The past few months have been a time of adjustment. Many routines on our farms are mostly the same – cows are being milked, farmers have been planting and fertilizing, lawns are being mowed and gardens are planted. But many other aspects of our lives have been altered significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve been forced to change or abandon travel plans, manage online schooling, reschedule or restructure community events, or take part in making difficult decisions to cancel eagerly awaited gatherings, fairs and festivals. We’ve all been affected by the unwelcome and abrupt arrival of the novel coronavirus.

Chances are we’ve all had the opportunity to find different ways to spend our time. Are we making the most of this opportunity? Are we using this time to recharge, refocus and build our knowledge base? Are we using it to stay connected with our family, friends and dairy-industry colleagues? Are we creating new habits to make us more productive or effective in the future?

We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” I believe that’s true for our minds as well as our bodies. The people and things we spend time with influence and shape what we do, how we think and ultimately what we make of our lives.

In raising our children most of us place value on filtering or monitoring what they watch and listen to. Take a few minutes to consider placing those same filters on your own intake. Are the things you’re watching and listening to positive, forward-thinking and creative? Or are they negative, backward and clouded in fear? Are they a little too comfortable?

It can be tempting to slip into a routine of contented habits, especially in a time when the world is full of conflict. Let’s remember that whatever we consistently do we’ll become better at. If we spend our time sitting on the couch watching TV or playing solitaire on our phone, we’ll have wasted an amazing opportunity to improve ourselves for when the pandemic has subsided.

I challenge you to discover new and even uncomfortable habits to help sharpen and discipline you – habits to help define and achieve goals for your personal life and business. Read a business or leadership book, watch a webinar series, listen to new podcasts, start an exercise routine or begin the research process for changes to your operation.

Remember to take time to reach out to fellow dairy farmers or industry professionals. We’re all missing the interaction from industry meetings or conferences that have been canceled or transitioned to a virtual format the past few months. Those events are often a chance to be away from the farm to recharge and be inspired by new ideas. Scheduling a call or video conference with bright and positive people can help fill that gap until we’re able to meet in person again.

I’ve been so impressed with how the dairy industry has worked together to share information, support each other and promote our products these past few months. By being selective about the connections we make, we can emerge stronger, smarter and more focused than ever.

Shelly Mayer is the executive director of Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin; email smayer@pdpw.org to contact her. Visit pdpw.org for more information.