I get it farming is your life! You don’t know what you would do if you couldn’t do it every day, but should it be this way? Do you have a work-life balance, or do you just work?
Work-life balance a concept that every industry struggles with and one most farmers choose to ignore completely. People who lack work-life balance tend to think the same way, the world revolves around them and if they take a day off everything will fall apart. One thing I have learned through my life and watching others, taking a break is not an option; it’s a necessity.
I grew up in a household that always took Sundays off. Yes, I know it’s unbelievable we only worked six days a week! Don’t get me wrong animals chores would still be done, but we wouldn’t touch anything that could be done either Saturday or Monday. I can only remember one Sunday during harvest that my dad decided to combine a few last acres by himself because it was supposed to be nasty weather the rest of the week. Some people thought we were crazy for having it be this way. Sundays in my family are for Church, Family and taking Naps! (I still love my Sunday afternoon naps to this day, something my husband like to make fun of)
When I got to college, and in the last few years I started working Sundays, I quickly realized it sucked. I counted up my days one time, and I had worked 20 days straight. The paycheck was great, but mentally I was drained. The older I get, the more often I see people pushing themselves to work longer hours in a day and more days during the week, but they never take a break.
When your work-life balance is off it is exhausting, both mentally and physically, and it hurts your bottom line. Without taking a break, you are always pushing yourself beyond what your mind is capable of doing. There is research all over the place that says why we need breaks. Why do you think states have requirements for lunch hours and 15-minute breaks, but unfortunately they don’t have a limit on the number of days in a row you can work at a job.
Being a teacher I learned a bit about how the brain worked, and since then I have read up on a few things. It is seriously fascinating. Through research, it is very common knowledge that a brain has a hard time focusing on a task for more than 1 hour. Yes, it differs from person to person, and for most people, it is only 20-30 minutes. That’s the time frame given before our brain needs a break from that activity and to move on to the next.
People also have different times of productivity. If you’re like me most days, you jump out of bed with a brain ready to go. (It use to be my favorite time of the day and its slowing creeping back). My husband, give him an hour, he has to ease into the day accomplish one thing at a time. He can be seriously productive around 10/11 am, the time that I need a break.
Farming is a bit different: There are constantly things going on. Your brain is always jumping from one task to another. This constant jumping requires a lot of brain power. Maybe its harvest and your sitting in a combine or tractor for over 12 hours a day, trying to keep your mind alert as possible. It can be exhausting! Exhaustion leads to mistakes. When that happens, accidents happen. I could be as easy as not putting the auger in on the combine soon enough and hitting a tree. Maybe you forgot to put the tailgate down before you tried to hook up a goose neck, or worse yet maybe you forgot to close the gate behind you and now it getting dark and you are trying to round up cattle, praying a car doesn’t come down the road.
When you don’t take a break, you can make very costly mistakes while farming. It might be with your machinery, animals, or even your life. All of which can be very expensive for the operation. So take a day off during the week. Spend the time with your kids playing catch in the yard, or go for a picnic. Make the day about yourself, your spouse, and your children. Your work will not go anywhere, and nothing will fall apart if you wait a day.
Also, don’t forget to take a few days off away from the farm every year. I know the farm is important. It is your livelihood but find some down time to do something you love away from the farm. (Seriously our vacations every year was the Minnesota state Fair, and why yes it is in the top 5 best state fairs in the nation!)The farm can survive. I’m not saying take a vacation in the middle of harvest or planting, but your significant other, and your kids will love it if you can call it quite a bit early one night and spend some quality time with them.
After all, life is about prioritizing and balancing those priorities. So what is more important in your work-life balance? Your Farm, Family, or something else? If you are always sacrificing one, eventually it will just end up disappearing.