Planning projects on the homestead so you can get more done throughout the year.
If there is one thing I have learned about having a homestead is you need a plan at all times. I used to fly by the seat of my pants, but I soon learned while that may be okay for running a household it did not work so much with a homestead. When you have a homestead, it is best to find a simple way of planning projects on the homestead. This will not only help you to relax knowing everything is actually getting done on time but also within budget.
As a homesteader, I am sure you already know that there are simply too many things that need to be done at certain times throughout the year. Add to that the large variety of animals that need routine attention that simply cannot be skipped or looked over, and you have a pretty intimidating to-do list.
Having a schedule of things that need to be done, or at the very least paid attention to, is an essential part of homesteading.
But there is more to it than that. You also want to schedule each project out so you have the money needed and so that you also have the time set aside to completely finish the project.
I am sure, that just like me, money and time are two things you do not have a lot of.
By having a schedule of all the projects for the next handful of months, you will be able to financially prepare for those big costly projects without relying on credit or dipping into your coveted savings account.
Time can be a bit more tricky to find, but if you know in advance a big project is coming up you can adjust your daily schedule in a way to make room for a project.
Another plus is if you need outside help for a large project you will have time to call and ask (or even happily bribe with food and drink) your neighbors and family to lend a hand. 🙂
If you have read any of my productivity articles then you know how I like to break things down into steps. If not take a minute to jump over and read my best tips on productivity. This article will give you some basic yet powerful ways to get more done in less time.
The overall goal is this. To take an overwhelming project and break it down so you can eliminate the stress that these projects tend to bring.
Yes, breaking things down and having a schedule are the keys to productivity on the homestead.
Hubby and I have found over the years that the best way to create a homesteading project schedule is to make an initial list annually that we can then scatter out over the next 12 months giving a project to each month ahead. We then revisit this annual schedule quarterly so we can make any time or money adjustments that are needed.
Starting out this way gives us a great jumping-off point for our homesteading finances.
Here’s why: knowing right away that I will need a certain amount for each month’s list of projects gives me all the information I need to create a financial game plan I can follow throughout the year.
Okay, before I go any further, let’s get a checklist going to make things a bit easier.
How to Plan Projects on the Homestead!
Step #1. Set aside the time
Trust me on this, scheduling out planning time is important.
You want to make sure you are both there and completely present both mentally and physically. No distractions. No temptations of work looming over your heads. Pick a day that is already less busy than others so you are not frustrated by tasks that are not getting done at the time.
Hubby and I plan on at least 1/2 a day with a nice meal after as our reward. This really ensures we are both there 100% without any outside distractions pulling our thoughts away.
I know, coming up with a day just to plan out projects together seems like a lot of time wasted, but it will be totally worth it. Spending that day now will save you hours and hours of time, not to mention money in the long run.
Look at is an investment in the future of your homestead.
Another tip is to clear the house. If you have little ones make sure you have something for them to do. By keeping them occupied you can put all of your attention into planning.
Step #2. Gather your supplies
You will need a couple of tablets, pens, pencils, highlighters, your calendar, your budget, and plenty of coffee (or beer if you are my Hubs).
Get your Planning Supply list here:
Get everything you need ready to go before you dive in. I have learned that even a quick trip to the kitchen to get a pen can end up in a 15-minute sidetrack that will derail your entire planning project.
Another tip is to find a place that you can spread out, like the kitchen table or a desk in an office if you have one. It is good to see everything as you go so you can better map out a project plan that makes sense.
Step #3. Do a brain dump
I love brain dumps!
So does Hubby, to be honest. Getting every little thing out of our heads and onto paper is so incredibly therapeutic. The sky is the limit and no project is too small or too crazy big at this stage.
The key here is to write it all down. All of it, even if you have a project that is more of a dream. Your goal for this step is to get all your ideas, improvements, repairs, expansions, everything down onto paper where you can both see it. Call this your Homesteading Bucket List and I want you to go crazy!
Each of you should take a tablet and pen and just write. Don’t worry about repeats or any ideas you fear may be out of reach. Right now all you want to do is give each project a voice on paper so you can both decide which ones will go onto this year’s schedule and which ones will not.
Your goal is to just list them all out. Do not worry about the time needed for a project, the money, or even manpower at this point.
Step #4. Pick and choose
Once you have both made your project lists, take turns reading your planning project lists out loud.
Cross off any duplicates as you come across them continuing until you have one list between the two of you. Once finished, you can then go back and talk a bit about each of the projects in greater detail.
Keep in mind the following questions as you do this step.
- Which projects are just not doable at this time?
- Which projects are dreams that you can work for in the future?
- Which projects are important and need to be completed right away?
- Which projects are big and may need extra help called in to complete?
- Which projects are quick and can be done without much effort?
As you go through your list, you can being to eliminate anything you truly know you will not be able to get to this year.
Remember, your goal is to create a list that is realistic. This means you will both need to get real and make some hard choices before you move on.
Step #5. Pick a month
Now you will want to revisit your finalized list and assign a month to each project. This is the step that will help to turn this game plan into a helpful tool that will keep you on track getting more done than you ever thought possible.
As you are doing this, you may see a few more projects that you just cannot get to this year simply because there is not enough time to schedule them all out. Try not to get too stuck on this, simply remove what you can now, knowing you will get to them at another time.
Some projects on your list will have specific months where they must be completed while others may be a bit more flexible as to the times. Projects like adding in a strawberry patch or building a drainage system for a dryer pasture. Since you know these projects will need to be completed at a certain time in the year, you will want to schedule those out first to ensure they get top priority. Other projects that are not so time-sensitive, such as repairing the stairs on your back patio or painting the feed room in the barn, can be filled in during a slower month.
Once every project is assigned to a month, stop and take a look at your schedule. Make sure you have things spanned out evenly. To keep things from overwhelming you, you will want to be sure you do not have too much scheduled for a particular month. Remember, your goal is to reduce unnecessary stress, not create it.
By keeping your months consistent with your planning projects throughout the year, you will avoid homesteading burnout.
Step #6. Write it all down
If you are anything like me, you need that visual aspect of your schedule in order to ensure it will all get done as planned.
To do this, take 12 sheets of paper and write the month at the top of each sheet (or print out my freebie and use some of that awesome goodness!).
Once you have this done, take a look at your main list and transfer each project to the monthly sheet that you have assigned it to.
When finished, spread out all 12 pages and look at each month’s project list individually and as a whole. You should be able to easily see if a month is over-scheduled, is just right, or has very little on it.
When you can see the heavy and light months all spread out in front of you, it allows you to more easily move things around a bit helping you to balance the year out more evenly.
Are you beginning to see the beauty of this system yet??
Pretty amazing isn’t it? Well, wait…it’s going to get even better!
Step #7. Check your calendar
Once you have your months assigned, cross-check things with your calendar. The purpose of this step is to take into account what months are routinely busy or stressful on your homestead so you can ensure this project list is a tool and not a frustration.
Be sure you pay attention to busy months that you routinely have throughout the year and adjust your projects accordingly. For most homesteaders, planting season is usually in the spring months. This means that a large project may do better after that time or before if the weather permits.
You will also want to be aware of unique, or one-time events, that you already have planned. If you have kids leaving for college in August, for example, you may not want to schedule a barn addition for that same month.
Step #8. What’s this going to cost us?
When you have your months completed and finalized it’s time to move on to the money.
This is the part that I am most excited to share with you because it will turn this list into a full plan that you really can just follow along with.
Go through each and every project that you plan to accomplish this year and jot down an estimated cost of what you will need money-wise to complete it. Be sure to take advantage of what materials you have on hand and only buy what is absolutely necessary.
We are homesteaders after all and that means spending money on supplies is only used as a last resort.
Scrap wood works great to build a chicken roost or old tires will work perfectly for a climbing gym for your goats. Do a visual inventory of what you have and see if you can use anything for an upcoming project you have scheduled out.
Step #9. Tally up!
Once you have assigned a cost to each homestead planning project, do a tally and write the total amount needed on the upper corner of each monthly sheet.
This amount is your goal money to have saved up prior to the start of that month.
Now depending on how you budget your home finances, you may want a monthly number, a quarterly number, or possibly an annual number. Whichever you choose, get that number down and set in stone.
From this point on, no changes (financially at least) can be made so make sure you are both in agreement before finalizing and moving on.
What does this mean? No additional projects can be added to the list as it will not only upset your annual schedule but your budget as well. When you are committed as a couple you will find any decisions in the future are much easier to make when you are both on the same page starting out.
Step #10. Adjust your household budget.
Take those monthly cost numbers from step #8 and transfer them to your household budget.
If you do not have a homestead slush fund, then you will need to make adjustments in your budget so you are able to put money aside for your upcoming projects.
Find places you can cut or reduce your expenses so you are better able to save the money you need. The whole point of this system is to keep projects from becoming debt makers.
Here are a few ideas for finding extra money for homesteading projects.
- Can you spend $50 less each month on groceries each month?
- How about doing an odd job or two to make the extra money needed for a larger project?
- Can sell a few of your homesteading products at the local farmers’ market or auction house.
- Can you declutter a few items in your home and sell them online?
- Can you trade services with a fellow homesteader for extra help on a large project?
It is amazing how you can come up with a little money when you are open to thinking outside of the box.
Step #11. Post it so you don’t forget it
This may sound like a small tip but actually, it’s huge.
I have a pretty large bulletin in our office and I put every single month from our project planner on it. As we complete a project I simply cross it off with a highlighter.
It is very therapeutic, crossing those projects off. I highly recommend it. 🙂
SLCG PRO Tip: Leave the months up where you can always see them, even after they are completed and checked off. Seeing all you are accomplishing as the year goes on is a huge motivator to keep going.
Step #12. Take it one step further
Finally, at the beginning of each new month, take all the projects you have scheduled and assign them a day or a weekend if they are larger.
Start with the most important projects for that month and work your way to the least. Plan on time to get materials bought and/or gathered and set up outside help if needed.
By preparing each month this way you will have smooth sailing year-round.
If you find there are any projects that do not get completed then you can either move them to another month or, if possible, save them for the following year.
By having a system for planning projects on the homestead you will be surprised at all you can accomplish.
Hubby and I have been doing this system for many years now and we are so amazed by the results that we now do the same for our in-home projects as well.
No more are we running around without a plan having no idea what to do next. Things are no longer falling apart or being forgotten. Animal care is up to date, buildings are staging in good condition, gardens are not being taken over by pests or weeds. We are back in control and the stress is just about gone.
Give this super simple home project planning system a try.
You will be amazed by how well planning projects on the homestead changes everything!