How much time do you spend in your vehicle during the work week? What about the average amount of time you spend in your vehicle during a growing season? Don’t forget the commute to and from work. If you tally it up, you might be shocked or perhaps a little horrified at the answer. Then comes the next level of questioning: What do you do with yourself during that time? Are you prepared for what might be waiting for you on a dusty dirt road?
These latter questions were posed during a recent ALC-to-ALC teleconference that I co-hosted with Jeramy Stephens, ALC, from National Land Reality out of Stuttgart, Arkansas. These questions lead us many different places but for me personally, it comes down to efficiency. I have a thirty-five minute drive to and from work on top of wherever my job takes me during the business day. I have been intentional about developing habits that allow me to be productive during this time. This seventy minute minimum of car time has become a valuable part of my work day. Here are some tips that might help you achieve greater efficiency:
- Get started on the go. If you have support staff, then I recommend a Dictaphone or other recording technology. I try to dictate at least 2-3 emails/letters every morning on my way to work. These communications can range from crop reports to land inquiries – you name it. Just this very morning I dictated a letter highlighting crop inputs that need reimbursed at an upcoming closing, contacted a neighbor about a property for sale and sent a “feeler” to an owner in Missouri who has underutilized land near a management account of ours in Greene County, Illinois. Each of these things needed to be done. Why not do them while I am sitting in the car?
- Plan calls accordingly. We all obviously spend a lot of time on the phone in order to do our jobs well. Some calls need to be made while sitting at the desk so we can access folders, spreadsheets and computers, but there are also calls that can be made anytime, anywhere. I categorize my calls. If I don’t need to reference something at my desk, I save it for when I am in transit going home, to a closing or checking on crops across West Central Illinois.
- Be prepared and communicate with your co-workers. If I am going to be scouting farms in Morgan, Scott and Greene counties, then I make sure I have all three of those plat books with me, either in paper or electronically. You never know when you might get a call to check something out while already on the road. If I am going to a county seat, I always ask my co-workers if they need anything while I am there. If I spent all morning near Carlinville, Illinois (1 hour away) it would be discouraging to get back to the office and hear Dad say, “Not sure when you’re going to Carlinville, but the next time you’re there I need something from the courthouse.” Kill multiple birds with one stone and help each other limit needless travel.
- De-Compress. This might sound contradictory to previous points, but we all reach a point on certain days where we are fried. We are tired and desperate to chill out a bit. I use the “Pocket Cast” app to download my preferred podcasts. It allows me to quickly filter and download podcasts that interest me. I can go from economics to sports to my own personal nerdy interests with the click of a button (nerdy interests shall go unnamed). As much as I love podcasts and music, I also find it reinvigorating from time to time to simply turn everything off and sit in the silence. Silence is hard to come by at work and I certainly don’t get it at home with sons ages one and six!
Jeramy did a great job on the ALC teleconference call highlighting certain technology he uses to stay plugged in and there is a wealth of articles out there on smartphone apps that help in all sorts of ways. He also mentioned his truck being a traveling convenience store full of emergency and convenient items. He spoke on it better than I can write so I highly recommend you take some time and listen to the recording which can be heard here.
The long story short is that we as professionals in the land industry are on the road a lot. We can’t afford to mindlessly hit seek on the radio over and over. Tweak your tasks that need done to fit your travel schedule. You can get more done and become more efficient in the process. Be prepared. Take the time to think through your day before jumping in the car or truck. Do the preparation that has you ready to tackle the day and adapt on the fly. Do it safely and do it efficiently.