Record keeping may not sound exciting, but it’s a big part of life — and the FFA experience. Why not use the winter months to review and update your books for the year? It will help you start the new year with your best foot forward. Just ask Tyler Schnaithman, an FFA Alumnus and fifth-generation farmer from Oklahoma who won the 2016-17 American Star Farmer award. “In my experience, the ability to keep accurate records is the most important skill of a successful business person,” he says.

Here are three tips from Schnaithman for keeping good records:

1. Always carry a calculator.

It’s easier than you think since most smartphones have them built in. “A calculator helps me calculate the cost of items and potential returns,” he says. “Fixed and variable costs are very important for a producer to know and understand.”

2. Set a weekly reminder to update your records.

“When I was in high school, I felt extremely busy, but I always sat down on Sunday afternoon to go over my expenses, to make sure my invoices were sent out and to reconcile everything,” he says. “It’s easy to forget something if you don’t put aside time to make sure your records are straight.”

3. Take advantage of technology.

“For on-the-go record keeping, I use apps on my phone,” he says. “It keeps my numbers handy. For example, I use an app called Pen Rider to help keep up with our cattle health. Another app called FarmLogs helps me measure precipitation, record planting dates and keep up with every application on the farm.”