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Prioritizing projects

 
John F Dean
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I am finally at the point where I am crawling out of an abyss.  You know, where the scheduled tasks for the day/ week/month become overwhelmed by both complications as well as an endless number of crisis of the moment.

With my morning coffee I normally apply the methods put forward in The One Minute Manager.  It worked for me for 40 years or so on the job.  But, lately (The past 60 days) , not so good on the homestead. It seems there is always a couple dozen unforeseen problems that come up to eat my time.  

What methods do others use for scheduling and prioritizing.
 
Anne Pratt
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Interesting!  Another thread on practically the same topic, nearly at the same time!

the other thread
 
John F Dean
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Yes, I stumbled on it a little while after I posted this one.  I've decided burnout might be the biggest problem.  I am taking most of today a d tomorrow off. Of course, homestead wise, there ain't no such thing as a day off.
 
Anne Miller
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Planning is the key to success.  Then having a to-do list where you can scratch things off as they get done.

I like the paper lists since things done on the computer are easily overlooked.

As for unforeseen problems, there is not much that can be done about those.  It is a homestead.  The animal can't wait as they come first as do children.

Just take them on the best you can.  Dear hubby used to say that these come in threes and over the years it seems that is the case.
 
John C Daley
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I have dealt with this for years.

And it took a long time to sort out, I too used critical path analysis for my whole working life and still use it on my 20 acre farm.

BUT, when it all goes bad I try the following ;
- slow down, maybe read the papers  and make slow time everyday
- I use an A4 writing pad, and I doodle down the ideas etc and I create a list for the next day.
- that list may include things previous;y not done, and new items.
- the list will have say 4 things, not 100 and its automatically manageable
- In the same book I might have a list of overall projects with notes about materials, assistance, techniques
- some items may be, take red spray can to tractor, buy box 1/2inch UNC nuts, mark out holes for shed posts
- some times I allow a few days for materials to be collected and located where the job is, because if I spend time
looking for a post hole shovel, I my get annoyed and not find it anyway.
If I leave it, I usually walk past the shovel within a few days!!
- I allow time to catch up with people or research things at a hardware etc.
I also give names to each project;
- sky deck
- shrangali
- sidecar museum
- My big welding and fiddling shed is known as the palace
- camp corner

I hope this helps John



 
Olivia Hall
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I'm finding that I'm starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of plants and projects I've been trying to take on. How do you go about prioritizing and organizing what projects you tackle? How do you keep track of all the tasks that you need to do throughout the year? I've cut myself off from accepting any additional plants this year because I just can't deal with them (I still have several perennials that have been in their little containers for a month because I haven't been able to plant them yet).
 
Artie Scott
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Great question, Olivia!  

I struggle with this too, every day it seems. I spend too much time thinking about which things I most want to get done in my limited outdoor time!  

Part of it is that I like to have several projects going at once, so that if it is too hot, or too cold, or too wet, or too dry, or I need something at the store, or I am too tired, I can easily shift gears and pick up something else and carry on.

Of course, this approach leaves many things unfinished, and a list of things to consider what exactly is the best use of my time on a given day. Which can get overwhelming if I let it!

I try to address this by keeping a running list of the top 3 most important tasks, and refer to that when feeling overwhelmed by what to do next. Can be hard even deciding between the 3!  And sometimes, a choice involves half a dozen other sub tasks that the task depends on, so there is that!

As an example, as I mulled over what to do next yesterday afternoon, I decided the most important thing I needed to do was one of those subtasks, i.e., get the bushog off the tractor so I could do other things with it.

But first, I needed to do some mowing in several areas, which is why it was still on. So, I ended up mowing despite the dry and very dusty conditions, because I just couldn’t wait any longer for a splash of rain before mowing.  It took up all of my available time mowing and then removing the bushhog, just to get to the point where I can do what I really wanted/needed to do in the first place.

All of that to say, it is important to look at it as a journey, and not a destination. If you are out in the garden getting this done and then that done, you are making progress, bit by bit, step by step. If you feel overwhelmed, remind yourself that this process IS homesteading, each and every baby step. Congratulate yourself on what you got done today rather than fret over what you didn’t. And think about what is the biggest bang for your buck - what will most advance your garden this week. It might just be something as simple as watering or spreading mulch, or it might be something as big as fencing. Balance that against your physical, financial, time and energy constraints. And accept the inevitable compromise and enjoy the process of doing!
 
Michelle Heath
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I like to think of myself as a multi-tasker when in reality I'm usually the person unsuccessfully trying to handle twenty projects and obligations at once.  To be honest this pandemic has really helped to simplify my life and helped me to focus on the important things.

My main project this year has been my garden area. I started with two existing beds, added seven more, placed cardboard around and under all the new beds, fenced the area and covered it with fresh wood chips.  I've already harvested nearly 33 lbs. of potatoes and am working on getting a second crop in a few of the beds.  

Secondary projects have been compost piles. I have one that should be ready by fall, another I'm currently adding to and two consisting of old chicken manure and wood chips.  

My plant propagation area is a corner outside of my back door that receives only morning sun.  Like you, I have some perennials that have lived in pots for far too long and many have found a home in the backyard as it's easy to work on a little bit of the beds at a time when I do my twice daily check of my new plants.  I also have asparagus, rhubarb, chives, garlic chives and several mints that will need transplanted before winter so that will likely be my next project.

My other plans include a greenhouse for next year, which I'll probably start working on this fall.  I had planned to start a market garden to sell produce next year, but that has been pushed back a bit since we just made the decision to teach our daughter at home this fall.  If I find I have time, I'll work on it, but I'm not making it a priority right now. I believe I can easily sell enough plants in the spring to easily pay for the greenhouse construction and then I'll make the market garden my main project.

I also love quilting but have put that on the back burner until winter as outdoor projects are more important and my five year old is a little to eager to run off with pieces of my projects.

Focusing on one or two projects has made things so much simpler for me, though I still have to discipline myself often to not get overwhelmed.



 
Anne Miller
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Great topic!

When it comes to garden projects, I like to do a lot of planning.

I consider the size of the area I have before purchasing plants or seeds.  I draw a diagram of where the plants or seed will go.

Occasional, I might run across a plant sale so my plans might change.  Some seeds might not get planted because of a spur of the moment's weakness.

Getting the seeds planted or the transplant in the ground is always a morning project.  Transplants come first as seeds can wait.

Once everything is in the garden then it is time to start watering.  I usually water 10 to 15 minutes early in the morning.  If I have two beds to water, I do one a day, then the next day I do the other.

When it comes time to harvest, I don't make plans unless I have things to process by canning.

To-do lists also help.  As one task gets done it gets crossed off the list.  Nowadays, I just have enough tasks to need a to-do list.
 
denise ra
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I am a person who usually has a list of a hundred things to do. And I let that list drive me crazy often. But I heard good advice from Allen Williams in a webinar the other day, he said get the low-hanging fruit. You get more accomplished with less energy when you do the projects that give you the biggest return for your time invested. He also said manage for what you want as opposed to what you don't want for instance invasive plants.
 
Jan White
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I've found it really helpful to have a chart posted on my wall with columns labeled spring, summer, fall, winter, year. I write down a major project I can work on at any time under the year column. Under the season columns I write down a few things that need to be done at certain times of the year.

I try to be realistic. "Plant potted trees" would only take a few days if everything went according to plan, but it hardly ever does. So if I schedule that for the spring I take into consideration I have transplants to deal with, seeds to plant (and replant multiple times when the weather doesn't cooperate, rodents eat everything, etc.), and unexpected things that can't wait like a gift of as many raspberry canes as I can dig out before the backhoe gets to them.  Taking all that into account, I make the two day job the major project for that season. Then when all the problems with planting the trees start popping up, I still (hopefully) have time to get them in the ground before scorching weather sets in.

I've also gotten better at accepting that sometimes things just don't happen. The "build outhouse" that's been on the list for the last four years is my "year" project for the third time this year. I'm okay with it.
 
Sanna Heijnis
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I'm a terrible planner by default. I like to do things as they pop up in my head, and that is why I end up overwhelmed and exhausted sometimes - and my garden used to be a field overgrown with weeds come August.

This year, I made a conscious effort to at least plan some things - when and where to sow and plant, for instance. It typically doesn't happen the way I plan it and it takes even more conscious effort to let go of that, but at least there is a general semi-structured picture existing outside my head that I can look at when I lose track of things. That helped tremendously with the startup this spring.

Another thing I'm good at is doing things half. Like weeding half a bed, or mulching half the amount of mulch I should be mulching. I try to be more mindful, determinded and informed when I start something, so I don't give up too soon because I feel incompetent or overwhelmed.

And I make lists, pen and paper. One every few weeks, with everything that's popped up in my head that I think needs to be done (or that I want done, anyway). I mark the items that are really important or urgent and try to do those first, and I just do everything else depending on how I feel, how much time I have, and what the weather's like. It's a mental exercise too, letting go of the things that really do not need to happen now (and some ever).

Oh, and because it's so satisfying to cross anything off my list that is completed, I split up big projects into smaller tasks. Not 'make little pond', but 'relocate rhubarb', 'dig hole', 'install liner', 'fill pond', 'get plants'. There are more items on my list this way, but they also get done quicker, and that is really good for my mindset. I just make a new list whenever my old one has just a few items left.

So basically I dream big, make lists, do what really needs to be done, let go of what I cannot manage, and forgive myself for things that I don't get done or that don't work out.
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