Knowhow-Now Article


6 Steps to Work Smart and Increase Your Free Time
By Tony Rodono with

Too many restaurant operators needlessly end up hating the career they once enjoyed. I too often hear comments like the following:

“I’m working more and more hours and seem to be
accomplishing less.”

“I’m so bogged down with managing that I can never get
anything done.”

“I’m not doing what I enjoy anymore. This has turned into a job I don’t like.”

The good news: They can turn it all around, today. And if the quote above sound familiar – you can too!

You’re very good at what you do. But as your business grows, you need more and more people to get the job done, and you’re responsible for all of them. Once upon a time it was your job to get your own work done. It still is, only now it’s your job to see that everybody gets their work done. Interruptions are constant. Your concentration remains broken. More and more time is spent solving all those little problems that somebody else should take care of.

How do you feel about all this? More than frustrated; you’re so tired of spending your dream job on things you don’t like to do – things that don’t even matter – that your own productivity suffers. You’ve even thought the unthinkable: forget the whole thing and move on.

You’re not alone, but here’s what you have to realize – IT’S YOUR OWN FAULT! This was your choice. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s time to suck it up and take ownership.

You are, by choice, stuck atop a pyramid you created. Every decision goes through you. People at the bottom of the pyramid need approval from the next row up; and those mid-ranking people need your approval, which you reluctantly provide and watch it descend back down through the layers of the pyramid. No matter the question, large or small, it takes forever! You watch the process grind away at its glacial pace and your business suffers. You do too. It does not have to be that way.

I’ve created a process that will BREAK THE CYCLE. It’s not going to be easy; it’s going to make you uncomfortable at first. But remember: Your current system doesn’t work. It’s broken. At best, it’s not getting you where you want to be. At worse, it will turn your dream job into a slowly worsening nightmare.

Trust this process and you will:

Get more done, faster

Hit your goals sooner

Make the most of your staff’s talents

Become happier.

Get your life back (Remember the family, friends and hobbies you used to enjoy? )

You can do this. Let’s get started.

1.  Identify What You Do Best

In the beginning, you were probably really good at a few things – perhaps the ones that got you into this business in the first place. But today, you do those things far less because you manage the books, hire and fire, watch inventory... and answer all those questions we talked about earlier.

So here’s your first assignment: Reconnect with what you’re great doing. Get out a pen and paper and write down what you do best. List about five items.

Now, this might be difficult at first. You’ve been doing a lot of less important things – perhaps for a long time. So take a few hours or days – your choice – and log your time. Every time you take on a new task, large or small, briefly write down the task and description. Then, go back to the list and circle the items that you do better than anyone in your organization.

2. Do Only What You Do Best

From now on, don’t do anything that’s not written on your “What I do best” list. You heard me – you shouldn’t be doing anything that isn’t on that list. Make the commitment. I’m not a psychologist, but nonetheless, I can feel many of you tensing up as you read this. Do any of these quotes speak to your concerns?

“My business will fail if I don’t do everything.”

“It’s my responsibility to do everything – that’s the nature of the business.”

“We’re a small company with a limited budget, and my time is free.”

I’ve been through this, so I get it. But here’s the reality: If you keep trying to do everything, your business will fail. It’s not physically possible to do everything. Even if you’re pulling it off now, it’s unsustainable.

You obviously decided at some point that you had to do it all. But that’s just in your head. If the nature of your business forces you to do it all, your business model is broken. You’ll burn out.

Finally, it won’t cost you money to shift over to doing what you do best. Your time is invaluable: Consider how much money you lose while you’re pounding away at unimportant tasks. That’s time you could be reinvesting. BREAK THE CYCLE.

3. Train, Hire or Outsource Every Task That You Don’t Do Best

If your business has vital tasks that need to be done regularly, but they aren’t what you do best: Identify them and then train, hire or outsource to get them done. There may be people around you who can be trained for these tasks. Often those people are quite capable – and want to be more involved. You’ve never trained them because training takes more of your time - time you don’t have. BREAK THE CYCLE. Set aside a certain amount of time daily to train someone to take such a task off your plate. Most importantly: Write, record or dictate everything you train. This way, you won’t have to be involved with training again. For example: Have someone else record the training materials in a Microsoft Word file, in an online Wiki, in or in a series of YouTube videos made with free computer screen capture tools like Jing.

If you can’t train someone already in your organization, consider hiring someone. Train or hire good people, then give them the authority to handle questions and decisions. For example, give staff members the authority to handle any decision that won’t cost the restaurant more than $25. If it’s under that amount, they handle it. If it’s over $25, they ask you. If someone makes a
wrong  decision, discuss why it was wrong and add it to the training you documented so it doesn’t happen again. The goal isn’t to have an infallible staff, it’s to enable your staff to make decisions you don’t need to make.

If you can’t hire someone, consider outsourcing – for appropriate tasks. Again, record how to do these tasks so you won’t have to train vendors more than once.

Note of caution: Get as much off your plate as you can, but as you go forward, hold people accountable. An hour or two of follow-up beats countless hours of doing the work yourself! And be more than a watchdog. Work just as hard to catch people doing something right – and to briefly, sincerely say thanks – as you work to find and criticize mistakes. Give people the benefit of the doubt at first, and for a while. If they still won’t come through for you, you’ll find out quickly through continued follow-up.

4. Don't Be Busy, Eliminate Ineffective Tasks

Don’t be fooled into labeling tasks that keep you busy as important tasks. Begin busy doesn’t mean you’re being effective.

For example, maybe you write content for your email newsletter and this takes two hours each week. You are the best writer in your organization and you feel these two hours are important. Unfortunately, your newsletter has an open rate under 10% – not that many people are reading it. While you may be the best writer and you’re busy, you are ineffective.

Kiss these tasks goodbye and never look back. Most likely, they aren’t vital to your bottom line.

5. Reinvest Your Free Time

Your load should feel a little lighter now. What do you do with your new-found free time? REINVEST IT.  Steer your time toward completing effective tasks from your “What I do best” list.

Every morning, identify two important items that will make a meaningful, lasting contribution to your success. When completed, these items will make tomorrow better than today. Give them top priority. I would even go as far as saying that you shouldn’t do anything else until these two items are completed.

Writing this daily, two-bullet list requires no more than five minutes. Do it every day for the rest of your life. You’ll see your goals achieved faster than ever before.

6. Enjoy Life

Reinvest time into your business, but reinvest in your life as well. Too often, work gets the majority of our time and life gets whatever is left. BREAK THE CYCLE. With the system outlined above, you are back in control. Build a business and a job that
allow you to enjoy life more. Spend more time with your family and friends. I’ve never heard of anyone saying on their deathbed
“I was a great restaurant operator - I wish I’d spent more time at the restaurant.”

Take the chance. Break the cycle. Decide for yourself, right now, what’s really important to you, and use this system to get it. You’ve broken the cycle. Enjoy it.

Admittedly, I’ve written this article with broad strokes. These six steps can be broken down into far more detail than you’d want to see here. So if I can help you, and after all that’s my job, please let me know.

Contact me with thoughts and questions about your business, at: [email protected]. I look forward to speaking with you!

~ Tony Rodono
6 Steps to WorkSmart and Increase Your Free Time
By Tony Rodono with
Tony Rodono
Brand Developer, Marketing Strategist
[email protected]
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