6 Time Management Strategies for Restaurateurs That Actually Work

time management Oct 15, 2017

Imagine you look at your watch at 12 midnight. At that one moment in time, you have exactly 1440 minutes until you reach midnight again.

1440 minutes - that’s it. You can't borrow or buy more time.

Time is one of the most valuable resources we have. Yet most restaurant managers failed to utilize time to their capacity. Let’s get this straight: you either learn to master time, or time will master you. This is why you need effective time management strategies.

If you Google up the words "time management" you will get 93,800,000 results. Seems like a lot of people are looking for solutions to manage their time better and basically get shit done.

So why is it so difficult to follow time management strategies? A lot of it has to do with our perception of time management. So here is a breakdown a few of the barriers holding us back.

Truth: Most Time Management Strategies Don’t Work

This is especially true in the restaurant business for one simple reason: most time management strategies were designed for those who work in 9 to 5 office jobs. Very few restaurants follow the normal grind of business life. Depending on your concept, your hours are quite a stretch from the normal cubicle worker.

Traditional to-do lists are the worst thing you can use. Most do nothing to further a project along. They are simply reminders of all the things we intend to do (that most of the time just stay on our to-do list).

What baffles me is that a lot of people take pride in the length of their to-do list. It’s almost like a badge of honor to have a really long list to show people how busy you are. The real question is: are you being busy or are you being effective?

Let’s take a look at six steps that can help you bend time like a Jedi Master.

1) Ditch The "I’m Busy" Story

You’re busy. I’m busy. Most people are busy.

As human beings we tend to be that way because life at times seems like a spectator sport. Throw in the fast-paced nature of the restaurant industry and things tend to move even more rapidly.

However, this should not deter you from adopting or abiding by time management strategies.

2) Drop The "I Don’t Have Time" Mentality

This one is almost as damaging as throwing around the "I'm busy" story.

Let’s be clear on the concept of time ownership. You never really own time. You use time.

People who use the excuse of not having enough time basically just don’t have their priorities straight. How could people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk & Danny Meyers accomplish so much given that they have the same 1440 minutes each day?

They prioritize their tasks with what is most important to them and the brand, then they take action. A lot of action.

3) Break it Down

Traditional to-do lists are pretty much nothing more than a collection of good intentions. These to-do lists should never define your time management strategy.

However, you can use your list to your advantage if you understand how to chunk or group things into categories. This is an effective way to organize your list. You could use locations or even the name of a person you interact with a lot. Categories could be: kitchen, bar, office, service team, culinary team, managers, and vendors. Now when something pops up on your mind, just put it under the appropriate category.

4) The Power of Three

When you make your list, you will probably see a couple to-do's that really stand out and know they need your attention.

Pick out three. Just three.

Humans tend to overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate how long it takes to do a particular task. You think you can knock off a dozen items on your to-do list today, yet when you sit down to actually do a task (like writing a blog post on restaurant management strategies), you find that time just got away from you.

Don’t feel bad. It’s human nature.

Three is a beautiful number, because it’s manageable. It’s also memorable. How about the Three Musketeers or the Three Stooges? How many ships did Columbus bring to the New World? Three. In China, three is a lucky number, partly because it sounds a lot like the word in Chinese that means life.

So stick with three.

5) Manage Your Calendar 

When you think about something, it’s a dream.

When you start talking about it, it becomes a possibility.

When you put on your calendar, it’s a commitment.

If you truly want to master time, become a black belt in getting things done that you have on your calendar. People who really get a lot done schedule everything on their calendar and use it as a compass throughout the day.

They also take advantage of focus blocks. These are short blocks of time that you place in your calendar where you are totally focused on the task at hand. No cell phone, no email, no Facebook. Focus blocks are generally more effective in 20 to 30 minute increments. You won’t need a lot of time to make progress on a task to move it forward, but you will need focus.

You hear people say that time is money. Actually, it’s not - money is money - but the real currency in today’s world is focus. That’s the real secret of time management. Controlling your focus for short periods of time is the key to success.

6) Set Yourself Up For Tomorrow

Peter Drucker once said, “If you want to predict the future, create it.”

If you want to master time management strategies,you have to plan for them. The best time to do this is not on your way to work in the morning, but instead the night before.

After services die down, you probably find a little solitude in the calmness of the restaurant. This is the perfect time to put your focus on those three things you want to tackle tomorrow. Look at the categories on your list, pick up your three, think about what action you have to take to move one task forward, and make a commitment by scheduling time on your calendar.

Of course, restaurants are far from "predictable," and every day brings along a little excitement or adventure. So the best way to get your three things done is to schedule two focus blocks first thing in the morning. That way, you can designate some time in the day for yourself before the demands of others (ie, the staff, the vendors, the guests) start to demand your focus and attention.

Restaurant Time Management Strategies

Remember, your focus is your power. You can’t control time. The only thing you can control is your focus and energy. Where focus goes, energy flows. Tap into that and you’ll see your productivity powers grow stronger than you could ever imagine.

What time management strategies do you use in your restaurant? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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