The Most Effective Practices for a Productive Week

By Donald Burns, Foodable Industry Expert

Tick tock. Tick tock. Time is one thing that people are always trying to manage, bend, or wish they had more of. We all dream that time machines were real so we could finally control the uncontrollable. When you run a restaurant, time can either become your ally or an evil nemesis. Most people choose the latter and seem to constantly fight with time.

So, how can you stop this love/hate relationship with time? Here are some simple ways to get time working with you and not against you.

Respect Time

Just like a lot of things in life, you need to give first in order to receive. Respect is a common theme in all relationships. Time is the same. You need to have a deep respect for your time and the time of others. One of the greatest gifts a person can give is time. Remember it can't be saved or traded. When you give your time and attention, you have given away a valuable and precious commodity. That’s important to realize and respect.

It all starts with self-respect. You need to respect time for the gift it is. You need to respect yourself. You are powerful beyond measure if you can develop self-respect and make a sacred pact to honor that. Everything in your outer world first started in your inner world.

When people do not respect themselves, it becomes rather apparent in their behavior. Your words may say one thing, however, it’s the actions you take that say everything. This behavior will manifest in many ways. One of the most common is overcompensating behavior. That person who is loud, obnoxious, and demeaning to others? They quite often suffer from lack of confidence and a lack of self-respect for themselves.

If people do not have respect for themselves, it’s hard to get them to respect other things. This is a really great interview question! Ask them point blank: “Do you respect yourself?” Then ask them them to give you at least three examples of how they do that. You might be shocked that a lot of people get a blank look on their face when asked this question.

Control Your Focus

You might see clever T-shirts that say, “Time is Money.” That is not really true. Money can be saved, time cannot. So, time is not money. Money is money. Focus is the real currency. How someone spends their focus is a mirror to what they value.

Watching TV for four hours a night is a typical escape for a lot of people. Let’s say that they do this for five nights a week. That is 20 hours. In a year, that becomes 1,040 hours. Now, let's take it further and throw in the variable of your hourly worth. If you want to be worth more to others, you first need to be worth more to yourself. This goes right back to respect. So, let’s say you want to be make $100K a year. In a normal 40-hour workweek, you would need to be worth $45.79 per hour to make that kind of money. Now, if you spent that time watching TV and put a dollar value to it, then at the end of the year you, would need to pay out $47,621! Ouch! I don't know too many people that would write a check out for $47K for watching TV.

How do you take back control of your focus? Start being more selective of where your attention and focus goes. The restaurant industry moves fast and it’s easy to get dragged into the demands it throws out at us. If you want better results, you need to ask better quality questions. Here are some you need to ask:

  • Am I the best person to do this? No, seriously. You don't need to do everything yourself. The people who are always doing everything are also the same people who love to play the martyr card. They don't respect or trust their team. Oh, and if you do not respect and trust your team, then you don't have a team. You have a one-man show with support. That rarely works out. People like this either have very high turnover or they bounce from restaurant-to-restaurant never finding deep, fulfilling success.  
  • Who on my team could benefit? Yes, think beyond your own needs. When you hold back giving your team a chance to grow, you are really holding back the business. One of our human needs (not want, but need) is to contribute. When you take control of everything and do not give the others a chance to contribute, you’ll soon see they stop asking for more responsibility. Next, you’ll see their drive and motivation start to dwindle, too. After that you just have walking zombies working for you.

If you really want to see where your time goes, conduct a time audit. Get a notebook and write down everything you do and how long you spend on the task for an entire week. This exercise can be a real eye-opener for most when you are brutally honest. We tend to think we get a lot done and when we look back on the real data, it can be a little disheartening. In order to make change, you first need to be aware of the habits that have made their way into your life. Awareness precedes choice and choice precedes change — if you make a conscious effort to take action and want to change.

Results Matter, Not Effort

Busy, busy, busy. That could be the battle cry for working in the restaurant industry. We’re all busy. We are called human beings when in fact we should be called humans doing. Life moves quick and the human race is always pushing to be faster, better, stronger. What drives us is the need for more. It’s not a bad thing to want to be better and want more. The self-help industry is a multibillion-dollar conglomerate that fills that drive with books, audio, video, and workshops.

If you are not moving fast enough, you are quickly labeled by other as a “slacker.” The issue is that we have drawn the conclusion that being busy is the end goal. We think someone who is busy is successful. Not so fast. It does not matter how busy you are. Being busy for many people is a form of distraction. They use it like a magician does. Look over here and see how busy I am so you do not see what I am really doing. What matters is the results you get. Write this down:

Never mistake being busy for being effective. You are rewarded for the results you get, not the effort.

A line cook works a 10-hour shift and is moving really fast, he seems to have a lot of prep going. On the surface you might think, “that cook is a workhorse!” At the end of the day, they knocked out 4 items on the prep list. Epic fail. It’s not being busy that matters. Sure, he stayed busy all day, yet when all is said and done, productivity was not that great. Mediocrity loves to be disguised as being busy.

Plan the Day Before

There is an old saying that goes, “proper planning prevents piss poor performance.” Hands down the most effective tool for having a productive week is this: Plan your work and then work your plan.

We know that this business is fast-paced and demanding. It’s easy to just accept the status quo and say that you don’t have time. However, what have we learned about owning time? You only own your attention and what you focus on. Your brain is wired to get you from want to want. You brain is a problem-solving machine. That’s why the questions you ask yourself tend to get you the results to ask for. Ask poor questions and get poor results. If you ask, “Why does this always happen to me?” You brain will give you the answer, “Because you’re an idiot.” Ask a better question like, “What is the lesson here and how can I use that to be better?” Seek and ye shall find.

Ideally, you want to tap into that problem-solving part of your brain to help you be more effective, as well. That starts with having a game plan the day before. When you write down what you want and then decide on the actions needed to get the results you desire, then amazing things happen. You start to get results.

So, could you eat an entire cow? Yes, one steak at a time. The best thing to do is cut your day down into three tasks. Here is an economical system to get you started: index cards. You can pick up index cards at the store and start today. Take out an index card and draw a line down the middle. On one side at the top write task and on the other side write action. Write down the three tasks you must accomplish for the day, the most important ones that can move you forward. These need to be big and bold. Remember:

“Dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move the hearts of men." — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

After you have your three tasks written down, in the next column, write down the next actionable task to move that forward. Most big dreams and goals cannot be done is one or two actions. If they can, then you need bigger goals!

If you do this the day before and review it before you go to bed, your problem-solving brain will go to work. It will actually help you the next day when it comes time to get busy making things happen. Stacking the deck in your favor is always a smart move. Smart restaurant owners, operators, and chefs always have a plan.