Gerad Gaunck, Milan, IN, has charted corn and soybean prices - and written down his bids and basis - since 1986.

"I've done it every day, except the days I'm on vacation. It helps me stay disciplined," Gaunck commented at a recent seminar.

He's a walking example of a grower who works hard but farms smart.

Recent studies show that farmers are getting fewer in number and their operations are getting bigger, yet they're getting by with less hired help. Bigger equipment and new technology help, but one key factor that university studies don't show is that farmers are working harder.

They're putting in longer hours and have become more efficient in the number of hours it takes to produce an acre of corn or soybeans. As these farm business owners have found, they can buy more equipment, they can use better seed and production technology, but they can't make days longer.

To compensate, top-end farmers have found they need to employ time management skills, like any executive, to make their farms grow and stay profitable.

I believe that, like Gaunck, other growers should make time each day, or certainly each week, for better marketing and management decisions.

Do you have a written schedule outlining the work you want to get done each week? Even if you're working alone or with one other person, writing down your goals and work schedule for each week, month or year will help you become organized. Keeping the schedule where you can see it and comparing it year to year can make it a valuable management tool for your operation.

I also suggest having a weekly marketing worksheet. This list would include current grain inventory; the last time grain quality was checked; current inventory value; today's cash bid; bids out 30, 60 and 90 days; new-crop projected inventory; new-crop bids; and approximate value of new-crop production.

By doing this each week, you'll start to think of your grain as dollars - not just grain in the bin. The top table (see printed article) is a sample of an easy-to-use, weekly marketing worksheet.

In marketing, we have certain key weeks when we need to spend more time on marketing. And during these weeks, we need to have more time to bring our strategies up to date or change them. These weeks are often around important government reports and seasonal periods when you should consider making old- and new-crop sales.

The bottom table (see printed article) shows dates critical in your marketing year.

It's a great idea to have a marketing meeting on the day of key government reports. The reports are released at 7:30 a.m., central time, so scheduling a meeting for 8 or 8:30 that morning will allow you to make key marketing decisions or place orders to execute your marketing plans.

Remember that, with the LDP programs, finding the lows can be just as important to your marketing plan as finding the right time to sell.

Besides being aware of the essential report dates and doing a weekly worksheet, you should spend one or two weeks a year taking marketing classes or attending marketing seminars.

Education is one of the key investments that any business can make. Marketing changes constantly, and you need to continue learning to keep up with the changes.

You have a lot of work to do each day, especially during the critical planting and harvesting periods. These are often times when the grain market is very volatile and pricing decisions need to be made.

That's why staying organized and utilizing a planning calendar and weekly marketing worksheet can help you make more knowledgeable and profitable marketing decisions.