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How To Better Manage Your Time On The Homestead

Image source: pulitzercenter.org

Image source: pulitzercenter.org

If you’re homesteading or living off the grid, you know that there is basically a never-ending list of chores.

Often, one of the hardest things in this lifestyle is prioritizing and focusing on the most important tasks to be accomplished.

But you are also faced with the issue that your homestead is entirely unique, and no matter how much reading or research you do, no one will be able to tell you exactly what your priorities should be. However, there is a tool that you can make for yourself that can aid in the process.

By taking a hard look at where your priorities lie, you can make yourself a chore chart that will allow you to focus on your main concerns and ensuring that you have enough time allotted for each one, while also allowing you to account for some much-needed downtime. But really what this chart can do for you is give you a visual representation of what you spend your time on, and hopefully help you to focus on creating more efficiency so that you can whittle down the time spent on your most time-intensive chores.

Basically, the idea here is to create a circle of chores and activities based on both importance and time needed. The key is to understand your needs, and also how much time each one takes. This chart will allow you to see clearly how much time you need to spend on each task, and during what part of the year you should be focusing on said task.

For instance, if you live in a colder climate, firewood may be one of you highest and most time-intensive needs. You will most likely spend a good chunk of the winter dropping and limbing trees. But you will also spend some time in the spring or fall splitting and stacking and storing that wood. That means that with this chart, you will know at a quick glance that January and February are going to be busy, as is the month of May and you shouldn’t really plan any other big projects for that time of year.

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So take out a piece of paper and a pencil (PENCIL!!! You will be doing some erasing) and get ready to make some honest decisions about how much time you need to accomplish each priority you have.

Draw a circle on the paper, and divide the circle into 12 even sections, representing each month of the year. You can draw straight lines out from the center of the circle, or make little marks along the outer line. This will allow you to focus your energies where and when they are most needed. It is important to make your circle large enough to accommodate several rings of chores within it.

Image source: WSJ

Image source: WSJ

Then, make a list of what your main activities are, like harvesting firewood [2], procuring protein, growing vegetables, and home improvements. You should also build into this chart some downtime and time for fun activities as well. The first ring will be the outermost ring, and the fourth will be the inner most, meaning that as you add tasks, you are allocating less time to those tasks on the inner rings.

The outermost ring of the chart should be given over to the few chores that require the most time from you to accomplish. Again, firewood is a good example here. However, if you don’t heat with wood or are able to have wood delivered, then you will have another chore in this place. The beauty of the circular chart is that it is infinitely customizable.

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The second ring of the chart can, and probably should be centered on your main source of food. For some people, this will be hunting or fishing, but maybe you’re more into gardening and raising and storing crops. Either way, determine which months (or partial months) that you will need to spend the most time on this, and shade in that area. For example, if you love trout, then dedicate the month of April to fishing. If it’s venison you’re after, then one of the fall months should be spent on hunting.

The third ring will be your secondary food source, most likely the opposite of the second ring. If you’re a big hunter, then this will be the gardening ring or vice versa. Determine how long you will need to dedicate to getting the garden ready for planting, and set that time aside.

The inner most ring can be anything from adding a deck to the house to making crafts and gifts.  This fourth ring is really the stuff that should be done, but isn’t the most important.

And don’t go crazy on the level of detail that you’re using. You don’t need to have 200 different chores listed in the chart. Simply generalize the tasks and shade in appropriately. Fishing doesn’t need to be broken down into “launch boat, tie flies, clean fish, package and freeze.” You could easily just put “fishing” to cover all of those related activities.

Now that you have your circle shaded in with time for your most important activities, hopefully you have some blank space left. Everyone needs a little downtime once in a while, and it is perfectly fine to build that into your chart.

With the chart filled in, you should be able to see pretty easily how much time you spend on each set of tasks. The circular orientation of the chart means that the chart is good from year to year. The chart will allow you to look quickly and determine when the best time to take a vacation is, or when you should focus on a large carpentry project.

But the real advantage of the chart is that it allows you to look for efficiencies on your homestead. After filling in the chart, you should be pretty obvious what your biggest use of time is, and maybe you can figure out ways to reduce that time so that you can work on other activities.

The homestead chore chart can really aid in making you realize just how much of each year you spend on various chores, and with a little thought, it may even help you reduce the list of chores you have to do. Or at least the time you have to spend on each chore.

What are some ways you manage your time on the homestead? Do you use any sort of chart? Share your ideas in the section below:

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