Dangers of Free Time

by Dallas Mount

mountain hike

Free time is dangerous to those who have been raised to believe that one must always be physically busy in the ranch.  

A business in our Executive Link (EL) program recently eliminated a major enterprise that wasn’t working economically and hadn’t been for some time. They were able to make this brave decision, with the support of their EL board. When they pulled the plug on this deadwood of an enterprise, it created a significant sum of capital available to the business. It also created a big chunk of free time for the owners of the business.  

Before you knew it, the owners had added 4 new little enterprises. These new enterprises sucked up that newfound free time and weren’t moving the needle economically in the business. As their EL board challenged them on these additional enterprises, they stepped back and truly reflected on themselves and their business operations. They realized that having free time, where they weren’t physically working in the business, created stress in itself. They identified that they’d built a model of self-worth from physically working-hard and the thought of not having something to do all the time made them very uncomfortable. However, as they stepped back and looked at it logically, how is a business leader able to find the next big opportunity or do the planning required to lead the business, if they are so busy working in it that they can’t work on it?

One of the most common things alumni of the Ranching for Profit School do is identify something they need to STOP DOING. In most businesses there is something happening because we think we should, or someone before us started doing it and now we assume it is the right thing to do without ever having taken a critical look at the thing. Examples might be dragging meadows, tagging calves, spraying weeds, running a truck, developing heifers, running cows, making hay, the list could go on. I’m not suggesting that doing any of these things is wrong for you, but they are wrong for some. The point is to examine the things we do and make sure they are adding value above their costs. Each of these things ties up time, and sometimes ties up a significant amount of capital.  

When we find things to stop doing, then the temptation is to fill that time immediately. Too often farmers and ranchers fill that time with other physically demanding, low paying jobs. If you want your business to be successful, I’d suggest that you use this new-found time and devote it to strategic level thinking and planning for your business. Things like economic planning, drought planning, professional development, visiting ranches implementing things you are considering, and more. If you want to start a new enterprise, develop a set of rules or guidelines for what this enterprise must do. Things to consider might be: cover the full costs of labor, return capital invested in 1 or 2 years, produce an annual profit of $50,000 within 2 years, and fit the mission of our business.

Now, with those guidelines, and strategic planning time established you can identify enterprises that actually move the needle for the business and not just create more low-paying busyness on the place.

With spring upon us we are approaching the time when the seductive pull of working in the business is at its height. I hope you’ll find time even during this season to work on it and also time for reflection. If we can be a part of helping you find this balance, reach out and think about attending a Ranching for Profit School this year.

2 Responses to “Dangers of Free Time”

April 15, 2023 at 6:08 pm, David Pratt said:

Terrific column with great suggestions! Years ago a friend observed that was no longer a human being … I’d become a human doing. I rejected the notion until I noticed one day when I was playing catch with my son, that while I was physically there, mentally I was still at work.
Being constantly busy physically and/or mentally is not healthy for us physically or emotionally and it deprives the most important people in our lives of having as deep and meaningful a relationship with us as they could otherwise have.
So, yeah, use some of that liberated time to WOTB, but I hope people will also use it to to go on a family adventure, be home in time for dinner every night, volunteer at the school or in the community … in short, use it to be a human being, not just a human doing.


April 24, 2023 at 2:30 pm, Jonathan Kilpatrick said:

Finally got around to reading this now. Powerful article Dallas. I’m so guilty of filling up that free time. It’s time to be a human being, not a human doing.


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