While discussing with hundreds of growers, just like you, we constantly come to the same point: to run a profitable vineyard, having efficient workflow is as important as having efficient tools and machinery. Since labor in the vineyard is the biggest expense, striving to get more done in a day with less effort is logical.

There is no single thing that makes a vineyard efficient and profitable; all the workflows, the tools, team management practices, and your equipment, will make the difference which will accumulate. As vineyard work is highly labor dependent, especially at critical times of production cycle such as harvesting and pruning, it’s important to find people with the right knowledge and skills to do the job right.

To help you improve in those areas, we gathered some advice on time management and work organization on vineyard related tasks.

Take advantage of your team’s size

It’s known that in larger teams, time management makes a lot of difference. But time management and work organization make a whole lot of a difference also in small and medium-sized family based vineyards, where owners do most of their work on their own with the help of family members, or with the help of a small number of employees. While at critical times of production cycles (labor-intensive work), the seasonal workers may join in to help, which brings a different type of work – such as coordination and preparations for the workers – to the table. And the latter often presents more work, which is also of a different type, than the work the grower normally used to do.

It seems that there is always something that winegrowers have to do, either is it some vine related work or is it managing people and/or equipment, scheduling daily and seasonal activities, fulfilling compliance and paperwork, or just dealing with lately the most challenging factor – the weather. Despite all the joy there is in winegrowing, it is not an easy job – we know it well. After all, winegrower’s goal is to produce the best possible grapes in terms of quality and quantity in the most effective way – to finally either produce the best wine, or get the best price from the winery, and increase margins. On each of those points, there is some team member who excels. Try to spread the skillset in a smart, uniform way among the team members.

All of the factors, such as team’s size and skillsets, should be used when looking for potential improvements. The workflow is not the same on no 2 wineries or in no 2 vineyards, even if they are of similar size. There are some best practices, but build on how you are already used to work in your team, and make changes with a focus to improve on that – because the way you do it is likely the way which suits your team’s personality the best.

Time management

Many growers have difficulties with managing time due to a lack of time management skills because their expertise is elsewhere: in managing the vines (and rightly so!). Therefore, it’s often hard for winegrowers to find the time to do all of the day-to-day vineyard work activities at a consistent time. The first and most important task in order to start managing time more efficiently is to start keeping a time log of daily activities, for some period of time. Of course in the vineyard, no day is the same, since the work is very seasonal and weather-related, but there are some basic tasks that need to be carried out each day.

Normally time management gurus are advising to keep a time log for 7-14 days, but due to the very seasonal work activities in the vineyard, I would recommend keeping track of your time for a longer period of time. It’s most likely that already after a week you will see how much time you’re spending on various tasks. It’s important to keep track of all activities during the day, so you will know where you spend the most time. Then, work on improving your time management: maybe there are people around you who interrupt you all of the time while you are trying to perform some task, maybe you spend too much time on the phone, etc. After you found out where you waste most of your time, the next step is to start prioritizing.

Time management vineyard

Time management in the vineyard

Prioritize

There is never enough time to do everything, so start prioritizing in order to do the most important things. What this means is that you first have to know which task is important for you to accomplish to reach your goal, and which can be rescheduled or delegated. The best way we have found to know which tasks have priorities on a to-do list is to use Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle. Basically, you have to look at your time log and then think for each and every task ether is urgent and/or important. A log from the previous paragraph is very helpful with that.

Important activities are the ones that lead towards achieving goals, for example, produce the desired quality (specify what this means in your case) of grapes.

Urgent activities are the ones that demand the immediate attention and are often not getting us any closer to reaching our goals. A nice example of an urgent activity is a phone call: when you have to do it, is usually an urgent task. Please note that not all phone calls are urgent, actually, most of the phone calls we get in a day are time wasters and distract us from being productive.

After you know which activities are important and which are urgent, you can use the matrix which will help you realize when and if the task needs to be accomplished, or not. Please note that the below photo is only an example of how can you prioritize your vineyard work activities.

Example of important and urgent tasks in the vineyard

Photo (adjusted according to jamesclear.com): Example of important and urgent tasks in the vineyard

Of course, there are several others ways to prioritize your work activities – feel free to choose the one that suits you best.

Delegate What You Shouldn’t Do

Working smart means you are focusing on the areas you are really good at – growing grapes and making wine, and letting go of things you’re doing for the sake of “doing it” or “somebody has to do it”. There is no need for you to design your wine label, do accounting, or pick up the grapes yourself. Let somebody else help you with that.

Harvesting is a nice example of the work winegrowers should delegate. Why? Well if you are hand-picking grapes then one or four persons are usually not enough (no matter your hardworking hands) to finish the job on time since there is only a short period of time during which the berries remain within the desired ripeness parameters. Therefore, either you ask your friends for help, or hire seasonal workers, you will have full hands of work with organizing work and workers, providing the necessary equipment, checking the quantity and quality of grapes, organizing grape storage, etc. So, in order to be more effective, you have to ask for a help and focus on the tasks only you can do in your winery. Delegate the rest.

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Organize work and working environment

Organizing work according to your goal setting is very important in order to achieve the desired results. After determination of your vineyard activities, you have to organize your work in a way that’s going to get you toward your goals as fast as possible. The best way to successfully organize work is to slow down and take time and think before doing the task. This helps to really plan the work process smarter and prevents you from repeating or correcting mistakes. Therefore, think and plan ahead your vineyard work activities in order to perform all of them.

The easiest way is to make a to-do list with all the daily activities that need to be done, remember to focus on the most important tasks first. You don’t need to use a fancy to-do list, simply use the calendar to schedule your working activities. When making a do-to list and work plan, also don’t forget to schedule a time in the day to make and return most phone calls at a set time, and answering emails, this will also minimize the distractions.

For example, organizing a time to check work equipment prior to actually performing the work eliminates the possibility of delaying of work and repairing equipment or even buying a new one. After all, a dull tool can make work harder. This is especially true for pruning shear if they are of poor quality workers will have a hard time to perform the activity and can even cause damage to the grapevine.

Minimize the distractions

Minimizing the distractions at work will increase the possibility to actually finished the job on time. Also if you are managing people or you notice from your time log, that there are always the same people distract you from work, set the time in a day to deal with them and let them know that. In this way, you will be able to take time for them and finish your job in the meantime. While working you also have to pay attention to do one single thing at a time and stop multitasking. There is a mistaken belief that doing as many things as possible at the same time, will increase the possibility of accomplishing more. Unfortunately, our brains don’t work like that. Switching from one activity to other will actually lower the productivity level by 40%. Focusing on a single task a time enables our brains to get into the work-flow.

Use Technology and automate more tasks

It seems that there is a tech app for almost every aspect of the business, and in recent years due to the awareness of the importance of agriculture several apps support also vineyard way of working, which was not possible only a couple of years ago. Therefore, it’s important to stay up to date with the new technology in the vineyard. Although it’s not always the easiest way for growers to access to the new technology, it’s often crucial for automating tedious work and save time for more important productive tasks. There are several app and tools out there to help you make your vineyard work easier.

At eVineyard we are aware of the situations in the vineyard, therefore, we have automated the following activities in the vineyard:

  • making reports and documentation (for authorities, certification organizations, owners, …)
  • cost overview – no excel is needed anymore to get the vineyard operation costs together
  • calculations for seasonal workers paying at the harvest time
  • with the help of remote sensors (placed in a vineyard) automatically alarms you on vineyard hazards (disease outbreaks, pests presence, frost hazard,…)
  • vineyard work organization, together with simple to use the calendar and work log

Measure your results in combination with time

After all, you can’t do all the work on your own and have to delegate some of the work you need workers who you can trust and rely on. Before hiring any worker tell them what you expect from them and set norms based on past performance and industry standards. If you already employed workers but you’re not happy with their performance or believe they could do better, talk to them and tell them what you expect, and set norms if you haven’t yet. One thing that we have learned from agile work is to communicate, communicate and once again communicate with the team, and have regular meetings – but keep them short. This is a key to productivity. After, all the whole team is working towards the same goal.

Organize work and measure your results

Organize work and measure your results

Conclusion

That has been some of the time management and work organization hacks you can make to become more productive and efficient at work. The last piece of advice we can give to you is to stay flexible. Not everything will go on a schedule no matter how good are you at planning, there is always something that will come in between, so be flexible and adjust the work/time organization. You know best that the weather forecast is not always punctual, and the tractors don’t break down on schedule.

Feel free to use above-stated advice for working smarter in your vineyard and make some changes. However, use only what is good for you and your work organization, and leave the rest. But do make changes! And keep in mind that no matter how well you optimize each of the aspects, the most important factor is how well you optimize the systems – your team’s workflows, your team’s collaboration, your team’s meetings.

I hope this was inspirational and informative and will help you gain a competitive edge in the organization. If you have any other productivity hack that you use, please share it with your fellow winegrowers in the comment below.

Sources:
Work Smarter, Not Harder: 10 Ways to Be More Effective at Work; John Rampton, Inc. (online)
Want To Work Smarter, Not Harder? Follow These 14 Tips; Forbes Agency Council (online)
Prioritization; Mind Tools Content Team (online)
10 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder; Rider’s digest Canada

Note: the post was updated on 16.2.2018