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Across the Fence: The habit and danger of ‘busyness’

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattleman Published on 23 March 2018
driving cattle

Time. We all wish we had more of it. It slips through our fingers. We start a project and it takes longer than anticipated; the cows move slowly or the barn is dirtier than we thought. Now in springtime we're checking calves, building or repairing fences, and lining up irrigation equipment: We're busy.

Overall, we seem to be a nation that praises busyness.

“Come here!” “Do this!” “Be involved in this group!” I'm sure we are all involved in a lot.

So here are some tips to help us all:

  1. Sleep in your coveralls. You can hit the coffee pot and slide out the door. Added bonus: You save on your heat bill during the night.
  2. Eat the night before. No breakfast needed!
  3. Buy a trebuchet. This medieval catapult can toss those bales into any pasture! Cuts down on feed time as you wait for spring pastures.
  4. Clone yourself. Do everything you want!
  5. Teach the dog to drive. You can work in the truck!

Okay, I know … but hopefully you chuckled.

Truly practical tips include time apps for your phone, scheduling/calendar notes, organizing spaces around you – things that border cliché at this point.

When I researched time-saving tips, they all circled around this fact: We all want to do more, with less. Do more activities with less time. Buy new things with less money. Produce greatness with less effort.

Obviously there is some credence to this – we all want to produce great cattle with less input. It's a good business strategy. Healthy cattle don't need excess time and medicine. Good fences and pastures go a long way on saving time.

Strewn along in all this, though, is something that I struggle with: an attitude of busyness. How many times do I say, "I'm busy"? It feels like there is a need to be busy – I'm supposed to be busy. It's as if we've forgotten that we are human beings and our value isn't dependent on how much we do. It's just that our culture is busy, our lives are busy, but I'd wager that our minds are busiest.

We ag folks take the cake. How many of us would tell our neighbors, "Yeah, I finished that fence today and then Netflixed the last season of Blue Bloods." Not many. We'd say, "Worked on that fence today."

Being not-busy is almost unacceptable.

Maybe we need to cultivate a slow pace within us regardless of what is whirling around us.

I'm all-too-familiar with the never-ending list of ranch chores. Those of us in agriculture have a standing to-do list that never gets done. However, we may be wise to make sure we own the ranch and the ranch doesn't own us.

Time will keep ticking and may slip through our hands, but if we change our attitude about time and how we think we should be spending it, perhaps we'll enjoy the feel of the minutes as they brush against our fingers.  end mark

Marci Whitehurst ranches with her husband and three kids in southwest Montana. Her Across the Fence blog offers a unique viewpoint about life, livestock, cowgirl lingo and family bonds strengthened on the ranch.

Marci Whitehurst
  • Marci Whitehurst

  • Cattle Producer
  • Montana

PHOTO: A slower pace is sometimes what we need to pare down the busy factor. Photo by Marci Whitehurst.