Happy New Year! Make It a Good One!

Happy New Year to everyone!

A new year always seems like a new beginning. We have a fresh start to accomplish those things that we didn’t get done the year before. Problem is, we generally have the same things on those lists (and when I say “we”, I am definitely including “me”!).

“In Balance Equestrian” is intended to be a resource to enable horse owners, and particularly those who keep their horses at home, to lead a “balanced equestrian lifestyle”. Meaning that you are going to have the time and energy to enjoy your horses to the fullest. To be honest, I’ve never achieved that and my evil plan was to figure it out and share the strategy with readers. It seem like there is always something more important to do than spend time with the horses.

Stephen Covey is one of my favorite leadership coaches. His timeless work “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is a great resource, and one of my favorite parts is his method of prioritizing tasks. Tasks are rated by their “Urgency” and their “Importance”.  The idea is to spend your time in the “Important” but “Not Urgent” quadrant to set yourself up for success. It’s pretty easy to define “Urgent”. Those are the things that need to be done NOW. Defining “Important” is a little harder. What’s TRULY important?

I’ve always stated that my horses are very important to me. Yet, when push comes to shove, all activity that doesn’t involve meeting their basic needs (feeding, mucking, etc) has been pushed aside to deal with work and family “emergencies”. Now really, I run a bookkeeping service and I keep stating that there is no such thing as a bookkeeping emergency. Sometimes it’s hard to convince clients of that, though, and I generally cave in to their frantic pleas to get something done right away. Which means abandoning that plan to get in a ride.

Last week the resentment level around that finally hit a peak. I haven’t ridden in over a month and there was still a boatload of work on my desk. My plan has been to schedule in riding time, usually right after lunch. The problem is, once you start in on the work and the phone calls and the e-mails, the momentum builds and taking time out for a ride just doesn’t happen. Realistically, with all the preparation (clothing changes, grooming, tacking up, warmup, ride, untacking and cleaning up, and back into street clothes), a simple ride takes around an hour and a half so that’s a big chunk of time when you are in the middle of something. So I switched things around, and the ride came first. Well, almost first. I did check e-mail and the phone, but didn’t respond to anything, just set up the priorities. That took long enough for the horses to finish their breakfast. And then I got in my ride.

Not only did I get to ride, but it actually made me more productive when I did tackle the workload. I had become so resentful of the time spent at the desk responding to “urgent” requests that I wasn’t really getting much done. The burnout had built to the point that instead of tacking a task right away, I would find a nice diversion in something completely useless (like Candy Crush Saga for instance. I will not share what level I am at). So avoiding doing the things I love and that are important to me had the backlash effect of my wasting more time than ever.

My main point is, while I was stating that my riding is important to me, I wasn’t TREATING it like it was important. If something keeps getting pushed to the back burner, it isn’t something that you have really designated as important.

I’ve been rehabbing an off-track Thoroughbred for two years now, with the intention of making him my next trail horse and maybe tackling some dressage lessons with him. In two years, while we have made some progress, he still doesn’t ride well in a trailer (probably because I have put him in the trailer and taken him for a ride maybe twice), and I have cantered him twice. One of those canters was yesterday after I finally made working with him an actual priority. If I had treated this project as being as important as I said it was, we would probably have hit the trails at least a year ago.

Stephen Covey defines “Important” as contributing to your mission and your goals. So at the start of this new year, let’s look at missions and goals and truly get our priorities straight. If horsemanship is a high priority for you, then treat it that way. It may mean saying “no” to some requests that look important (but who are they important to, and why should someone else’s priority become your priority?). My resolution this year is to set firmer boundaries, train others (and me!) to treat my time with respect, and get a lot more clear on what is really important to me.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to be the youngest person to accomplish something. Didn’t matter what it was, I just wanted that record. Of course, it didn’t happen, and now my best bet is to try to be the oldest person to accomplish something. My chances of that are a lot better at this point, but I sure wish I had accomplished some of those things years ago!

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