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Guest Opinions

Extension by Dallas Mount

Written by Dallas Mount
Time Management on the Ranch
By Dallas Mount, UW Extension Southeast Area Livestock Extension Educator
    What is your most precious resource? Many would say time. The older I get, the faster it seems to go, so I would have to agree that time and how you spend it is among the most precious resources. How do you decide how you manage your time in your ranching business? I think that, too often, time management on the ranch becomes dealing with one fire after another. If this seems to be the case for you, I think this should be a red flag that something is wrong. Sure, every now and then everyone spends time dealing with fires, but this should not be the norm.  
    Where you spend your time in your business should be directly related to your position in the business. (Refer to included diagram). If you are the CEO of the business, then a good portion of your time should be in strategic planning and big picture thinking (Innovation), another portion in analyzing operational strategies – refining what you are currently doing (Operational) and the last portion in actually doing the work (Maintenance).
    A mid-level manager will spend less time in innovation, more in operational and some in maintenance, and a low level position will spend the most time in maintenance with a little in operational. Look at this chart and think about your position on the ranch, and then think back to how you spent your time last year. A common problem in agriculture is that we get so busy doing the work that we often fail at finding the time for the big picture things.
    For example – we might be so busy working in an enterprise on the ranch that we failed to do the financial analysis to learn that this enterprise is actually losing money! Dave Pratt with the Ranching for Profit school refers to these two distinct tasks as “Working On the Business” (WOTB) and “Working In the Business” (WITB). You can also think of these as $10/hour jobs and $100/hour jobs. Why do we in agriculture tend to spend so much time doing the $10/hour WITB work and often neglect the $100/hour WOTB work? I think one reason is we enjoy the WITB work and perhaps are less comfortable or don’t know how to do the WOTB work.  
    In working for UW Extension, I often hear people tell me that they would really like to come to a ranch management school or other educational opportunity, but they just can’t find the time to get away from the operation. What they are really saying is “I’m too busy working in my business to find the time to work on my business.” We in the business of education also need to challenge ourselves to make sure that the educational opportunities we are providing are well worth a sacrifice of time by those individuals who are attending.
    In summary, I would challenge you to evaluate your role in your business and critically evaluate your allocation of your time in these three areas. If you need help or direction for your operational and innovative time commitment, I would encourage you to attend a Ranch Management Practicum class. We are currently scheduling our 2012-13 classes and it looks like the Wyoming schools will be based out of the Casper and the Torrington area next year. Details will be posted on RanchPracticum.com as they are finalized.