Flower farmer Nikki Davey on using calendar blocking and the ‘1 per cent rule’ to unwind

Flower farmer Nikki Davey on using calendar blocking and the ‘1 per cent rule’ to unwind
  • PublishedMay 1, 2024

“It’s a never-ending to-do list,” Glenmore-based flower farmer Nikki Davey says.

Just as priorities on the farm, 70 kilometres west of Melbourne, are determined by seasons, the co-founder of Grown Not Flown and 2023 Rural Women’s Award National Winner has had to learn how to go with the ebb and flow in her own working life.

“I’ve had to consciously make the decision to rest and unwind.”

What’s helped is introducing rest gradually. Nikki shares her approach for scheduling downtime every week, the 1 per cent rule for improvement, and the value in learning something new.

Unwind with… is a weekly column that explores the simple ways people take care of themselves.

To cope during a busy day period…

Winning the Rural Women’s Award was amazing, but you’re only one person and you’re still trying to run your business and farm, so you have to make sure you don’t burn yourself out.

I needed to learn when to say yes and when to say no, and for me that meant remembering my north star — where you’re wanting to go and your values.

My own north star is very much about finding balance and continuing to learn and try new things. I want to live as sustainably as possible and hopefully help others do that too.

My approach to prioritising downtime…

A woman at a computer desk with her back to the camera, writing on a whiteboard.
Blocking out her calendar from 3pm every Thursday has helped Nikki improve her work-life balance.(Supplied: Chloe Smith Photography)

I block out my calendar every Thursday from 3pm onwards.

The first time I did it was only for half an hour. It was hard because it required such a dramatic shift. Previously, it wasn’t unusual for me to be doing 18-hour-plus days.

But I kept the 1 per cent rule in mind — if I could improve how I found balance and rest by just 1 per cent every day, then that’s winning.

I describe myself as an ‘eternal hobbyist’…

I’m on a forever-journey to continuously learn. When I was younger, I used to try and learn something new every year. I did things like tennis lessons, sailing lessons, reupholstery, and millinery.

As I got busier that yearly focus has fallen away, but I still try to learn as much as possible in pop culture and different industries.

A ritual I have to connect with others…

A smiling middle-aged couple crouch on grass behind three small, woolly dogs.
Nikki and her partner have twice-monthly date nights to reconnect and spend quality time with each other.(Supplied: Chloe Smith Photography)

Twice a month, my partner and I will have a date and we take it in turns who is responsible for organising what we do and we’re not allowed to ask for opinions or thoughts.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money and it could be as simple as cooking together. It’s about doing something together and reconnecting, as well as giving someone a break from making decisions.

To shift my mindset, it’s been helpful to…

Before bed I’ll often reflect on my day and write in my journal three things that were positive, three things that I’m grateful for, and then three things that I want to create in the future.

I try not to be too strict with myself if I miss a few days, but I find if I have my journal next to my bed it makes it easier. Sometimes I’ll just write how I’m feeling. There are no hard and fast rules.

My favourite way to unwind alone…

The view of a tree-lined road from inside the front seat of a car.
Taking a drive and listening to a podcast or audiobook helps Nikki to reset.(Supplied: Chloe Smith Photography)

I’ll often go for a drive and listen to a podcast or an audiobook in the car. I find taking myself away from the office or the farm is a good way to reset my brain and have space to think about what I’m working on, instead of feeling guilty about the things that I need to do.

I also like yoga, meditation, and listening to music while going for a walk. Going for a walk up the paddock can be a good way to reset.

A go-to easy meal…

Homemade pizzas — my husband and I will make our own pizza dough and create a little pizza bar where we can then put on our own toppings.

I’m currently loving…

The Behind The Diary series on YouTube by Steven Bartlett is great as an entrepreneur.

I also regularly listen to the Shameless podcast and it keeps me up to date with what’s happening in pop culture as well.

To unwind at the end of the day…

I’m trying to be better at having a regular night routine since learning about how we adjust to a lack of sleep and forget what it feels like to be energised.

I try to go to bed at 10.30pm. I don’t necessarily go to sleep straight away, but I’ll read a book or listen to a podcast. Sometimes I might play on my Nintendo DS to relax.

A small joy of mine…

A hand cradles a yellow flower that is growing on a rural property
Nikki says it’s important to take a moment to appreciate what she does for a living.(Supplied: Chloe Smith Photography)

The other day I cut a bunch of flowers and put them in the office. Sometimes it’s about taking that moment to enjoy what it is that we’re doing and what it is that we’re offering.

My advice on how to unwind…

Take it slow. Don’t put too many requirements or restrictions around what rest and unwinding looks like for you. What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. Take baby steps where you need to and celebrate those wins.


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