One of the most commonly asked question I receive is: “How do you have time to do all this?” The question is in relation to how we have time to homestead and work our little farm. My usual quick response is that its hard work, which it is, but it’s much more than that. We both work full-time and commute considerable distances. Were away from home for a good majority of the day, but when were home we make it count. It’s not easy, but it’s what we want most in life. It’s what makes us happy and fulfilled, so the work and time is worth it to us. I decided to put together 10 tips on how someone that works full-time outside of the home or is just a busy person can fit homesteading into their life. Most of these tips can also apply to other interests beyond just homesteading. There are other great tips as well, but these are some of the few that have worked for me the best, or are the most significant in my life. I’m still new to homesteading; I’m not an expert, a lot of these I still have to work on regularly. Some of these tips you might already do, or some might not be relevant for your unique life, but I hope at least a few could help you reach your homesteading dreams.
Time is especially precious to us, so here are 10 tips we try to follow that help give us time to homestead:
- Eliminate or limit distractions. Distractions are different for everyone, but some common ones for me and others I’ve talked to are: the internet, video games, TV, phones, etc. When we moved to our homestead, we got rid of our cable and internet. It still shocks me how much more time we have now, and how much time we wasted watching TV when we thought we were “so busy.” If you can’t live without TV, maybe try getting rid of cable and just using Netflix or other streaming device or subscription. That way you don’t have to watch particular shows at certain times, you can work your TV watching around your homestead schedule. A side benefit as well is that you don’t waste time on commercials, which only try to convince you to spend more money on products you don’t need; so you save money too! Since we don’t have internet, what we do is the old-school mail-in Netflix DVD program, so that’s another option as well. We absolutely do not play video games either. We don’t have internet, but we do have smartphones (with limited cell service where we live), but even then we try to limit our phone time. Most of our social media scrolling is done during times we can’t work on homesteading projects, such as before work, on work breaks, or when we are done with all our homesteading chores (usually right before bed), and we try to limit it to less than 20 minutes. You might be wondering what we do for entertainment then. When you are fully immersed in the homesteading lifestyle, whether you are tending to a garden or caring for your mischievous goats, entertainment will find you. Every single day something happens on the homestead that makes us laugh or gives us a reason to smile. For me, homesteading is entertainment on its own, which is probably why we went almost 2 months without turning our TV on. Homesteading is also about the simple life, finding joy and contentment in the simple things, noticing and appreciating family, nature, and real things that matter. My mindset has changed so much since homesteading, I’d much rather spend an hour hanging out with my chickens or reading a farm book, than vegetating on the couch for an hour watching a mindless TV show. If you give yourself the chance, and eliminate or limit your distractions, you too can change your mentality and find the time to fit more homesteading into your life.
- Get good sleep. Previously I mentioned that we try to limit our phone time to only 20 minutes, this is especially important when we are scrolling the internet before bed. If I spend too much time on my phone, I get worse sleep, you probably don’t believe me, but it’s true. My mind doesn’t get time to just decompress because I’m thinking about whatever it was I was looking at on my phone. The light from my phone also strains my eyes and I tend to feel way more tired in the morning. And lastly, if I spend more than 20 minutes on my phone before bed, that ends up turning into an hour, maybe 2 hours! We’ve all experienced the “oh crap I’ve spent 2 hours on Pinterest” thought. I love Pinterest just as much as the next person, but it tends to leave me wanting and desiring the things I don’t have, and things I quite frankly don’t need. Therefore, I try to leave my Pinteresting to educational or purposeful searching, not just mindless scrolling. But back to good sleep… it’s so important, and so many people don’t make it a priority. Make it a priority! You can’t have the energy to homestead, care for yourself and care for others if you are constantly tired. I’ve had people tell me that it just takes them forever to fall asleep at night, so they can’t get good sleep even if they go to bed early. I used to be that person! I would lie in bed for a few hours until I fell asleep, but not anymore! If this is you, the first thing I would ask yourself is if you watch TV or spend time on your phone before bed? If the answer is yes, then I would recommend that you try to commit to not watching TV or going on your phone before bed, and go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time every day for a couple weeks. I can almost guarantee that you will begin to sleep significantly better. I’m so tired and ready for bed after a long day, and I (for the most part) go to bed at the same time every single night, even on weekends! If you are truly homesteading to your fullest, you will be tired by the end of the day, you will be ready for bed, you will fall asleep fast, and you will sleep well! There’s no harm it giving it a try!
- Get up early. This goes hand-in-hand with tip #2 of getting good sleep. If you go to bed on time and get good sleep, then you will wake up feeling refreshed. In the homesteading life, there’s always something to do, and sometimes there’s even animals depending on you for their care in the morning. I have never been a “morning person,” but even on the weekends, were up by 6am, if not earlier (which is sleeping in for us by the way!). This is also related to the wake up at the same time everyday recommendation I made in tip #2. Eventually, your body will learn to wake itself up naturally. My opinion is that this is the best way to wake up… no stress of the alarm clock sound, and no temptation to hit snooze, you just wake up and are ready to start your day. When I get up early, I still have the whole day ahead of me, lots of time (and sunlight) to get things done. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and start your day early, I promise you won’t regret it!
- Make a plan. Always have a plan of action for how your are going to go about your day, what projects you need to work on, what chores need to be completed, etc.. That way, when you get up early (see tip #3), you know exactly what you are doing for the day. This is especially important on the weekends or your days off when you have large segments of time to get things done. If I don’t have a plan set up ahead of time, I can easily find myself sipping on my morning coffee much longer than I need to be. Also, make a plan for workdays as well. Know what you need to get done in the mornings before work, know what errands you need to run on your way home from work, and make sure you have a solid plan of action for when you get home from work. If you do this, you will save yourself the grief of losing time trying to remember what you were supposed get done. When I have a preplanned day or evening and I finish all of my tasks, or even have some time to spare, I feel accomplished and fulfilled because I completed something I set my mind to. However, the homesteading lifestyle also comes with constant changes and unpredictable moments. So you can make a plan all you want, but it doesn’t mean it’s always going to work out that way. For example, one evening we were about to go down to our pasture area after work to care for the meat chickens and turkeys. When all of a sudden Nic saw one of the pigs out of its pen! Luckily there’s a secondary fence surrounding the pig pen, and thankfully our pigs are friendly and like us, so it just ran straight up to us and followed me back into the pen. However, we now had to fix the portion of the fence that the pig was able to squeeze under, which postponed our plans of going down to the pasture until after that was taken care of. Therefore, it’s important to make a plan, but it’s just as important to be flexible and able to handle the unpredictable moments that homesteading brings. A lot of these instances are the moments that bring us the most “entertainment” and laughter, so learn to enjoy it!
- Use time at work to your advantage. Use the time you have away from home to get stuff done. I use the time I have before work, during breaks, and on my way home from work to my advantage, so I don’t waste time doing those things at home when I could be homesteading instead. For example, in the mornings before I clock in at work, I can check social media or emails. During my shorter work breaks I can pay bills, schedule doctor’s appointments, or get gas. On my longer lunch breaks I can research a homesteading skill, read a farm book, or update my blog. On my way home from work I can run errands or call my mom and catch up. Some of these things are homesteading related and some are just life related. It doesn’t matter what they are, they are all important in some way, and all things that still need to get done. Most of them don’t have to be done at home so I might as well squeeze them in when I’m not at home, since home is the only place I can actually homestead. Another time-saving idea I’ve heard from commuters is to get books on audio and listen to them on the way to and from work. I’d love to try that sometime soon, especially since you can only do so much in a moving car, especially when you’re driving! Start thinking creatively on how you can squeeze some stuff into your time away from home, you will be surprised how productive you can be!
- Automated features. Add some automated features to your homestead; it can save you a lot of time! We have automatic watering nippers for our chickens and turkeys. Above each coop or movable tractor we have large buckets that connect to the watering nippers. The buckets hold enough water last more than a day, so we don’t have to fill them up very often. The chickens and turkeys also have long feed tubes attached to the coops and movable tractors that can hold multiple days’ worth of feed. Our pigs have an automatic waterer which is connected to our water tank and is always pressurized. They always have access to water, so we don’t have to spend any time ensuring that they have clean water. We also have an automated irrigation system for our garden. We just set the days, time, and amount of water to provide, and it goes off on its own. This guarantees that our garden has a steady supply of water whenever we want it to, even when we are at work, and I don’t have to spend any time watering it. Our summer in southern California requires watering the garden three times a day to prevent wilting, so it would be impossible for me to have a large healthy garden without the automated irrigation, since I’m gone at work all day. Another completely different way of using automated features could be something as simple as cooking more slow-cooker meals. I love cooking meals in my crockpot, because it saves me a lot of time and we can still eat healthy. I just spend a few minutes in preparation, leave it to cook on its own, and then we have meals ready for us when we get home from work. There’s a lot of ways you can add automated systems to your homestead to save you time, some are more expensive, other cheaper. Use the advice from tip #4 and spend some of your time away from home to research some of these automated options.
- Routine. Make a routine and try your best to follow it. When I’m working on my regular daily farm chores, such as caring for our animals, I try to follow about the same routine every time. By following a routine of caring for certain animals first, and then in the same order, I can get my work done faster because I don’t have to stop and think about what needs to be done next. After a while I just start operating on auto-pilot. Of course, just like in tip #4, you have to be flexible for when things come up and change. But in general, a good routine will help you not forget to take care of things and will also same you some time, so find a good flow.
- Errand-link your life. I recommended running errands on your way home from work in tip #5. But in general, try to link your errands together. For example, if we need to go into town to buy animal feed, we will also try to take care of any errands to the hardware store, grocery store, etc., all in one trip. This saves on gas, wear and tear on the car (especially if you’re like us and don’t live that close to town), and most importantly your time! Errand-linking can also be done with other trips into town, even with social events. I cannot tell you how many times we’ve stopped into Tractor Supply or the hardware store before meeting friends or family in town for dinner. We’ve even done some grocery shopping on the way home after these same kinds of social events, just so that the next day we wouldn’t need to leave the farmstead for anything. When you do run errands, make sure you know everything that you need, forgetting something and having to go back for it later is a huge waste of time. On the same lines, try to have extra of a lot of things you use often, so you don’t have to run errands as often. It’s also great for that inner prepper in you! Finally, when you run errands, try to do them on weekdays; your weekends or days off are needed for bigger homesteading projects!
- Prioritize. You need to prioritize homesteading projects, but also need to prioritize your life. Now I can’t really tell you how you should prioritize because it’s different for everyone. Also keep in mind your spouse and family, and how they differ in views on priorities than you do. This one can be tricky, but I will give you a few examples on how we prioritize homesteading projects, but also how I prioritize my life. As for homesteading projects, obviously the most needed or time-sensitive projects come first. Sometimes it’s difficult when you would rather work on a more fun project, but those time-sensitive and needed ones have to come first. For example, Nic needed to build a bigger goat feeder for our new herd additions, as well as a goat milking stand, so those projects came first before he could work on the book self he is refinishing for me. Nic had to make that priority over the other project out of necessity, and to use his time wisely. As for my life priorities, I don’t really go clothes shopping, and if I do, it’s for necessities, and I do it quickly. Not only does this save me a lot of time, but money as well! I don’t get my nails done, there’s no time for that. Bringing back tip #1, we don’t watch TV, besides an occasional movie. My house isn’t always the cleanest… it’s still very important to keep a clean home, but it’s not even close to spotless. Another reason I wanted a small house was so that I didn’t have to spend as much time inside cleaning, especially cleaning rooms we didn’t even need or use. Prioritizing is figuring out the difference between your needs and wants, what’s most important to you, and how that fits into your homesteading dreams.
- Set aside fun and relaxing time. Finally, set aside some fun and relaxing time, but plan for it. Plan for it for two reasons. First, sometimes we get so wrapped up in homesteading chores and projects that we forget to set aside time to just relax and have fun. You don’t want to get burned out. What’s the point of the simple living that the homestead lifestyle brings if you can’t relax and enjoy it? Secondly, plan your relaxing and fun time smartly. For example, use the seasons and the weather to your advantage. This is different for everyone, but for us in the middle of the day on a hot southern California summer, there’s not much we can get done, without getting heat exhaustion! On those hot days we will use the middle of the day to relax and hangout. We make sure we get up early to get chores done, and then work on projects again in the early evening as it cools down. If you live somewhere with extreme winters, you could use that time of the year, where you can barely go outside anyways, to relax. We still try to make date nights a priority, and also make sure that we still see friends and family regularly. But were also probably squeezing in some egg deliveries on our way ;) Remember to make time for fun and relaxing so you don’t get burnt out!
I hope these 10 tips enlightened or motivated you in some way, or at least gave you an interesting insight to our crazy lives… Maybe I even made you not want to homestead at all…? lol I hope not, its hard work, but it’s really not that bad, I promise! I would love to hear your tips for making time to homestead, or to do whatever it is you love!… Leave a comment below if you feel so inclined :)