Organization and Self-Management
Strategies for Staying on Top of Things
Arrive for work a few minutes ahead of time so that you are not rushed and so that you can spend a few minutes in social conversation with your co-workers. If you are having problems outside of work and are friendly with your co-workers, it may be helpful to acknowledge your feelings about these problems so that you can put them aside during the workday.
Plan your day
Take a few minutes at the start of every workday to plan your activities. If you know there will be a hectic period, minimize distractions during that time. Get phone calls, orders, and other business out of the way before you are busy. Do as much preparation as possible before the rush.
Plan to get a quick breather (even 30 seconds) prior to a busy period. Use this time to “psych” yourself up. Help others to get prepared. Have a plan for how you will cope, and convince yourself that you will meet the challenge. At the end of each workday, take a few minutes to identify the things that need to done the following day. Make a list and leave it in a conspicuous spot. You can then mentally put some of those duties off your mind knowing that it is already identified for the next time you are at work.
Focus on the tasks at hand
If you find yourself getting angry or upset during the day, take a few deep breaths and allow your body to relax as much as possible. Concentrate on the tasks you have at hand. When you are busy, do not permit yourself to worry about other issues or problems that do not have to be dealt with at that moment. For example, during a busy lunchtime when orders are coming in fast and furiously, do not plan tomorrow’s menus or the dairy order for next week. If necessary, write a brief reminder to yourself of tasks to be completed later.
Deal with issues of overwork
If you find yourself constantly working beyond your capacity, take a long hard look at your work. Consider whether:
- You are making the best use of your time
- You need additional training to do the job
- You could perform the tasks more efficiently
- Some tasks could be delegated to someone else
- The kitchen could be reorganized to reduce the amount of work required (e.g., by placing storage areas adjacent to the preparation area)
- Changes to the mise en place could reduce meal preparation time during busy periods
- More staff is needed during critical times
- Menu and purchasing decisions could reduce the overload
Depending on your work situation, you may be able to implement the changes suggested by the answers to these considerations. In many cases, you may have to consult your supervisor. Take time to plan your proposal to the supervisor. Define the problem, identify the options you have considered, and describe why your proposed solution is the most suitable.
Take a problem-solving approach
If you are feeling overstressed, the first thing to do is to become aware of the sources and effects of stress in your life. Identify what specific things at work and home you find stressful.
Next, decide the best way for you to handle this stress. In some cases, you may be able to remove the stress. For example, it may be possible to muffle the sound of a large and noisy fan. Finding another job is a more extreme example of removing the stress. In many cases, you can improve your ability to cope with stress through relaxation exercises, improved physical exercises, or through humour. Finally, you can change how you see a situation. Perhaps you are overreacting or taking offence when none was intended. Sometimes the mannerisms of a fellow worker can be irritating. If you accept that this is the way the person reacts to stress, you may find the mannerisms don’t bother you as much.
Once you have decided what to do, you need to be responsible for managing your own stress. Implement the solutions you have identified.
When your stress levels become too high, the following activities can help provide stress relief, and help you regain some balance:
- Learn to say no
- Ask for help
- Learn to deal with negative people
- Lose yourself
- Treat yourself
- Get your life in order
- Make a wish list
- Help others
- Stop negative or stressful thoughts
- Use relaxation exercises
- Congratulate yourself on successfully meeting challenges
Learn to say no
When you are under stress, decide whether you really want or need to do what you are being asked to do. If the answer is no, do not be afraid to say no.
Ask for help
Problems can be lightened by sharing them. Talking to a friend, spouse, or sympathetic co-worker may bring a different perspective to the issue. You may find a solution to a problem you think cannot be solved. In the work situation, you should not expect others to anticipate how busy you are or how stressful a situation is. If you need help, ask for it.
Learn to deal with negative people
People who constantly make negative remarks or are overly pessimistic can make you experience negative feelings that add to stress. Counter negative remarks with positive ones of your own. Commend others on a positive approach.
When you are under stress, engage in some activity that causes you to lose track of time. Choose an activity you find especially enjoyable. During that time, you can forget about your worries and experience happy, calm feelings.
Treat yourself to a present, a dinner, or a movie. Invite a friend to go along. However, do not make the treat something outrageously expensive, especially if financial worries are part of the stresses in your life.
Get your life in order
If you are off schedule, if your house and life are a mess, stop everything else and get organized. Make a list and tackle the items one at a time. Do not worry if it takes some time to get organized again.
Make a wish list
Decide how you would complete the sentence: “If only I had time, I would…” Make a list of the items you think of. When you are feeling stressed, do one of your wish list items.
Helping others can take your mind off what is worrying you. Not only will you feel good about being of assistance to someone else, but you will also have a new outlook on your problems and concerns.
Stop negative or stressful thoughts
Practise interrupting stressful thoughts by imagining a stressful situation. Allow yourself to experience both helpful and anxious thoughts about the situation. When anxious thoughts come to mind, shout, “Stop,” or snap your fingers. Let your mind empty of all but the helpful thoughts. Set a goal of 30 seconds. If upsetting thoughts return during that time, stop yourself again.
When you succeed in interrupting the thought several times, start interrupting the thought with a stop said in a normal voice. Gradually reduce the volume of the stop to a whisper and then an imagined command. Finally, make up several positive, assertive thoughts that you can use in stressful situations.
For example, you might say to yourself, “I am a capable cook,” or “I can handle this volume of orders and do a good job.” Substitute one of these statements for the negative thoughts. Once you have learned this skill, you can use it when stressful situations arise.
Use relaxation exercises
Relaxation exercises can either be short self-control techniques to deal with an immediate stress or can be a longer exercise intended to increase your ability to deal with stress in your life.
This first exercise or quieting response can be used at any time, at home or work, to deal with an immediate anxiety. When you become aware of the worry, annoyance, or anxiety, blink the left eye, then the right eye, then smile, inhale an easy, natural deep breath, exhale the deep breath and let the jaw, tongue, and shoulders go loose. Allow a feeling of limpness, heaviness, and warmth to flow to the toes as the breath is exhaled. Repeat a positive phrase such as “I can do it.” Then carry on with your task.
Longer relaxation exercises combine deep breathing with successive tightening and relaxation of all of the muscles of the body. To do this exercise, lie on your back or sit in a comfortable position. Take a deep breath, breathing in through the nose, with the breath filling the chest and stomach area. Hold the breath for a moment (up to a count of five), then release the air slowly (to a count of 10) through the mouth. Find a rhythm that is slow and natural. Repeat breathing five or six times. Then, while continuing to deep breathe, tighten and then relax successive muscle groups in the feet, legs, abdomen, chest, arms, neck, and head. Finally, tighten all of the muscles in the body and relax. Focus on the breathing and muscle tightening and relaxation, allowing all other thoughts to be submerged.
Relaxation exercises can be combined with visualization or meditation. Once the body is completely relaxed, picture a favourite place in your mind. Go to that place and feel how comfortable you are, enjoying the peace and quiet. Allow your mind to drift for several minutes. Then slowly and gently allow yourself to become aware of your body. Feel the energy in your feet and legs, arms, and hands. Then slowly feel the energy growing in your chest, neck, and shoulders, and then your head and face. Slowly open your eyes.
Congratulate yourself on successfully meeting challenges
Part of giving positive messages to yourself is to acknowledge when you have met a challenge or dealt with a stressful situation. Take a minute afterward to congratulate yourself and the other members of the team.
Reduce the stress of those you supervise
If you are the supervisor, you can play an important part in making the job satisfying and less stressful for the individuals you supervise. Encourage employees to help one another during busy times. Be willing to help others, even if the task falls outside of your job. After a hectic period, thank employees for pitching in.
If you notice tensions rising and tempers flaring, give a brief break to the employees involved if at all possible. If not, use a joke or funny story to break the tension. Acknowledge the stress levels when times are busy.
Be positive and upbeat about the challenges the team faces. However, do not minimize the challenge in such a way that group members feel unappreciated for their efforts. For example, you could say, “We have a real challenge coming up in preparing a banquet for the Olympic team. There will be a lot of hard work for several days and we will have to plan carefully. However, with our staff team, I am confident that we can do a first class job.” This is not the time to express your doubts about the capability of the staff members. Remember, people rise to expectations.
Workers whose contributions and suggestions are considered feel that they are valuable members of a team. Before busy events such as a Mother’s Day brunch, ask employees for their suggestions on how to handle the crowds. When workers bring concerns and suggestions to your attention, do not dismiss their comments. Although not every recommendation will be feasible, discussion of the idea will often develop a better idea that can be implemented. Taking comments seriously also lets employees know that you value their contributions. This will encourage them to open their minds more broadly and potentially increase the scope of their observations in the restaurant.
Care in scheduling staff can reduce stress and improve morale. Research has shown that frequent shift changes are stressful and disrupt sleep patterns. When possible, keep individuals on the same shift during a week (for example, from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.). If a person must work different shifts during the week, it is usually easier to change from an early shift to a late shift than the reverse.
Consider the personal needs and preferences of employees. If the workers you supervise are able to manage their personal lives more easily and with less stress, they will be able to cope with more stress on the job. Of course, your ability to meet these needs will depend on the needs of the business, the conflicting needs of others, and the requirements of legislation and collective agreements.
A job is also more stressful if employees are confused about their role or expectations, are bored, and have no room for creativity and personal input. Be as clear as possible about your expectations of the employees you supervise. Provide opportunities for workers to take on new and interesting challenges. Give employees feedback about their performance, making sure that the feedback is constructive. Strive to keep the lines of communication open.