Plan your work, then work your plan

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Editor's note: This Practice Builder was contributed by Scott Crandell, dairy nutritionist in Mifflinburg, Pa.

When I first started doing dairy nutrition work in 1987, I had a district manager who adopted the saying "plan your work, then work your plan." This was written on every piece of correspondence I got from him. How helpful that saying is, but for some of us it is "work at what needs to be done right now and do the rest later."

During the next several years, my client base continued to grow and I found myself becoming so busy that it seemed like I was working all of the time. Then, in 1990, I was faced with back surgery and knew that I would be laid up for a period of time. That is when I decided to come up with a plan for organizing my territory.

I started this process by taking the number of clients I had and dividing them by the number of days it would take to comfortably accommodate them every month. Since I visited each client once or twice every four weeks, I found that I could schedule most farm visits on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with Monday serving as a flex day.

I settled on a plan that left two open days per week, which allowed me to take care of the brush fires that come up and still allow time for ration work, meetings and vacations. By having some days open during the week, it allowed me to shift one day into another without messing up the entire month.

My point isn't the specifics of the organization, but rather the realization that maybe I wasn't as busy as I thought I was. Before I had a plan or schedule, I worked all of the time on what needed to be done and I didn't think I had time for anything else. Once I looked at it on paper, I saw how flexible I could be if I decided on a plan and stuck with it.

It takes time to plan, but I assure you that it was the best thing I ever did.

As nutritionists, we are trained to find bottlenecks on dairies. I encourage you to find the bottlenecks in your business.

Today, I work with 70 dairymen and in a few weeks I will send them a calendar informing them of the days each month that I will be visiting their farms for the entire year 2010. This may seem a little extreme, but it works well for me. It also shows my clients that I am constantly thinking of their needs and informs them in advance so they can also plan around this schedule. I do make adjustments as needed, but it is much easier to do when you are starting from a plan.


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