Did you ever get into your car or jeep in a mad rush and realise a mile or two down the road that you are travelling in completely the wrong direction?
In the January to June period of the farming calendar, many farmers plough through work in a similarly distracted state of mind. Every year I meet a few farmers who fall victim to the increased work pressure at this time.
The combination of physical, financial and personal stresses are difficult to manage at any time, but when a few pressure events collide it can be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
Take for example a dairy farmer in the middle of the calving season faced with a bad outbreak of calf scour combined with a herd being locked up with TB. Then to add further to the pressure, a key farm employee decides to leave.
In this scenario, most farmers react in the only way they know how - by putting in the extra hours themselves.
The breaking point could be when a spouse questions the recent increase in size of the dairy herd. Boom! All hell breaks loose.
When you are in a crisis such as this, any big decisions about the future direction of the farm business should be put on hold.
As a farm adviser, my approach in these situations is to first help resolve the immediate issues like the shortage of labour in the above example, then agree a specific date later in the year (after the end of June) to discuss the direction of the farm business.
Interestingly, a high proportion of these planned strategy meetings never actually happen. The calves are weaned, the herd becomes TB-free, the new employee is super and the family row in the spring is written off as just a bad day at the office.
However, this is just postponing the hard decisions. It is vital to discuss the lessons from a crisis if you are to deal better with a recurrence of such events.
July and August are great months to take stock of the farm business.
Most farming programmes are on autopilot at this time of year so take some time out, preferably away from the farm, and ask yourself the following questions:
Am I happy working in my farm business?
This is the fundamental question to ask in every business. There is no point getting out of bed every day to face a job you dislike - it will eat at your soul and those of the people around you.
Most farmers love what they do, but some do not, and they are not facing up to that fact. The answer to this question is a simple yes or no.
Is the current farming programme right for my holding and for me?
If you are happy to farm as a career, the next question to ask is if your farming programme is right for your holding and for you?
Many farmers just continue the farming programme inherited from their parents, some blindly defending its merits without questioning why they are doing it.
They avoid the hard questions. Should I convert from beef to dairy, exit winter milk production, go part-time at tillage or enter into a partnership with another farmer?
You need to ask the hard questions and get an outside, independent opinion to outline your options before you make a change.
How good is the physical and financial performance of the farm business?
So, you have the perfect farming programme in place for you and your farm business, but how is the physical and financial performance?
Do you know the key performance indices that drive your business? Not everybody can run the 100m in under 10 seconds, but it is important to know what your time is and whether or not you wish to improve on it.
The performance of every business must have an established baseline of measured results to facilitate informed decision making.
What actions am I going to take to change my situation?
The 'action cycle' has three pillars: plan, evaluate, implement. Your plan should be written down with specific targets for implementation.
Evaluating or monitoring progress along the way gives you the reassurance that you are on track for implementing the changes you have planned.
All successful businesses follow this process to keep them at the top of their game.
Whether your farm business is flying, coasting along or struggling, take some time out to reflect before work gets into full swing again in the autumn.
There are plenty of experienced consultants and advisers out there to help you in this process. Pick up the phone or send that email - you, your family and your business will be the better for it.