Work Life Balance

We just finished our farmers’ market season. We are ready for a break. A break from extra early Saturday mornings and my husband working every night restocking the market trailer after working outside on the farm all day. I often spend evenings entering inventory or writing the newsletter.

Therefore, the title of an old article I ran across struck me as important and something we could use a refresher course on. The article was about work life balance.

It’s hard for those of us that come from what I refer to workaholic families. The unspoken rule was the more work you do the better. Family vacations could be counted on one hand with fingers left.

This is not a good habit nor is never leaving the farm something to be proud of. Let me share what I learned from the article Robert Milligan of Dairy Strategies LLC wrote.

Robert suggested four reasons for working “too” much.

  • Our financial status doesn’t allow opportunity to hire sufficient labor to enable us to work reasonable hours.
  • No one else is capable of doing the work we do.
  • Time working is more urgent, even though not more important.
  • There is nothing important to do in non-work time.

The first reason is a challenge for many, but it’s also used to justify the next two reasons. The last reason often happens because while we’re young and able to handle all the physical labor farming requires. We don’t realize the need for hobbies and off farm activities. Sometimes we must force ourselves to get off the farm to develop other interests and nurture hobbies. It’s important to do so in order to develop interests before we don’t have other things to pursue when we need to slow down because our bodies can’t keep up with farming or it’s time to transition the farm.

Those of us who work too much believe subconsciously or consciously, or unintentionally or intentionally that we are the only ones that can do the job right. We need to get past this challenge.

Here are four suggestions we can learn from:

Make Life Balance a Priority

Steve Covey (Seven Habits of Highly Successful People) developed a four-quadrant rectangle, which included: 1. Quadrant of crisis, the goal is to reduce the time spent on these items. 2. Quadrant of Quality, the goal to expand the time spent on these items. It includes everything important but not currently urgent. The quadrant includes many work activities such as leadership, management, training, coaching, and professional development. It also includes much of our personal/family time.

Two other quadrants include: 3. Quadrant of Deception and 4. Quadrant of Waste. This is where unimportant activities are located. Items we are doing that do not have value or are wasteful of our time. These can be eliminated.

Success requires expanding the time available for Quadrant 2 activities. This is done by making these items a priority, by setting aside time in our schedule for these things. The first step is the hardest, start small and expand the time little by little. Remembering time management is not about time but about priorities.

Plan for Life Balance

We need to be off work at 5 pm to meet family obligations or evening meal but always work an extra hour or more because there are always uncompleted tasks that need to be completed. Many of us do that, we work too much because we don’t have a plan to do otherwise.

Some ideas to help in this instance are:

  • Outline what needs done.
  • Determine what can reasonably be done in the time available.
  • Complete high priority tasks only we can do first, even if they are tasks we tend to avoid.
  • Delegate tasks to others.
  • Become more efficient with work time.

Train Others to Complete Some of Your Tasks

Employee management, failing to recognize employee capabilities can be a huge area potential loss on a farm. Sharing responsibilities spreads the burden of tasks to be completed over a larger group of people.

Stop focusing on the weaknesses of employees and look for the strengths and potential. Based on employee strengths and potential, select one task you currently do that one or more employees can successfully complete.

Develop a plan:

  • Create employee(s) excitement for the task
  • Provide required training
  • Establish performance expectations
  • Coach and provide feedback, including comparing actual and expected performance expectations.
  • When the employee is successfully managing the task, select another task to transfer from our task list.

Not only are we freeing up more time for Quadrant 2 activities, including personal time, but we are also increasing productivity and job satisfaction of our employees as we trust them with the activities.

Enhanced Personal Efficiency

Sometimes stepping away from an activity is the best way to become refreshed to return and accomplish what needs to be done. While working through long days and nights without a break creates burnout.

Failing work life balance also creates a very inefficient work style. The next time we just can’t go anymore get off the farm and do something, anything to create more work life balance. We will come back to the task refreshed and renewed, even if it’s a short break.

Good work life balance makes a person more efficient at work and happier in life. It’s like a lot of things we know we should do but often don’t take time. Its time work on creating a better balance for the sake of our family, our farm and ourselves.


Picture of Darlene Livingston

Darlene Livingston

has served as the Executive Director of PA Farm Link for 13 years. Leading the organization’s farm succession education and facilitation programs, assisting with farmer and land databases, beginning farmer and farm stress work.

Darlene has been instrumental in bringing farm succession to the forefront in Pennsylvania. Through her leadership two International Farm Transition Network Coordinator trainings have been held in Pennsylvania along with continued education programs for ag professionals.

Born and raised on a diversified farm, Darlene has a lifetime of farm experience working with three generations on the farm.

Subscribe to Our Succession Blog & Newsletters Today