Anyone who has worked in the restaurant industry will shiver at the thought of being “in the weeds.” The thing is, this is not exclusive to the world of food service. Every single industry has its fair share of crazy, overloaded workdays. With the start of a new year, this is especially true for many small businesses. How do you stop pulling out your hair and focus on the task at hand? Here’s a secret from a former waitress: take that frenetic energy of being “in the weeds” and channel it into productivity.
Keep Your Workspace and Workload Organized
Poor organization is one of the biggest time-killers. Whether your desk is covered with files or you can never remember where you put the darn ink cartridges, a disorganized office is a nightmare on a crazy workday.
Make it a point to tidy up your workplace at least once a week on a day you’re not busy. Buy a label maker, and go to town making a place for everything. Clean out the junk folder from your work email, or spend a few hours unsubscribing from worthless email lists and creating mail filters.
You can also use an app like RescueTime, which finds the biggest time-eating culprits of your digital life. For example, it’ll measure how much time you spend sending emails, entering data, generating reports, and more. It send you alerts when you’ve spent too much time on a task and gives you a productivity score at the end of the day. It’s a helpful way to see what areas could use a little optimization. With today’s technology, you might even find a way to automate a task and permanently check it off your list! Speaking of lists…
Make a To-Do List That Actually Means Something
Prioritizing is a difficult concept for some people. When you have hundreds small tasks to complete, it can be difficult to determine which ones need to be addressed first. Do you go over to the table that just sat down, or deliver the hot food the chef just put in the window? When you’re in an office setting, your tasks can pile up out of control. You only have so many hours in the day to accomplish your most critical activities, and it seems like the list is never ending.
A to-do list is very helpful for this situation. You might want to make a template of all the tasks you encounter on a typical day: answering e-mails, dealing with complaints, taking inventory, balancing the books, or whatever else you do. Then, give each task a number from 1-5, one being a task that’s very important to the daily operations, 5 being a task that can wait a day or two.
This is similar to using the triage method of prioritizing, except on paper. Keep this list near your desk, and refer to it whenever you start getting inundated with work. After a while, prioritizing will become second nature—but what happens when they’re all 1’s?
Be Honest and Understand That You Can Only Do So Much
It’s easy to get bogged down and discouraged when you’re in the weeds. It’s seems like everyone is demanding something of you and you’re not making a single one of them happy. You know what? That’s ok. We’re only human, and we can only do so much. If you need to take a break to put your head back on, do it. The majority of the time, a quick snack and a drink of water will reenergize your brain and help you untangle your thoughts.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help with a task if you need it. Someone else in the office could have a moment to make that phone call or print that report for you. If you communicate with a vendor or customer while you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s going to show.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but take a moment to clear your head. Then, explain to your customer or whoever is demanding your attention at the moment why you’re busy, what you’re going to do to help them, and how you greatly appreciate their patience. People are more receptive to honesty than you think: they just want to know what’s going on.
Force Yourself to Think a Positive Thought
At the end of the day, no matter how frustrated and exhausted you might be, try to reflect on your day and be grateful. Sure, it may seem impossible to feel anything but annoyed while sitting in traffic on your way home, but try it.
Spend that time thinking of something that made you happy today. Maybe you’re grateful for the business because you really need some extra money this week. Perhaps you actually cheered up an unhappy customer and turned his or her day around. The new office chair you bought is super comfortable, isn’t it? No matter how small or trivial the event may seem, be grateful for it. It works wonders for putting a positive spin on an otherwise rough day.
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