  To be honest, in 12-15 hours on weekdays and another 20-25 hours on weekends we’re barely getting ahead of the work.  Buildings to repair, fence to rebuild, brush to cut, fallen limbs…the list never ends.  We only have so much money…but you can borrow money from the future.  You only have so much time and that’s it.  You can’t beg, borrow or steal time and my business needs more time.  My kids need more time.  My wife needs more time.  I want to watch Star Trek!

Dad suggested that my time on the farm is less valuable than my time at a desk…hence the desk job.  So maybe I should hire someone to run the farm while I’m gone.  Trouble with that is, while there is always more work to do, the work isn’t always worth paying for.  I haven’t built my business to the point where I could keep an employee busy and maybe I never will.  Maybe I should stop retailing products.  I could ship all of my beef to the commodity market.  I could shrink my layer flock to just what we need for the house and only raise enough broilers to fill our own freezer.  I would certainly have more time and the commodity market would absorb anything I could produce, I just may not always get a price I’m happy with.  More on this when we talk about beef a few in a few days.


In my discussion about budgeting for the farm I focused on money.  Money is kind of a big deal.  Money is a big deal even if you live in the suburbs but that longer commute to the sticks means you will have even less time at home…less time to build/repair fence…less time to eat…less time to build relationships with customers.  Greg Judy talked about building fence in the dark with a headlamp but his entire business is grazing, not retailing product.  Well, maybe consulting and speaking.  The point is, he, a grazier, was building his business by building fence.

Watch how you spend your time as time is more important than money.  Are you building a business or just running it?  Are you busy doing important things or are you stuck in a rut lacking direction?  Soon we’ll get specific about things to spend time on and the realistic return on investment starting with laying hens.

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