Building a Railroad, and What That Has To Do With Farm Planning
If you wanted to build a railroad across the country, you wouldn't build the entire track before you started building the first locomotive. You would have people start clearing and preparing the land as the engineers started designing the train. Now that the engineers have a width for the tracks you can have one team start to build the tracks as another team builds the train cars. While this is going on you have a marketing team making sure people are going to want to use the railroad in the first place. In order for everyone to be able to carry out their jobs there has to be someone with the big picture in mind, a project manager, who can orchestrate the whole thing.
There are many things that have to take place at once if you ever want to complete that railroad. Not all of them need your full attention every hour of the day. Most will need to spend some time being worked on by other people. Therefore having a linear process just won't work for you. You need a way to organize all of the pieces while keeping an eye on the big picture.
The Illusive Beginning Farm Checklist
I cannot tell you how hard I have searched for a checklist to follow to start a farm. Yes, there are some out there, but I found all of them, even my own, to be fundamentally flawed. The problem is that starting a business (which is what you are doing) is that it is not a linear process. There is no set process to "Complete step one, move on to step two, etc etc..." You will be juggling several things at once. That, and the actual process will be a little different for each person. The elements will be the same, but the order that they have to fall into place will change slightly.
Checklists are very handy. I use them every day. I even used one to create this page on the website. But with all the many tasks you have to juggle, you are going to need a different tool to organize your thoughts. Here's a video to explain that farm tool.
Mind Mapping Tools For Farm Business Planning
Pen and Paper
The cheapest and easiest is to use pen and paper. I never leave home without it, and at home it is always within arms reach. Mind-mapping is easy to do on pen and paper. You may not be able to manipulate the information by dragging it around a screen, but it is always there in hand. It's always able to travel with you, never requires recharging, doesn't need wifi, and won't break if a tractor runs it over.
iPhone or iPad
I am fortunate enough to have an iPad. When I am planning a new part of the farm website, when I am planning a part of the farm, basically when I plan anything, I whip out the iPad and fire-up the iThoughtsHD app. It lets me create a mind-map just like I would on paper, except I can move things around without it getting messy.
The app lets you link to websites, add photos, change colors and styles, and lets you export your map to a Microsoft Word file, or a number of other formats. I find it hugely useful. I think that app is around $10 in the iTunes store. Not a free tool, but it has certainly paid for itself in usefulness. Saves on paper too.
I don't use any online mind mapping tools so I really cannot recommend them. If you do a Google search on "mind mapping tools" I am sure you will find any number of websites on the topic. A friend of mine likes this software http://www.mindmeister.com/, but again, I have not used it. Just wanted to give you somewhere to start.
My Mind Mapping Process
Starts With An Idea
At first I begin with the idea. What do I need to accomplish? Could be Anything:
- Starting a farm
- Decorating the house
- Writing a farm business plan
- Learning a new skill
- Creating a "How To Start A Farm" tutorial section of my website
Moves To The Notebook
I then write that idea down in my notebook. I create a list of what I need to accomplish to get that task done. Doesn't have to be organized, I am just writing down my thoughts, and taking notes while I research what I am going to need.
Goes to the Mind Map
I organize all of my notes onto a mind map. This creates sections for me. I don't know about you, but I get over-whelmed when I see a huge project. This way I have digestible chunks that I can tackle. Because I now have an outline and a plan I can overcome the scariness of the project and get down to work.
Becomes a Series of "To Do" Lists
Each section on my mind map becomes a "to do list. I like checklist because they let you know how you are progressing. You can see when you have gotten things done by crossing them off.