One of my biggest horsemanship challenges is actually finding the time to spend with my horses—whether it is maintaining the stable area, tending to their needs, or actually (gasp!) riding. I won’t say I’ve mastered time management, but I have found a few tricks that make the day go a bit easier.
This is the biggest time-saving tactic I’ve found. Knowing what needs to be done each day and setting it all up ahead of time helps to make sure it all gets done, and as easily as possible.
I’m not a morning person, but my mornings go a lot easier if everything is ready to go as soon as my feet hit the floor. I have clothes picked out and handy. My coffeepot is set up so I just have to hit the “start” button. I do have a timer on the coffeepot, but since the horses get fed before I do, it’s just as easy to let the coffee brew while I tend to the horses. If you need coffee before doing ANYTHING, then use that timer! The aroma of freshly brewed coffee can be just the thing to get you going.
When I get to the barn, the horses’ meals are set up and ready for them. Hay bags are filled with the morning ration, and I just have to dump them in the horses’ stalls. The grain and supplements are packaged up in covered buckets (old supplement buckets are great for this). The horses get some pelleted feed, so I get that soaking while I weigh out the evening hay and pellets, so that’s ready for the next feeding. A nice feature of this plan is that, if you get in a hurry or have to ask someone to feed for you, everything is set up and ready to go.
Meal planning is another time-saver, and also a great way to eat a lot healthier. I’ve known this, of course, but I always hated meal planning. There are a lot of great tools for this. Personally, I’ve found the Cooking Light Diet to be a lifesaver. I signed up for the weight loss part, which was successful, but the meal planning aspect of it was a big game changer. It creates a shopping list that can be edited, so it makes shopping easier. It also added a lot of needed variety to my diet. So there’s a plug for a tool that worked for me, but of course, there are a lot of tools out there. One of them may work for you.
This goes hand in hand with “Planning”. At the end of the day, take a few minutes to sit down and list out what needs to be done the next day. Then figure out how important each is (you can give each a label based on how high on the priority list they are), how much time each will take, and assign a time slot to it. I find that I don’t always stick rigorously to that plan, but at least I’ve taken a peek at what needs to be done and can make decisions on the fly about making changes, knowing what the consequences will be.
On a higher-level note, take some time to figure out what your “big” priorities are. What are your big goals? Your daily to-do list should not include the little daily tasks that must be done, but also a few things that advance you toward your overall goals. Like your horses, for example. If you plan your day out keeping in mind what you want to accomplish with your horse, you are more likely to set aside a time slot for horse time.
I’ve found it helpful to set up some rules governing how my day will go. Some of them are:
-Be showered and dressed by 9 a.m. Now, that may not sound like something that needs to be stated as a rule, but I work at home, and it’s shockingly easy to start working away and then discover it’s time for lunch and you’re still in your PJs. Hence the rule. It just set me up to feel more productive and put together. It can be difficult to have a serious, professional conversation with a client while you’re still in your jammies.
-On the flip side, by 9 p.m., the dishes must be done, makeup off, and I’m back in my PJs. Of course, that rule gets some leeway if I’ve gone out with friends or someone has stopped by, but most days, that’s the rule.
-Set coffee and breakfast up the night before. See above under “Planning.”
-Either go for a half-hour walk or ride the horse every day. Get some kind of exercise! My day job is very sedentary and I could find myself still at my desk at dinnertime. Bad for the body, bad for the soul.
-Turn off the TV and the computer ½ to 1 hour before going to bed. That’s a tough one for me, but studies have shown that the stimulation and light created by electronic devices can interfere with sleep. Not to mention that inflammatory tweet or email that comes in right before you retire that’s going to keep you fuming for a while. Turn everything off and get your to-do list ready for the next day, then read something soothing or inspirational before nodding off.
-Also for better sleep, no eating for 2-3 hours before bedtime.
You can, of course, make up your own rules that are tailored to your particular needs.
So those are my favorite methods of managing my time to increase the odds that I’ll get some horse time in. Be sure to build flexibility into your schedule! Being clear on your priorities and setting up some rules to add structure help you make decisions when something has to give.
Feel free to share your favorite time management methods and tools!