Feb. 7 2023 08:00 AM

Sometimes the numbers tell a different story than what we tell ourselves.

I am not super techy. I would consider myself middle of the road. For example, I have a smartphone, but I still religiously use my paper planner. I recognize there are so many shortcuts and apps out there that can provide tremendous value. It is not so much that I am afraid of or opposed to using them; rather, it takes time and focus to learn and stay up to date with the newest ones.

The beauty of many technological advances is their ability to capture data. My current tried and true processes seem to be working out fairly well overall, but when pain points arise, I often look to get the data involved. Hard numbers can rule out much of the human subjectivity and bias and can be more accurate than if we were to provide our best guess.

Laura Vanderkam, a productivity expert whose methods I often employ, has commented on her blog over the years about the large discrepancy in hours Americans work between Gallup polls and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) American Time Use Survey. Gallup asks people to estimate, whereas the BLS relies on time diaries. You may feel like you worked over 60 hours, but actual data shows 40 hours is overwhelmingly the average. I know many of us in dairy are working more than ever due to labor shortages, but it may be in your best interest to log a few weeks and see your true average. This could also shed some light on how you use your time and indicate windows of time that could be better used for recovery. Are you scrolling when you could be otherwise resting?

When my third child was born, I decided to use data to shape the narrative on the extent of my sleep deprivation. Yes, parents of newborns tend to get less sleep, but is it really as bad as it feels? As soon as I came home from the hospital, I started wearing my Fitbit watch since it collected sleep data. As it turns out, I was getting more sleep than I thought. I was also waking up to feed the baby more often than I recalled, but broken sleep is still better than no sleep. I did not record sleep data with my first two children, but I can say that having the data with my third child truly made me feel like it was not nearly as bad as the story I had previously told myself.

I am quick to admit that the plethora of data and ways to collect it can be overwhelming. However, if we look at specific pain points on the farm, in the plant, or in our personal and professional lives, there may be opportunities to gather and use data. Whether it is improving the process itself or just improving the way we see it, data can be a highly effective tool to drive the narrative and remove the bias.

Erin Massey

Erin Massey is the product development manager at Prairie Farms, a farmer-owned cooperative based in Edwardsville, Illinois. She is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the development process, from concept to commercialization. Erin grew up on a Florida dairy farm and has a deep-rooted passion to invigorate the dairy industry. Erin earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida. Her personal mantra is "Be Bold."