Work-life balance is like the holy grail of time management: Elusive and mythical, promising happiness, abundant free time, and less wrinkles. Though many may seek it, few ever emerge victorious from their quest.
Many who work in the restaurant industry reach the point of complete burnout; this shouldn’t be the case. They pour so much time and energy into work that they have nothing left to give when they find themselves with free time, devoting themselves to resting and recuperating rather than doing what they love and focusing on their passions.
Now, is it really that hard to achieve work-life balance in the restaurant industry? No, honestly, it isn’t.
All it takes to achieve work-life balance is a shift in mindset, some planning, and work spent establishing better habits.
Here are a few tips on how to achieve work-life balance while working in a restaurant.
Everything does not need to get done today
There are a lot of things we should do. Shoulds are nice-to-haves, not must-haves.
At work, it’s imperative to set a clear plan for the day based on what tasks absolutely need to get done, whether they are time-sensitive or imperative to the health of your business.
Without a clear plan, you’ll always find yourself reacting, addressing problems frantically in the moment without the help of a well-researched and carefully developed restaurant action plan.
Form a daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly restaurant plan, then schedule small blocks of time to address the different action items. You’ll be surprised at how much progress you make, even when working in small intervals.
For example, if you’re an assistant manager who wants to become a GM, you’re going to need to block off time to learn and grow your skills. Set aside an hour each week devoted to professional development.
Be effective, not just busy!
Being busy and being productive aren’t the same.
Many people fill their day with tasks that are not productive, but still keep them looking and feeling busy. This is the definition of busywork: work that keeps a person busy, but has little value.
We tend to think people who are busy are successful. Not true.
Rather than investing more hours at work to get everything done in a day, take a step back and analyze the list of things you’ve accomplished in one day.
If one manager takes a 12 hour shift to do the same thing that another manager can do in 8 hours, who is more productive and thereby valuable to the business?
When you shift your thinking from, “How do I spread my work out over the duration of my shift,” to focusing on maximizing your productivity, you’ll break free from the shackles of feeling "obligated" to be at work and return to the things you love most.
You need to trust your staff
Stepping away from work and actually being able to enjoy your time off involves another critical shift: You need to trust the people you work with.
So many restaurant employees (both staff and management) have anxiety about taking a vacation or a day off because they don’t trust the rest of the team to step up and fill in in their absence.
Trusting your coworkers and employees is imperative to the success of your business. You may have been let down in the past, but don’t let that cloud your ability to trust others with responsibilities and tasks.
By not trusting your staff, you’re pigeon-holing them and taking away a valuable opportunity for them to learn and grow professionally. You’re also loading more work on your plate than necessary. Don’t be afraid to delegate!
Will your team make mistakes? Yes. Humans are fallible; no one is without flaws. Mistakes, though minor setbacks, are also an opportunity to learn and be better next time.
You have learned more from the mistakes you’ve made; don’t deny your team and others around you the chance to better themselves.
Focus on what matters
Finding work-life balance while working in a restaurant is totally attainable, but only if you are willing to stop looking at work as the end-all-be-all.
Your life is meant to be big, bold, and as multidimensional as you are! Remember: You are not defined by what you do, or your professional title.
Read a restaurant management book. Learn a new skill. Join a cause. Become a local at the corner coffee shop. Go for a walk. Actually go to the gym you signed up for months ago. Spend time with people outside the restaurant business.
Stop being held captive by seeking work/life balance and just do it.