30 January 2013

In Order to go Faster, First we Must go Slower

Some years ago Mike Cotton was the new stock manager on a reasonably big sheep and cattle station near Gisborne.

‘I’d been in the job about 6 months when my boss sat me down for a chat.’

‘At the time I had two young shepherds to teach and guide, and I hated to waste time – I was always a tiger to get cracking. Normally we’d talk about which mobs needed moving, any other tasks for the day, and I’d be on my horse and away with the boys.

‘On this particular morning my wise old boss said: “I appreciate your work ethic, Mike. I’ve got no worries about you being the right appointment for my farm, but I have a bit of advice, if you’ll accept it.

“Every day we talk about the jobs to be done and almost before we’ve finished speaking you and the boys are disappearing over the horizon in a cloud of dust. Today I want you to go to the horse yards, saddle up, then climb up on the fence, sit on the rails and talk with the boys about the plans for the muster. Take 15-20 minutes if you like – then ride out.”

‘Needless to say, taking that time to plan significantly improved our stock handling.’

Mike’s story is a perfect illustration of one of my favourite time management precepts – In order to faster, first you must go slower’.

How many times do we hear people say ‘I haven’t got time to .. ‘? Of course that is sometimes true, but if we notice ourselves repeatedly using this phrase, it may be time to step back a bit and analyse what’s going on.

What are we really saying? We haven’t got time to teach someone else? No time to fix that broken fence or repair the gate that’s tied up with baling twine? We can’t spare the time to go to a discussion group, or a Monitor Farm day, even though we know we might learn something useful? Or there’s too much paperwork waiting in the office to study new farm administration techniques?

Wrong thinking. We can’t afford NOT to take the time. If we always defer long-term actions (even something as simple as sitting on the stockyard rails for 15 minutes to plan the day’s strategy) for the urgency of short-term tasks we will never (or only slowly and by luck rather than planning) grow, improve, and move our farming business to the next level.

Every change initially slows us down. In fact, I’d be very suspicious of the effectiveness of anyone who swings into a new task without an initial reduction of speed. How much thinking have they done? What effort has gone into looking for the most efficient way of performing the task? Welcome each new challenge, accept that it will slow you down for a little while, and look forward to the increase in productivity and new opportunities once you’ve mastered it.

This thinking applies in the farm office as well. What little processes can you improve by taking a little bit of extra time? How many computer shortcuts do you know? How competent are you with the programmes you use regularly, or would a course give you faster skills?

For instance, did you know about the time-saver of email signatures? Anything we type constantly can be turned into a block of text that can be dropped in anywhere in an email, not just at the end of the message. Two examples could be driving instructions to your farm, or information about an upcoming event you’re organising.

To create a new signature in Outlook:

  • Tools, Options, Mail Format, Signature Picker, Select New, create a title meaningful to you, and follow the steps.
  • Don’t use ‘v-card’ – it becomes an attachment which few people open for fear of viruses.
  • You must be in a New Mail to use a signature.
  • There should be a Signature button on the Toolbar. Click on it and you’ll see the list you’ve created.
  • Some versions don’t show the Signature button on the Toolbar, but it’s available through a drop-down button.
  • Investigate your own Help menu if the Signature button doesn’t show on your screen.

If your email programme doesn’t have this feature, investigate your software as to how to create macros or templates of frequently used data you can drop in.

Sometimes we have to unlearn bad or slow habits, but the effort is worth it. Think of it as an investment – of time. Remember – in order to go faster, first we must go slower. Once new habits are mastered, you’ll save time.





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