This was no surprise, as I have often quipped, “Procrastination and conflict avoidance are killing agriculture.”
Nathalie Plamondon-Thomas of the Think Yourself Confident podcast has described procrastination as a “thief of time.” She describes five types of procrastination:
1. Task versus fun. This is when you are choosing internally to give way to distraction like reordering the items in the fridge or cleaning the shop when you know the real task is to make an appointment with your accountant to review your year-end data.
2. Distraction, which is external to you as events or circumstances in your day pull you away from the important things you know you need to start doing.
3. Fear or anxiety that builds when you are called to do something new and unknown, things you don’t even want to try. For many families, this might be attending a family meeting with a consultant when they don’t know what emotions will be shared, the tone of the people gathered and if there may be conflict blowups. The tension of working to accomplish a new task evokes too many negative feelings, so it feels easier to not even try.
4. Not organized. Many families ask me about “How do we even get started with the succession transition planning process?” If your farm office is a paper storm, and your financials are in a shoebox, you have a journey of a thousand steps. It all starts with taking the first step. If you don’t know where to start, that is an excuse. Many advisers can help you get started.
5. Overwhelm. Farmers are a proud and stubborn bunch who tend to want to do things on their own. They also will add lots of things and tasks to their plate without subtracting the lesser important tasks. We all could use more subtraction and simplification to achieve what is truly important.
Here are some strategies to push through procrastination:
- The Italians have a tool called the Pomodoro or the tomato approach. In Italy, many kitchen timers are shaped like tomatoes. The Pomodoro technique is using 25 minutes as a block of time to get something accomplished. Try this. Set a 25-minute block of time on your smartphone. Give yourself 25 minutes to make an appointment with the lawyer to update your will. Find your old copy. Spend the remainder of the time brainstorming the new changes you want to make. Voila. You are on the way to updating your estate plan.
- Use your digital calendar to block out two hours to get your office cleaned up, papers scanned to digital and chuck stacks of papers that no longer have any value. Having a tidier environment will create energy. My online business manager has suggested I start this project in 10-minute increments every morning before beginning coaching appointments.
- Ask for help. This fall, my husband helped me clean the outside windows, and we worked as a team. I have timed myself before, so had a good idea how long the task should take. Many hands make light work. I’m also thankful for an employee who helped me clean up my garden, as I had worked in small increments to get it started but needed more muscle power to finish the job.
- Ask yourself, “Why am I putting this off?” Give yourself a great fun reward for completion of the task. Many times, as farmers with a strong work ethic, we forget the value of fun and play.
- Use the words of “By when can I expect you to have this done and get back to me?” Some farmers have not had timely responses from their advisers, and they get frustrated. Everyone’s time is valuable, so let’s engage a culture of mutual respect and manage expectations for completion of work.
- Give the task a numerical scale of readiness. “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very ready, how ready are you to book time with a financial planner?” One partner says 2, and their spouse says 9. Then you know you have a 7-point disconnect of readiness to act.
This summer, my Valiant Concord grapes boasted a wonderful crop. I carefully put out the bird netting at the proper time and waited for the cool fall nights. Something told me I should harvest all the grapes one evening, but I did not follow the prompting. The next day, I discovered the wind had dislodged the bird netting and the sparrows had found a way to use all my plump grapes to satisfy their thirst. I had procrastinated in harvesting a precious crop of grapes and lost the potential of 20 jars of grape jelly. The downside is: Now I must wait another 11 months for the next crop of grapes.
Missing out on treasured fruit is not life-threatening. Delaying the signing of your will documents will leave your family in chaos. I regret the day I delayed visiting an elderly friend in the hospital. By the time I arrived, she had passed.
Procrastination is a barrier to you getting what you need and want in a timely fashion.
Look for ways to make the task accomplishment fun. Mitigate distractions. Calm your fear and anxiety with a coach and trusted adviser. Get organized and let go of overwhelm. Just keep taking the next step. You can do this. Go set your timer now.
ILLUSTRATION: Illustration by Kristen Phillips.
Elaine Froese is a lifelong learner of ways to get things done. Her passion is to help farm families find harmony through understanding in their transition journey. Sign up for her blog and buy her books at Elaine Froese.
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