If there is any segment of society that understands the importance (and profitability) of habits, it’s farmers. Particularly ones who raise animals.
Animals thrive on routine and timely delivery of feed so in order to be profitable, the farmer must go to the barn every morning and every night. Usually the animals are fed before they, themselves, sit down for breakfast.
Whether chosen or forced on us by necessity, routines and habits keep us organized, functional, competitive and productive.
They also help us remember things we might otherwise forget.
For instance, Wisconsin dairyman Lloyd Holterman told Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week dairymen that he cleans and disinfects the maternity pen every single Thursday. I’m sure many dairy farmers have specific pen-cleaning routines but I suspect just as many determine clean-out day based on the quality of bedding in the pen.
Both options are acceptable but what I like about Holterman’s approach is knowing that “Thursday is the day we clean the maternity pen” means there is one less decision to be made that day.
That, I think, is one of the greatest benefits of creating habits.
I was reading an article on “20 Little Things Highly Successful People Do (and the Rest of Us Probably Don’t)” on Inc.com because I struggle to be, and feel, “highly successful”.
The article quotes Caroline Klatt, COO of Headliner Labs as saying, “Throughout the course of the day, you make thousands of decisions. Some are trivial, like what song to listen to while you’re getting dressed, and some are major, like how to handle a big crisis at work. Eventually your brain reaches decision fatigue, which lowers the quality of all the decisions you make. I try to eliminate as many small decisions as possible by sticking to routine. During the work week, I eat the same food for breakfast and lunch and stick to wardrobe basics to spend thinking about clothes and food as limited as possible.”
When I read that, I have to think of my dairy farmer dad whose morning habits were as predictable as heifers kicking off the milker. The stairs would creak at 7 a.m. indicating dad’s descent to the downstairs. He would put on a buttoned shirt (with mandatory sidepocket for his pens and notepad), along with green work pants, a brown vest (if it was cold) and his matching green coat. He would do chores, then come in, wash up and sit down at the head of the table at which point my mom (who loves cooking) would serve him corn flakes, eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. Same breakfast. Every day.
My dad, I now see, was eliminating small decisions about what to wear and what to eat, leaving space in his brain for big decisions on how to run a dairy farm and contribute to family and community.
I suspect many people in his era were more methodical than my generation and the ones behind me who are inundated with choice. Choice is a great thing and as a person who struggles with routine will tell you, I love being able to choose whether to have toast, a muffin, oatmeal, a smoothie, quiche or go out for breakfast each day. But sometimes, I do believe my poor brain could use a few more habits.
I was chuffed when one of my sporty friends posed a challenge to work out every day in January. “Excellent,” I said to myself. “This will kickstart my exercise habits for 2020.” And it has!
A side benefit is that in order to fit a workout in every day, I had to fine-tune my daily routine. Turns out I did become a) more productive and, b) inadvertently checked off a few more of the “20 little things” list of successful people. Such as:
1) Work out in the morning: It activates your body and brain, creating energy for your tasks brain processing.
2) Surround yourself with joyful people: Early risers seem to imbibe sunrise cheeriness.
3) Know when you are most productive: If you are a morning person, use that time to get the most necessary tasks of the day done.
4) Track your habits: At the arena, I chatted with a friend who was filling in her bullet journal as both a time-tracker, habit-tracker, planner and journalling space for mental health. Efficient!
5) Get up and go to bed early: Creating sleep habits is key to being productive, happy and generally just nicer human beings.
You can search out the other habits of successful people on Inc.com but turns out, I could have learned these habits from farmers who generally live it rather than preach it. Whether they know it or not, they embody the habits of highly successful people. Well done! ◊