Mental capacity

From the Ground Up with Steve Kenyon

Farmers are the quintessential ‘jack of all trades,’ but continually adding more to your plate can create chaos if it becomes too much to manage.

Are you a “glass half-full” or “half-empty” kind of person? Or maybe your cup runneth over like me? That is me if you were to look inside my mind. It is always overflowing. I only have so much mental capacity. I think we all do to a point. My mind can only hold so much information at one time and it is always in fast-forward. I quite often have to apologize to people for my chaos overflowing into their lives.

Farmers are known as “jacks of all trades.” We are known to do a huge variety of jobs and tasks on the farm. We are the truck driver, the mechanic, the carpenter, the bookkeeper, the welder, the electrician… you get my point? There is always something else that needs doing on the farm. One more task undone on the to-do list.

Are you like me, where some days that cup just needs to be dumped out and you want to start the day all over? I have learned that when I have reached my mental capacity, everything becomes chaos. That’s when agreements start to get broken, I am late for appointments and deadlines are past due. Sometimes that is unavoidable as I have busy seasons just like most farmers. But I like to think that I have learned from my mistakes. I try.

How do I keep my cup half-full? I delegate more. I hire out more work. I have found that if I can hire a task to be done, then someone else can figure out the details. All I want is the end result. I hire out a mechanic. I hire out a trucker, I hire out fencing. I have found that if I can keep from reaching that point of overflow-into-chaos, I have more mental capacity left over for the important work of business management. If I can delegate the small decisions, I have more time to make big decisions.

Not only does it help with my mental health, but it usually ends up being more economical as well. Here is an example: I own a 24-foot flat deck trailer. I can haul my backhoe around with it or I can haul my heavy-duty free-standing panels with it. It is an older trailer, and it has a tendency to break down. It was not very expensive to purchase but is also not quite heavy-duty enough for some of the work I have. If I use it quite often, I always end up with downtime on the side of the road and large repair bills. All of this adds stress and costs me time that overflows my mental capacity. My neighbour has a newer truck and a much stronger trailer. If I hire him, the job gets done faster, with less stress and the cost to me is usually much less than the repair bills would have been. A full day’s job was just completed in four hours which leaves me the rest of the day to tackle another task — maybe a job working on the business. Thanks, Justin.

I can change my own oil. I can do minor repairs but that is something that I prefer to remove from my to-do list. That’s why I leave an extra vehicle at my mechanic’s place. If I have an issue, I drop off one vehicle and pick up the other. I just switch rides. I usually don’t have to plan to get picked up this way. I trust him and he knows to fix my vehicles like they were his own, which doesn’t mean replace every slightly worn-out part with brand new parts like most repair shops. He makes it work. A jimmy rig here and a patch job there. I told him it doesn’t have to look pretty, it has to work and be safe. He knows I don’t want to break down on the side of the road, either. He does a great job. Thanks, Mark.

It is important for my mental health that I learn when my cup is almost full. Maybe I just need to give myself a time out and stand in the corner for a while. (For me it is a corner of a paddock and maybe watch a moose cross the meadow.) Do you need a break? Are you overwhelmed some days? It is a big step forward for me in my business when I can delegate some of the work. You don’t need to be a jack of all trades. If there are some jobs that you just don’t enjoy doing in your business, I bet there is someone not too far away that just loves doing that exact job. Focus on your big business decisions and let someone else make the smaller decisions. Managing my mental capacity is a very important job on my ranch.

About the author


Steve Kenyon runs Greener Pastures Ranching Ltd. in Busby, Alta. You can email him at [email protected] or call 780-307-6500.

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