Prioritising things during lockdown

After a hectic trip home from Japan, Farmstrong Ambassador Sam Whitelock and his family are spending lockdown on their farm in the Hawke’s Bay. Sam says now’s the perfect time for farmers and their families to look at the big picture and think about the balance between work and family life.

Like a lot of couples, Sam and his partner Hannah are juggling work with looking after two young kids. It’s definitely not business as usual. In between conference calls and farm work, Sam’s been clearing out old sheds with his son Fred and collecting pine cones.

“Getting through challenging times like these is about prioritising your workload so you look after yourself and your family as well as the farm. Now’s the time to focus on the things that really matter.”

“Let’s face it, there are always a thousand things that need doing on a farm each day. Hannah and I find that the best way to figure out what needs to be done now, and what can actually wait, is to make a plan and write it down.That simplifies everything and helps us work through any complicated issues, break them down and realise that what we thought were complex problems are actually pretty simple ones that we can deal with.”

Sam says in this respect farming is just like rugby – during tough times it’s important to just focus on the things that are highest on the priority list.

“On the field, when things get tough you have to decide what’s the next most important thing you can do. That might be making sure you make your tackles or winning your next line out ball. In farming it’s the same, it’s a case of looking at the bigger picture and deciding what the best thing is to do at this time. Once you have figured that out everything will flow from there.”

With off-farm social activities curtailed due to lockdown, Sam says farmers also need to be aware of the danger of working longer and longer hours.

“That’s definitely a real trap. It’s so easy in life to get obsessed with the small, ‘one or two percent thing’ that in the bigger scheme of things, doesn’t really change your business or how you are as a person. It’s the same back here on the farm. There’s a thousand things we could do every day here but to be sustainable and healthy everyone needs some downtime. So you’ve got to stop and think, “What the main thing I need to do now – is it fixing that fence or is it thinking, ‘hey, I’ll fix that fence next week when there are animals in the paddock. Today we’ll fix the water trough where the animals are at the moment.”

Sam has also been thinking about strategies to deal with the uncertainty that lies ahead.

“Everyone would love to head out of lockdown and go back to normal, but that’s not the reality now. We all know there’s change ahead of us and no one knows what that will look like. The way I deal with it is to look at the big picture. I want to be able to look back in two years’ time and think, ‘We used this time as a great opportunity to do what we wanted as a family, rather than just sitting round in the house getting grumpy.’

“That’s why right now for us here in lockdown, it’s just as important to create some awesome memories with our kids as it is to keep working. While we’ve been cleaning out these sheds, we’ve found a few mice and cockroaches and Fred’s absolutely loving it. It’s cool to see him have that experience even though the world is going through a bit of uncertainty at the moment.”

“We’re enjoying spending a lot more time together as a family. It’s been good to team up and parent together. That’s probably been the biggest change, but it’s also been the best. That’s why it’s a good to take some time and work out your priority list – what sits on top and what’s just a ‘nice to have.”

Farmstrong is a rural wellbeing programme that helps farmers and farming families live well to farm well. To find out what works for you and “lock it in”, check out our farmer-to-farmer videos, stories and tips on


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