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0207 PD: Why time management is important on dairy farms

Ted Ferris Published on 06 February 2007

Time is a resource. Your time is valuable, your employees’ time is money and good time management results in increased productivity and self-esteem. Good time management is a major component of business success. On dairy farms, time management influences labor efficiency, employee attitude and performance, which in turn influence cow performance. So improving time management skills can result in greater success for you, your employees and your business.

The goals of this article are to stress the importance of time management and to encourage you to learn more about the subject. If you struggle like most (me included) with managing your time, read on. Some of the concepts described may be useful to you and your employees.

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Time management defined

Time management is planning and organizing your time, and as a manager, organizing the roles and time of those who work for you. Being organized means knowing who is responsible and what and when things should happen.

Why is time management important?

Since time is a valuable resource, effective use of time translates into labor efficiency, greater business profit and more time for family, friends, leisure, community and other activities. Several factors are influenced by time management. As adapted from Hyrum Smith, who created the Franklin Planner, there are three components:

•event control

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•productivity

•self-esteem

He refers to event control in general as time management.

1. Event control

Event control affects productivity. We know productivity in turn affects success and business profitability. At day’s end, we tend to think about how productive our day was, whether this relates to business, recreation, a family activity or other personal endeavors.

Event control is influenced by goals, goal setting, time management skills and time management habits. Event control can relate to all areas of our life, including business, family and recreation.

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The main point is that event control is influenced significantly by our ability to manage time. You might ask yourself, does your time reflect what is important to you, and does it reflect your values? Do you have time to manage your business, time for family, friends, recreation and community? Or is too much of your time controlled by the small things, details and dealing with urgent items – not allowing you time to plan, organize and work on the important items? Stephen R. Covey states that stress is often a result of not doing what is important to us.

2. Productivity

When we feel our day has been productive, our self-esteem and attitude tend to be higher and our level of frustration and stress is lower. There are ways we can increase productivity directly, things that don’t have to do with event control or self-esteem. These may include upgrading facilities to improve labor efficiency and the work environment, changing routines or eliminating unnecessary tasks.

3. Self-esteem

With higher self-esteem and a good attitude we tend to do better controlling events or managing our time. We are more enthused and willing to take time to plan and organize ourselves.

Self-esteem is like energy to an individual. Developing confidence and self-esteem in one’s self and employees is similar to increasing the energy level of your herd’s ration. If self-esteem leads to increased productivity and event control, then improving self-esteem can have a real impact on a business.

Consider that only 10 percent of high school graduates and only 30 percent of the U.S. population have high self-esteem. This suggests there is a great deal to be done to enhance self-esteem in ourselves and employees.

We can do a number of things to improve self-esteem in others. One key is to communicate to others in a noncritical, nonconfrontational manner. Another key is to establish in employees a sense of belonging to the business and to recognize others for their efforts.

We recognize that when our self-esteem is high, we tend to be more productive. Blanchard and Johnson in The One Minute Manager state, “People who feel good about themselves produce good results.” I doubt there is much to argue here. This is part of the reason why we need to consider self-esteem.

Further, productivity affects the time we have to spend on event control. Good event control increases our sense of control over our time and positively impacts our self-esteem.

Managing your time and that of employees involves planning and organizing. What are planning and organizing? Planning in the broad sense involves developing a vision for your business –the big picture and a mission statement that states how you plan to accomplish the vision. Planning in the narrow sense involves problem identification, decision making, establishing long- and short-term goals and determining what needs to be done or mapping out the tactics, which include the who, what, when, where and how of the short-term goals. Long-term goals are eventual, and short-term goals are timed; in other words, they have definite dates established.

Organizing in the broad sense involves establishing an employee management structure (sometimes called an organizational structure or organizational chart), establishing staff functions, job descriptions, daily routines, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and designing work areas. Daily routines and SOPs help employees organize their time and do each job properly and consistently.

Organizing in the narrow sense refers to taking a plan, a set of short-term goals or a set of tasks, and implementing them, often through employees. This involves coordinating activities and duties by organizing your time and employees’ time and responsibilities and then following up to make sure tasks are completed. These are tactical activities.

Summary

Time management is important because it influences productivity and self-esteem, which in turn influence our desire to manage our time and that of employees. In Smith’s book, the first of his 10 Natural Laws of Time and Life Management is: “You control your life by controlling your time.” To control our time there are some very basic steps we can take and many tips we can use. Many of us know some of these practices but do not use them on a daily basis.

Time management involves planning and organizing. We should work to improve event control, productivity and self-esteem. Consider reading additional materials or take a time or project management workshop. Work on one or two time management skills at a time because new habits take time and practice. As we improve our time management skills we shall gain a greater sense of control and be more successful at work and at home. PD

References are available upon request.

—Excerpts from Michigan Dairy Review, Vol. 9, No. 1

Ted Ferris

Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist for Michigan State University

Q. In your opinion, what’s the first step to better time management for a dairy manager?

Intent or desire is necessary, so you first need to decide that time management is a skill that you want to improve. Then learn how to better manage your time. Two things that might help are, one, write down how you use your time for a week to see where you spend too much and too little time.

Doing this, one goal is to evaluate if you are spending time on priority items and decisions first or letting the urgent and unimportant items take up your time or doing work that should be delegated.

Second, come up with a time management scheme that works for your personality. This may require taking a time management seminar or learning how to effectively use a daily planner.

I try to plan out a week at a time and do better when I review each day before I start.

To contact Ted, e-mail him at or call him at (517) 355.8442.

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