Managing your permaculture life


Permaculture teaches us to integrate rather than segregate… this articles describes how we, at Valley’s End, have integrated  previously-acquired project management skills and tools into our permaculture context.

A GANTT chart is an incredibly efficient yet simple management tool that helps lead a project to completion.

I’ve used it extensively in my former corporate life when I organised conferences and other large events. It is proving to be a very functional tool for how we manage all the details of our lives here on the homestead.

eyes on the road

So, put simply, a GANTT chart is a tool that helps keep our eyes on the road – often, when a project is so big, or when it spans over such a long time frame, we get bogged down in the details while we forget the big picture. Conversely, we can gaze wide-eyed at the pig picture but we fail to zoom into the details that will help paint that picture.

So, a GANTT chart…

  • acts as an inventory of all that is needed to do – all the tasks, little or big.
  • helps us plan what to do and when to do it.
  • provides much-needed objective feedback.
  • helps monitor progress.
  • helps tackle a huge or complex project by chunking it into manageable bite size.

A sturdy pattern of rows and columns

Rows = Date

Rows = Date

A GANTT chart consists of a table where the top row shows dates (either a day, or in my case, a week) and the first column shows tasks.

The aim is to list the tasks needed to complete the project (in the first column) and to colour in the cells from the desired start date to the end date of that task/activity.

Column = Tasks

Column = Tasks

For those that are often at the computer, you can do a simple chart on Excel  and input all the information straight there (see my template at the end of this post).

I used to like that method a lot more as I could add lines, delete, amend and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit on one A5 size page… But I now no longer spend that much time at the computer.

So I choose now to have a rather analogue version as it works better for me as I attempt to integrate the other members of my tribe into the grand design.

The printed template is pinned to the fridge for easy viewing, amending, adding, etc, and tasks are handwritten (amazing in this day and age but that technology still works!!).

Permaculture = planning

Permaculture teaches us to plan ahead for the sustainability and the resiliency of our tribe, our community, our country and ultimately the Planet.

So don’t you think such a complex endeveour could do with a bit of help from a time-tested management tool?

Even just the action of doing our own little permaculture patch takes time, effort, skills and resources. It needs to be managed in a way that works with the people actually doing the work.

Chunking

Chunking our work is a life-saver. The way I do it is  first by seasons and then by week, and finally by zones. Let’s zoom in further in how I actually use these tools:

The annual planner
Valley's End Annual Planner

Valley’s End Annual Planner

At the start of the year, and throughout the year, we write in our annual planner all the major actions that we wish/expect to complete within the year.

We allocate these actions into the suitable season (i.e. planting trees does better in Winter while fixing the fire place in Summer makes more sense). It also helps us spread our expenses and not run our budget dry.

We also write all the major family event that are schedul-able such as birthdays, major doctors visits, holidays, trips, etc.

So, we’ve got one page per season, and each page is divided into seven chunks (General, zone 0 to zone  V). Check the template to make sense of it all!

Then we colour in the cells from the expected start date to the end date.

Zooming into each month

Monthly Permaculture PlannerI use the monthly planner. Great as well for when I have WWOOFers stay and work with us.

  1. We review the yearly planner for what was scheduled that month.
  2. We brainstorm on all the tasks required to complete that big item.
  3. We list them on the sheet of paper into the appropriate chunk.
  4. At the end of each month, we transfer the tasks that we haven’t completed into the new sheet.
  5. We repeat the process in #1 and 2.

“It sounds tedious and ultra disciplined, I concede!”

And by all means, don’t use those methods if your preference is to always act on the spur of the moment or play-by-ear.

But, if you’re hoping to successfully juggle paid work, chores, family, hobby, gardening, volunteering, and, plan/implement your resilient future and that of your community,
then perhaps a tedious system might help. 😉

Why does this system work for us?

A collection of past monthly planners

A collection of past monthly planners

What I like about that system we developed for us here at Valley’s End Farm, is that:

  • It gives us a sound structure to lean on.
  • It encourages us to think, ahead.
  • It helps share the plan with all the family members and visitors.
  • It guides us in prioritising actions (i.e. yes, solar panels are great to have but if money is tight this year, perhaps a dam would be better invested on?).
  • It integrates all that is connected to us: i.e. family, work,  play, community, etc.
  • It enables us to save vast amount of energy and to be laser-focused on what is needed yet still keeping the big picture in mind.
  • It helps us measure progress.
  • Last but not least, it strongly challenges procrastination!

“And yet still, there is still plenty of room to play by ear in that system!”

So I am happy to share it with you. Here are my templates. Please use them. Improve them. Share them.

Go well and happy planning!


See you at one of our courses to learn more about designing and managing your permaculture life

One thought on “Managing your permaculture life

  1. Wayan Heru Young says:

    This is great.. specially for my OCD side.. 😀
    if i may suggest, you can use the formula ={previousCELL}+7 on the “Week of” cells after the first one. This way you only need to put in the first date on each sheet, and the next weeks will automatically calculated by excel.. no need to fill in each week’s date next year..
    (like i said, my OCD side..)
    :p

    Cheers..

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