The importance of off-farm breaks

“What keeps you up at night?” I asked one of my farming clients in researching for this blog. He responded, “There could be plenty of things to keep me awake, but I choose to not worry about everything.”

To be honest, I did choose him carefully as I knew the journey he had been on. Several years after the premature passing of his dad, and the recent birth of his third child, he decided a change of lifestyle was needed. He purchased a road cycle, and, with BDO’s sponsorship of cycling events, I made sure he had an entry into ‘Round Taupo’. He had a few months to be fit enough to cycle 160km. That was three years ago and this year, he knocked off the 2-day Coast to Coast event as an individual.

I then posed the question – “What has changed for you?”. His response was:

“People assumed, at first, I was doing this because I was depressed. I wasn’t. I just wanted to get fit. Any farmer would tell you they are generally fit anyway, but I’m not just talking about being physically fit though. I found that this took me away from farming. I had new cycling and kayaking mates. I got a coach. I go to coaching clinics with other business owners, who all have the same issues that us farmers have and our conversations are varied around the economy, politics, lack of human resources, finances, succession planning and so on. I learned that I was not alone in business and that farming is not alone as an industry. I learned to have a focus off the farm. We talk about training regimes, upcoming events, diets – anything, other than farming.  I control what I eat, when I train, how I respond during an event.  I can’t control the weather on a training day. I can’t control the weather during the event. I can’t control if the event is impacted by Covid restrictions. I control how I respond to those factors.”

As we head into one of the busiest times for any farmer, I thought about our conversation and how I had also applied those principals to my own business and life. It wouldn’t be as exciting for the reader to have an accountant spiel on about ‘work/life balance’ so I resorted to our good friend Google and found a Canadian Agricultural Foundation had already produced a blog titled “Five Benefits of Taking Off-Farm Breaks”.

 The five benefits can be summarised as:

  1. Breaks restore your motivation, especially for long term goals.
  2. Breaks can help prevent “decision fatigue” which can lead to procrastination.
  3. Breaks increase productivity and creativity.
  4. Breaks can enhance our relationships.
  5. Lastly, taking a break can help towards stress relief and the risk of burnout.

Back to my client who recently visited National Fieldays where the hot topic of the day was the “ute tax”. Ask for his opinion, his response was “I don’t care. It will be what it will be. If I want a new ute, it may cost me more. I don’t like it, I have a view on it, but it’s not worth having an embolism over.”

What did he learn from getting off-farm? He says he learned to “have perspective”.