With harvest almost upon us, it is worth taking a little time to pre-empt and prepare mentally for what will be an intense and hectic period for your business. One of the things to ask yourself is – who will be the point of control for making the required business decisions over the next couple of months?
If this is a little hazy then sitting down and writing out a simple roles and responsibilities table with a primary and secondary decision maker and sharing that with your team may help (see below).
Decision-making styles differ dramatically and the ability to make the best decision at the right time is the main differentiating attribute of the top 20% of profitable farmers.
A sound decision is an informed decision and to make an informed decision you need to be in the right frame of mind. Consider this against the backdrop of a very challenging harvest period with delays, adverse weather conditions, and complex decisions. This is where there is potential for the intensity and fatigue from workloads at harvest can impact decision-making as the decision-makers become tired, stressed, or overwhelmed.
Figure 1. Part of an example farm roles and responsibilities table (ORM 2022)
So before delving into any big decisions over harvest ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I the right person to be making this decision alone?
- Should I involve someone else (eg; son, daughter, wife, adviser)
- Is there someone I should delegate this decision to completely?
The next question to ask yourself is ‘Am I in the right frame of mind to make this decision right now?’
There are a couple of ways to assess what frame of mind you are in.
Figure 2 below shows a pressure performance curve. You need to assess whether you are in the ‘ideal zone’ or the ‘zone of delusion’.
Figure 2. The pressure/performance curve (DELPIS 2022)
Experiencing a bit of stress or pressure can actually be quite helpful, as it can motivate us to get things done. However, if we are under sustained high pressure, our performance can start to decline and so does our ability to think clearly and make good decisions. If you are in the middle of harvest, you are most likely in the strain zone so it could pay to put off making a major decision until after harvest, if that is possible.
Another image that can be used to help you assess your frame of mind is the stress bucket shown in Figure 3.
The question to ask is: How full is my stress bucket?
Figure 3. The stress bucket (Gunn 2022).
Of course, it is unrealistic to hope to have no stress in our stress bucket. There are always things that we need to do. What we aim to do is to have a bit of a buffer zone so that if a big decision needs to be made we’ve got the capacity to deal with it effectively, without becoming distressed.
To maintain that buffer zone we need some healthy coping strategies to help to release our tension and stress.
Examples of some helpful coping strategies.
- Watch your diet – Cut down on those Mars bars, soft drinks, and pies.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink.
- Prioritise sleep – Remember your reaction time after 24 hours with no sleep is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of around 0.1%.
- Listen to music.
- Incorporate regular exercise into your routine.
- Keep connected with people you care about.
- Making time to do things that you enjoy.
Harvest is often a stressful time because as we get busy these coping strategies are the first thing we abandon in an effort to get the job done, (when they probably should be prioritised even more at these times).
So the message here is that over the coming harvest keep a check on your frame of mind by monitoring your stress bucket, coping strategies, and where you are on the decision performance curve. If a big decision looms and you recognise you are not in the right frame then you could delay it, delegate it or share it with others.
If you are interested in learning more about strategies to cope more effectively with life’s challenges and making decisions under stress go to www.ifarmwell.com.au website created by Dr. Kate Gunn from the University of South Australia.
“The website has been designed by Australian farmers to help other Australian farmers cope effectively with life’s challenges and get the most out of every day” – Dr. Kate Gunn
Matt McCarthy, Managing Consultant