7 Time Management Hacks to Get More From the Day

By Donald Burns, Foodable Industry Expert

The world keeps moving faster and we must move along with it. So as the world gets more connected, our lives get more complex and yet we all seem to run out of hours in the day to get all we want accomplished. Let’s face the facts that most people are terrible at spending their time wisely. In the world of business coaching, the topic of time management is almost always on the agenda. Even those who are defined as being “successful” are looking for ways to streamline tasks in an effort to bend time to their will. 

The only real lesson to time management is to understand this basic concept: You never manage time, you manage yourself. Here’s 7 down-and-dirty time management hacks to get more done in 24 hours.

1. Set the first meeting of the day with yourself.

The best way to set yourself up for success is to make sure you are investing in your No. 1 resource: yourself. Starting the day out fully charged is insurance to get the most out of any day.

Just like you would not skip an important business meeting, you need to schedule a morning meeting with yourself, for yourself. Have a morning "hour of power" to get your mind and body in sync. You can go to the gym, go for a walk, do yoga or martial arts. The main thing is that you need to move your body to get the blood going. The restaurant industry is notorious for burnout and unhealthy lifestyles. You work long hours (mostly on your feet) and we get little time to exercise. If you want a long career in this business, then self-care has to become a primary need. Notice the word need, not want. You will do whatever you have to do to get your needs met. If it's a want, it'll only happen if all the elements come together. 

2. Pick three.

Life balance is a myth. That might be hard to swallow since, for most of our lives, we are told that to be ultra successful we need to find the ever-eluding balance of personal and professional. It's not going to happen.

If the world was perfect and there were no outside demands on your time and focus then you might be able to achieve life balance. Since we know the restaurant world is not rose-colored and rainbows, let's focus in on what works. Pick only three top projects or things you need to accomplish in any given day. You can easily fill up a to-do list and try to make it through that daunting task of trying to get it all done. If you pick only three things for the day, your chances of getting them done greatly increase.

So, start the day with you "hour of power" or self-care meeting to make sure you are fully charged up for the day. Then look at your Big Three. Take immediate action on getting one of those projects moving. The key here is that the demands of others will come for your focus and time. Dedicate time to make sure that your agenda is getting the energy and focus it deserves.

3. Learn to say “no."

People who work in the restaurant industry tend to be people-oriented (which is a good thing). We also tend to try to please everyone (which can become a bad thing). You will need to learn to say "no" gracefully to things that do not serve you. Time is the most precious commodity we have. You cannot get more of it and once it's gone, that's it. 

Now there are things that get put on your plate from outside sources that you may not have an option to decline. However, there are things that are totally within your control — watching TV, playing video games, surfing the internet and other things that pull your focus away from what is important to you. The best question to ask yourself if you want a better life is this, "Is this (insert task or activity) going to move my life forward towards my goals and dreams?"

The quality of life you have is in direct proportion to the quality of questions you ask yourself. It's quite easy… if you want a better life, ask yourself better questions. 

4. Have a plan.

Having a written plan is still the best way to stay on track and on focus. You can use the old school method of pen and paper or use technology to get a handle on what you need to focus on. We're going to take a concept from David Allen's Getting Things Done Methodology to help clear our heads from the minutia that consumes most of our cognitive processing. When something pops in your head to do, you need to get it into a safe place to process later.

The note app on your smartphone is perfect for this. Get it out of your head or else it will begin to form a "mental loop.” The issue with loops is that they tend to bounce around in our heads until they get solved. (Neuroscientists claim we have around 60,000 random thoughts going through our brain a day). This is a great way to get them in a place where you can go through them and sort them into either action, reference or just plain delete them. 

5. If you can, delegate.

This one ties into learning to say “no." So many restaurant managers do tasks that others could easily take care of. Things like scheduling, recording invoices and receiving orders from vendors are all tasks that can be trained. Here is the bonus: when you train your team to take on more responsibility, they have a chance to learn and grow. That is a winning element to team retention.

If you give the excuse that you have to do everything yourself, then you have either one of these two issues:

a. You are obsessed with control and perfectionism. While striving for excellence and consistency is a common thread among great restaurants, it's very hard to ever be perfect. 

b. You do not trust your team. If you do not trust your team, then you need to get a team you can trust. This might lead you to look at option A once more.

6. Focus more on results than tasks.

Focus is the only thing you ever really can control. What you focus on and put energy toward gets done. The question to ask yourself is, "Are you focused on things that really have an impact?" 

While most restaurant owners and managers are always “busy,” they tend to be focused on things that have little impact toward improving the restaurant. They focus on the price of their food from a vendor and spend a lot of time "shopping" pricing from multiple purveyors when they have never actually figured out the food cost of every item on their menu. 

Most people become very efficient at their job duties. They’re just usually not incredibly effective in those jobs. Focus on the things that have a bigger impact on your business. If you have trouble figuring out the "right things" to focus on, then consider getting a business coach to help you.

7. Manage your energy, not time.

Here is the best time management hack of all! Time is just a construct of the mind. You cannot change time or manipulate it. It is an uncontrollable variable that most people seem to either be chasing or a slave to. To break free from that, you need to look at your natural energy patterns and, when you are in the peak energy “zone," use that energy to get the right things done.

Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm (it's called chronobiology and it studies the effect of how our bodies and minds work during the day). If you tap into this rhythm, it can give you the ability to really get some sh*t done. Most people find that the mornings are best for cognitive thought, analytical thinking or problem solving. Afternoons are great for physical demands. The evenings tend to be a better time for creative processing. 

Keeping your energy levels at peak states requires a commitment to exercise, drinking plenty of water and making sure you are eating properly. These three basic elements provide the fuel your brain needs to handle all the variety of tasks that come at you during the day. We all know what happens when you run out of fuel in your car. Your natural energy levels are the fuel you need to get things done.