From the very moment I overbooked my first restaurant dining room I have been in the weeds. Anyone who has a stack of invoices on their desk, notes from employees – vacation requests, sick day leave requests Friday night off pleadings, and that early New Year’s Eve reminder can relate. Chef’s are not the only ones who cannot at times see over the pile of tickets or plates in the window.
Fortunately, I learned to adapt and now feel entirely comfortable with the never ending list. Once upon a time I frantically assumed that if I didn’t complete the list on a daily basis that I had failed at my job as the head of the company. I struggled and stressed to check off all of the highlighted lines that brought task to attention.
Seldom did I ever accomplish the complete list at the end of any day and often I would transfer the few items onto the next day’s list. On occasion, I would leave an item off the list and it would just disappear for a while, popping up at a later date on another list. Those were frequently the items that caused the most trouble.
In my current career the list never ends. The job is at times overwhelming. The piles – periodically neatly stacked and organized, other times in a state of disarray – that clutter my desk have become friendly fixtures that never seem to leave. They get moved, but always return as though they were cats that were fed in the night.
What I have come to realize over these years of weed navigation is that once I viewed the stacks as a pile of stress. Now I picture it as a challenge that keeps changing with everyday.
While passing a colleagues desk the other day I asked how she was doing.
“John, I am overwhelmed. I don’t know if I will ever get caught up.”
I explained my new theory on lists. I told her they will always be part of our lives – it’s how we view those lists makes the difference in how we approach them. Lists are no longer stress-triggers for me. They are now constant challenges I use to motivate myself to constantly try to figure out the puzzle. I have not changed my list procedure; I have changed the way I interpret what’s on the list.
Seldom does anyone gravitate to something that isn’t pleasant. In my world, the unending list is not pleasant. It once was the catalyst for stress and anxiety. The pressure was tremendous and it made me crazy enough to make my staff crazy. At times this broke the rhythm of the kitchen and caused a stumble or two in the dining room.
I have, over the years, learned that being in the weeds is part of the game. The culinary culture thrives on that feeling. And the beauty of learning how to deal with that and use it as a professional asset is something few people can handle in the business world today.
One of the most gratifying moments for any restaurant employee is looking at the reservation book, realizing that the night is completely oversold and then getting through the evening without a misstep or problem,
That’s a high that few people can experience on a regular basis. It’s a tremendously worthwhile foundation for future endeavors.
So today, when you think you are in the weeds, take a look around. You could be sitting in an empty dining room with nothing on your list.