Think Outside the Office

by Shanon Sims

office daze

In the Ranching for Profit School we challenge you to separate your life from your business. Too many ranchers identify as their work and never develop a sense of who they are outside of the ranch. Not only does the business suffer as a result, so does the rancher’s family.  There are many ways to effectively separate personal life from an agricultural business. One way in particular that we, as Ranching for Profit instructors, believe is very important, is to have an office. Have an office with doors. Have an office with doors that is not in the house. Having an office means you have a space where you can fully devote yourself to the business, AND, when you go back home, you can fully devote yourself to your family and oneself.  

I have one problem with the office, though. Too many people think that what they do in the office is WOTB (Working On The Business). What kind of things do we do in the office? If you are like me, you plan your cash flow, plan your grazing, pay bills, email, make phone calls, plan for a profit, and read ProfitTips. I don’t think there is anything on that list that can’t be hired out. If I can hire it out, it is likely WITB (Working In The Business).

I believe, to truly be an effective business owner you don’t need to be in the office to do some of your best work. Have you ever gone to bed with an unanswerable problem and awoken with the solution? Have you ever been nearly knocked over in the shower by a new concept that just popped into your head from nowhere? Have you ever created an entirely new income stream while running or driving to your kids sports game? You wouldn’t be alone. Being relaxed is when our minds become most creative. Daydreaming allows us to tie random pieces of information together, resulting in breakthrough level ideas.

There are two things that are happening to allow these bouts of creative brilliance. Let’s call them the 2 D’s. First D; dopamine. Dopamine is sometimes called the “molecule of more.” It is released when we seek out new challenges or take new risks. It is also released when we engage in activities the brain deems rewarding. Things like driving to watch our kids compete, going for a run, meditation, and showering all cause a release of dopamine, which in turn puts us in a content and open-minded state, perfect for creativity. Second D; distraction. Distraction is anything that allows our brain to disengage from the busy work, or executive functions, which tend to occupy much of our cognitive abilities. Once freed from the shackles of busyness, our brain turns things over to the subconscious. The subconscious is where the real brain power is. This is the part of our psyche that solves complex problems while we sleep and creates beautiful ideas while we shower. Distraction can be anything where we go on autopilot. Things like driving to watch our kids compete, going for a run, meditation, and showering. See a pattern here? (Sorry, TV doesn’t count. It uses too much executive function).

What does this have to do with an office or WITB/WOTB? The office is our brain on executive function. It gives us a distraction free space to focus on tasks. Planning for profit is a task that was first preceded by discovering our uses of profit. I see an awful lot of uses of profit in Executive Link meetings that look pretty generic. Things like “take a vacation,” “pay down debt,” or “quit my town job” are vague and even a bit contrived in most contexts. Even worse I see profit targets with no use of profit behind them. I’ll bet my black hat that those uses for profit were developed in an office or a board room. What would those uses for profit be if they were allowed to surface from the subconscious while on a trail run? Instead of just “take a vacation,” maybe it would read “explore the Australian Outback” or “run with the Tarahumara.” We can do this for grazing planning as well. Planning the herd moves is a WITB task. Having the “right” herd at the “right” place at the “right” time is a better WITB task. Knowing what “right” means for your business, however, is a WOTB endeavor. “Right” will mean widely different things to every operation. It will take a lot of creativity to figure out what is “right” for the landscape you desire to create through the grazing plan.

If offices are most conducive to executive function, high level WITB work, then what do business owners need for doing effective WOTB? It starts with having something to write on. EVERYWHERE. In the glove box, in the kitchen, next to the bed, with your running gear, in the tack room, and in the shower (they make waterproof notepads). Write down ideas as they come to you, even the most strange and random ideas. Remember, the subconscious specializes in making beautiful ideas from random bits of information. Then plan for distraction. Take a long shower, set aside time for meditation, commit to a fitness routine, go to your kids’ games that are five hours away. 

Business is fun. Ranching is fun. The best business owners in the world are having a lot of fun and letting their creative genius loose. You have the potential to be one of the best business owners because ranching is full of potential for creative exploration. At least, that is, if you are Ranching for Profit.


3 Responses to “Think Outside the Office

March 08, 2023 at 8:10 am, Monte+lerwick said:

Oh man Shanon – that scratched an itch for me! Love how you brought in brain function with creativity and WOTB work!! I definitely agree with the conclusion here and the supporting arguments are well reasoned and in line. Dallas has a strong competitor here for best Profit Tips writer. 🙂


March 08, 2023 at 10:19 am, Pamela Doiron said:

Good advice. I purposely assign time to run the weedeater, clean up after the horses, trim bushes, etc., anything to keep my hands busy and let my mind wander. And yes, there is always a little notepad in my Kubota. Good advice indeed.


March 14, 2023 at 9:26 am, Ryan Hemphill said:

Well said Shannon. I’m usually disappointed when I go to the office expecting big ideas to follow. Instead, those new ideas usually show up when my mind is daydreaming and I can use my office time to extrapolate those ideas further with numbers or processes.


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