Every business leader should find their tractor

It’s easy for leaders to get swept up in the fast-paced and always-on nature of our jobs, leaving little opportunity for downtime. My mind races far too much, so it’s become important to find activities to engage in regularly that take me away from Zoom and Slack, and give me perspective.

In today’s busy world, the emphasis on being constantly connected and productive can be overwhelming. However, through my own work and career, I’ve noticed an essential truth: everyone needs a hobby or distraction from work. It’s more than just a hobby though – it’s a necessity for maintaining a healthy mind and body.

For those who don’t know me well enough just yet, that escape is my tractor. Large equipment has always been a significant part of my life. This hobby started when I was 8 or 9 years old with my granddad bringing me to the rock quarry where he worked and letting me “drive” the various machines. As part of my upbringing, this hobby is both a connection to my past and something that grounds me in the present.

Jeff Shiner, CEO of 1Password, standing in front of a tractor.

Life on my farm

I’m fortunate to have a small farm on the outskirts of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada – a few acres of corn and soybean along with some forest and trails. Being out in nature, driving my tractor and tending to my property requires a perfect combination of focus and attention. I find it incredibly grounding and in complete contrast to the around-the-clock nature of my job. It’s also a welcome change of scenery that allows me to recharge my batteries.

Working on my tractor has become more than just a pastime – it’s an opportunity to center myself and find balance. It keeps me refreshed and ready to tackle any tough problems that come my way in life.

There’s also this undeniable satisfaction in getting my hands dirty – it’s a rewarding experience that’s completely different from what I encounter in my day-to-day work at 1Password. Everything feels a bit more manageable when I’m on my farm – it’s like my own personal version of yoga! The feeling of accomplishment when I do something ‘hands-on’ is therapeutic in a way that’s hard to put into words.

The beauty of this hobby is that it demands just enough concentration to prevent my thoughts from drifting back to work, yet it’s not so demanding that it creates another source of stress.

Five tractor parts hanging on a blue rack inside a garage.

For me, the difference between fun and frustrating is the amount of time it takes to accomplish a task, and because of that, I set no deadlines on my tractor work. In the moment, time slows down, and I have a sense of peace that can be hard to come by in the hustle and bustle of the tech world. It’s just me, the tractor, and the land, and the simplicity of that is something I find invaluable.

In tech, we often talk about innovation and pushing boundaries. But sometimes, simply stepping away from the screen can result in returning to a task with a clearer and more effective state of mind. I solve problems better, think through complex issues more creatively, and (I believe) become a better leader.

My hobby feels like hitting the ‘reset’ button and giving myself opportunities to find clarity and inspiration. It’s a self-reminder that success isn’t just about the hours we put into our work – it also comes from the ways we recharge and take care of ourselves.

Find your version of my tractor

If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to find your ‘tractor’. It should be something that requires just enough attention to force your mind away from work but not one that adds extra pressure to your day.

Finding this balance is crucial. Engage in what ignites your passion, and watch how it transforms not just your free time but your productivity and mindset too. It could be anything that resonates with you. Just make the time for it. What matters is that it’s an activity that allows you to unwind and offers a sense of fulfillment.

As for my current project, I recently bought a 10-year-old tractor that I’m excited to bring back to life. Revitalizing it is a lot like working through the various challenges that crop up in the tech world. You learn, adapt, and see pieces come together in a rewarding way. It’s already been an exciting adventure that helps me clear my mind – and if you’re curious, you’re welcome to follow along on Instagram.

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Read more of my thoughts and advice, as well as updates about what’s happening inside 1Password, over on LinkedIn!
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