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Too busy not to look after the long-term plan

Even when you're in the thick of things, take time to focus on yourself and your goals

I had a moment of lucidity. It came amid what turned out to be a few weeks of absolute frenzy.

I had been busy. On the farm, we were rushing to finish the fall fieldwork before the snow and cold weather was scheduled to hit. At work, a series of projects were coming to a close. I had a bunch of writing assignments due. The Ag Society, which I chair, was in the throes of a land battle and organizing a strategic planning session. And I was scheduled to be the guest speaker at the Manitoba Institute of Agrologists’ fall event.

I’m on the other side of all that now. I made it. Barely. I was very busy. I think we all have spells like this. We are all busy people. We all need to take care of ourselves.

It was in the heat of all this when I realized that I am too busy not to exercise. I haven’t been diligent in this regard at the best of times. But I like being busy. I enjoy being involved in more things than seems wise, and I want what I do and how much I do to be sustainable.

The lucid moment: I’m too busy not to exercise. I’m too busy not to read and write, regularly.

When I am flitzing around from one thing to the next — being productive, efficient and focused — it’s easy to justify letting things go.

I have never been much of an exerciser. But, long days on the farm and/or office, then cerebral evenings at events or meetings wear a person down. I have felt the beginnings of this and it terrified me. I don’t want to burn out. Exercising would have been a great decision when I was less busy, but I believe it’s an even better decision now.

This is new to me. It’s fresh on my mind and there’s something about it that seems counterintuitive. Exercise is something you do when you have time – when you have lazy mornings or a window of time after the workday. It’s not something you treat as a must in order to sustain a certain lifestyle. It’s this way of thinking that is new to me. Is this just a realization that comes with nearing 40 years of age?

Writing, too. Everyone has a basket of skills that got him or her to where they are today. These skills and the habits that formed them atrophy, like it or not. I remember having an edge. I remember dedicating time to developing that edge. Over time, these things, these habits, are seen as dispensable and juvenile in the face of careers and the minutia of adulthood. They are let go in favour of (fill in the blank).

This is not a rebuke. I need a kick in the teeth, too. You’re great, but you could be better. You’re sharp, but you could be sharper.

It was about 10 years ago. I was sitting in my tiny second-story office on Mulvey Avenue in Winnipeg. I had an interest in writing. I wanted to pursue it. So, on an index card, I wrote down a list of goals that I wanted to achieve inside of five years from that day. Then, I set out developing a skill that was then nothing more than a dream.

I wrote every day, rain or shine, for many years. Some of that early stuff was terrible, but it was always getting better. I felt good about it. I was developing.

On that index paper, I wrote, Globe and Mail, Maclean’s magazine and I can’t for the life of me remember the third thing.

In 2012, five years after I scrawled that wishlist, I had a cover story on the Globe and Mail and had started writing semi-regularly in the business section of Maclean’s.

I write all the time. I have this wonderful column. I have a column in the Financial Post, and I write articles, letters, news releases, proposals and other things on a regular basis for Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers. I am honoured to have these opportunities.

But I don’t want to atrophy. I want to be better at the things I do. And I’d be willing to bet you’re in the same boat.

I’m tempted to get out another index card. I’m tempted to get back into some productive, skill-enhancing routines. I don’t need to. You probably don’t, either. But, and perhaps it’s the skeptic in me, I feel uncomfortable when things are good. I think it’s in the throes of happy productivity that we need to look at being better, whatever that means for you.

November to March are busy months in the ag world, full of meetings, projects, learning curves and activities that require attention. I will be too busy not to exercise. I will write too much not to write. Why don’t you join me? Grab an index card and let’s touch base in 2022.

About the author


Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]