“Work/life balance” comes up as an important topic for many young farmers. In my opinion, it’s time to change our language to “the choices we make to manage our time.” When we realize we have a choice in the matter, then we can take action and more easily avoid burnout on the farm. Just knowing we have a choice is a powerful thing.

Right now is a very busy time for farmers in North America. Not only is it Spring and planting season, but we are also in the middle of a pandemic that is changing how we work and live. Take a deep breath. The tips in this article will help you evaluate how you are spending your time and energy so you can make better choices.

[Tweet “If you own, manage, or work on a #farm, I know this is an incredibly busy time for you! Take a deep breath and learn how to avoid #burnout in my latest blog post! #familyfarm #farmbusiness”]

6 Tips to Avoid Burnout on the Farm

Does the current situation have you feeling anxious? Take some time to consider these ideas and make the necessary adjustments in how you spend your time and energy.

1. Time is the currency we long for.

How do you organize your time?  I write things down on paper; you might use the notes in your phone or digital calendar. I also use a kitchen or phone timer for 25-minute stretches if I need to get a project started but have a limited block of time. Our farming son plans on a huge whiteboard. Use whatever system works best for you. The important thing is to block out time for what is important.

Dr. Richard Swenson, the author of Margin, suggests we need more white space on our calendars to create margin in our life for interruptions and the unexpected.

Farmers, I can hear you grumbling. Elaine, the work on this farm is never done. We don’t have enough time! Perhaps you don’t have enough workers!. We take Sundays off as margin time for family and faith activities. The cows need feeding on Sunday, but have you neglected to take some renewal time for you and your family?

Are you taking time for satisfying leisure activities away from work? Play is important not just for children, but also for parents and grandparents.

2. Do you have a morning routine? 

David Irvine encourages farmers to develop a habit of 20 minutes a day for reflection/quiet time.  I have oatmeal and milk for breakfast and then head to my quiet chair. This is a great time for me to grow spiritually, but also a time to ponder what the priorities are for the day. On the farm business side, what would it look like to take 20 minutes in the morning to reflect on your business goals and map your week?

Irvine suggests a weekly 30-minute “planning session.” I just did this with my daughter-in-law as we coordinate meals for workers, child care, and my plans for coaching with BDO work. When you block out a map aligning with your core values, you will feel more “on track.”

During a power outage, I had a wonderful phone chat with a dear friend. Connecting to friends is one of my top 5 core values. A very busy entrepreneur voiced his best tip on a recent podcast. He blocks 1 hour every Thursday evening to connect with friends—at the very least, a phone call. Are you making time for routine things like birthday cards and phone calls to the important people in your life?

3. How are you managing your energy?

Coaches have a core question:  Does this decision give you energy or drain your energy? Does the decision feel heavy or light? 

One of the best ways to manage your energy is to go back to the basics. Rest, nutrition, and movement. Are you getting good sleep? Do you fuel your body with regular, nutritious meals? Are you moving your body lots throughout the day? 

Sounds elementary. I once sent a frustrated farmer to see his doctor, and he thanked me profusely. He discovered two key health issues needing attention, and he felt a whole lot better in 2 weeks. Last summer I changed my diet significantly due to a wheat allergy, and I have less “brain fog” and more energy. I also engaged techniques.

4. Do you feel you have the power to choose control over work situations?

Young farmers who are also parents are likely feeling trapped between the demands of the farm and the expectations of parenting young children. Is your voice heard at the farm planning table when you ask for more time off?  Do you negotiate the reasonable and unreasonable work expectations of your farm managers? It’s really important to be satisfied with the way you handle the demands and stress in your life. My spouse is a great mirror for me when he senses I am getting overwhelmed. He checks in and offers support or asks what is going on.

Be gracious and humble about asking for help when you need it. Comparison is a joy stealer, so I suggest stop comparing yourself to how other parents are managing their overfull schedules. Be courageous to do what is right for your particular situation and what lines up with your core beliefs and values.

5. How do you plan to take action on what’s not working?

Change is inevitable; growth is optional.  We can choose to be assertive, take action, and generate a new way of being. The first conversation is with yourself. 

David Irvine encourages us to ask ourselves: “What can I take out of my day today to make room for what is most important?” 

I wonder if you are distracted and sucked into the social media vortex on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, when a social media “fast” just might free up some time for courageous conversation and cuddling with your spouse.

6. Learn from others. 

There are many great podcasts to learn from and books (like Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu). I’ve started listening to podcasts rather than the radio shows that blast out bad news and are not great tools for making good mindset choices. You might want to seek out a farm man or woman in agriculture whom you respect and who is assertive to learn from them about how their assertiveness was achieved.

I gave nine women permission not to grow a garden by saying, “Where is it written that to be a good farm wife, you HAVE to have a garden!” They all have other demands on their time, hate weeding, and did not have the courage to stand up to their father in law’s expectations. Now they do. 

Using the phrase “Where is it written” may be useful in many other scenarios for better energy management on your farm.

There are two main things you must do to avoid burnout on the farm. The first is what I introduced in this blog post—simply become more mindful about the ways you are spending your time and energy. If you are unhappy with the results of your thought experiment, move on to step #2: determine where you can make changes that will allow you to still get things done but also carve out a little space of your own. How you spend your time and energy is your choice, and if you can reclaim that, even in small ways, you will be able to avoid burnout on the farm.

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.


Rave reviews

“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
Maddy Berner, Event Planner & Communications Coordinator, National Milk Producers Federation National Milk Producers Federation
“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
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Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
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Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
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James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
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Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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