3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Winter Downtime

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The start of winter is usually a welcome sight for most Turf Managers. After a season filled with long hours and demanding work, winter gives turfers a chance to slow down, regroup, and rest. However, after a few weeks of down time, these men and women who are so used to working hard start to get stir-crazy and are chomping at the bit to get back outside. Here are my top 3 tips to stay productive and keep that sense of accomplishment while slowing down over the winter.

First and foremost, maintenance, maintenance, maintenance! There is nothing worse than wasting valuable time in-season to deal with breakdowns and malfunctions. Use the offseason to take care of all your equipment. Oil changes, filter replacements (oil, fuel, air), changing spark plugs, greasing joints and pistons, and sharpening blades all can de done in a matter of a few minutes to a few hours.  Spend the time and perform these simple tasks on all your equipment. Performing these tasks will also give you the opportunity to look over the entire piece of equipment to hopefully spot other potential problem areas. You can also take this time to make any major repairs you may have done a quick fix to in-season. If you are unfamiliar with how to perform these general maintenance tasks, take this time to read the owner manuals or check out manufacturers’ websites. Most websites now have how-to videos that you can use for free.

Secondly, develop a plan. I don’t mean just developing an in-season schedule for the coming year, although you should have one, but developing plans for small projects or contingencies that may occur in the coming season. If you have some projects in mind that you would like to complete if time permits, use the winter to do all the legwork. This will allow you to implement the plan as soon as time allows instead of scrambling in-season to create a comprehensive plan. You may also want to have some contingencies in place for the spring. What will you do if you have major snow mold issues? Do you have existing wear areas from late fall play? When was the last time you aerated or vented your fields? Winter is a wonderful time to give some serious thought to these issues and create plans to take care of them. It’s always easier to take your time and plan for these when you aren’t under the gun or trying to put out fires elsewhere.

Finally, educate yourself! The turf industry is still relatively young and always evolving. Use your downtime to keep up-to-date on current trends and ideas. Go to local conferences and seminars, which you can usually find through extension agencies, universities, and even vendors. You do not have to look at these events as just educational. They are also great for networking. Reach out to people who are in the same position as you and pick their minds on how they do things. Even if you pick up one helpful tip, it was a success. You could also plan a breakfast or lunch with other industry professionals. Use this time to talk about work specific issues and ideas. It’s a nice way to get out of the office while still being productive. You may even be able to get one of your reps to sponsor the event. Just remember to try to keep it on task and be productive.