Analysts warn producers about dangers of information overload

I haven’t logged into Facebook for a month and I feel great.Not only am I avoiding getting pulled into pointless and annoying discussions about all sorts of things, but I’m loving the extra time it’s giving me. I might only spend 15 minutes a day on that app, but in my busy life I’ve got lots of better things to do with 15 minutes.

Is reading a dozen stories a week about crop conditions in South America a similar waste of time for farmers? Two analysts I was listening to this morning seem to think so.

“To me there is such a thing as being over-informed,” Angie Setzer, vice-president of Grain for Citizens in Michigan, said in a Granular Ag marketing webinar.

“Constantly seeking out market analysis is as dangerous to a farmers’ marketing health as not being aware of what’s going on at all.”

For Setzer, imbibing oceans of market chatter is bad not just because it doesn’t lead to better-informed decisions, but it can also lead to decision-paralysis due to information overload.

Tommy Grisafi of Advance Trading in Indiana said sitting on a farm in North America and speculating about the weather in Brazil is a waste of time. He’s a professional adviser with dozens of colleagues and he works with many elevators, and yet he doesn’t waste his time with that sort of speculation.

“I have no clue what’s going on in South America,” said Grisafi.

Instead of becoming transfixed with the talk, rumours, reports and tweets about the world grain markets and the Chicago Board of Trade, farmers should spend their time focused on something they can actually use.

“Keep your eye on your local cash market because that is where you’ll be able to sell your grain.”

That means check out their basis levels and what they’re saying about what they want, what they need, and what they’re not that interested in. That provides information you can feed into your marketing plan.

“Go look at the five closest elevators around you. That’s your market,” said Grisafi.

I’m keen on this sort of thinking because I’ve found it to be true in my own life. General, mainstream news has often been the biggest drain on my ability to be productive. Cutting most of it out, which I did in late 2005, to focus instead on specific, focused coverage on topics and issues that I want and need to understand, makes my brain less cluttered — and saves me a huge amount of time for other things.

Be miserly with your time and ability to focus. It’s a precious commodity.

I think that’s what Setzer and Grisafi were talking about. If you have many demands on your time and serious decisions to make, you don’t have the luxury of investing your management time in pointless indulgences, even if they feel like they’re keeping you informed. Think about it for a second: does knowing whether or not it rained in northern Argentina this weekend help you in any way if you’re focused on marketing your crop?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t read this sort of stuff if you really love it. Light a fire in the fireplace, pour yourself a glass of single malt Scotch and revel in all the complexity of the farming world’s weather situation if that’s your chief joy in life.

But if you’re pressed for time, need to make serious decisions and feel overwhelmed by the demands, maybe think of cutting all that chatter out of your head.

Time and focus are as valuable as money and it’s the one input almost entirely in your hands.

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