October guest post

Since I’ve spent a good deal of my life struggling with organization, I love learning from other’s experiences. Today, I have a guest post for you by fellow freelancer, Osmond Arnesto. In this post, he shares what he learned about organization and time management working as a bartender in a chain restaurant:

You Have to Be Terrible Before You Can Be Decent

By Osmond Arnesto

Before I worked as a bartender at a chain restaurant, I thought I knew what busy meant. I juggled odd jobs in college. I managed inboxes and timetables as an assistant. While the workload of a Guest English teacher in South Korea is nowhere near that of a dedicated educator, what time I had that wasn’t spent on planning lessons was spent writing or taking online courses. When I came back, I believed teaching helped make me a better talker—if some people are social butterflies, then I am a social mosquito—so I went out to earn my first restaurant job. Because I thought I knew what busy meant.

I had no idea what busy meant.

I remember the first time I got slammed. It was a Monday night, and the restaurant was busier than anyone else had anticipated. You wouldn’t think a Monday night would bring a lot of business, but that’s because everyone else doesn’t think the place was going to be triple-seating everyone in the front of the house. I had three couples sitting on my bartop, three more tables of expectant guests, take-out orders to prepare, and a never-ending list of drink orders coming through the machine. My heart rate has been conditioned to speed up whenever I hear a ticket printing off that thing. That night, as I furiously scribbled down my to-dos in an improvised shorthand, I realized why people used planners.

But I learned. After forgetting to ring in enough orders, bringing out the wrong salad dressing, sending rare steaks that were supposed to be medium back to the kitchen, and receiving more encouragement than I deserved from the team, something clicked. I was keeping up, and I was getting my cardio for the day on top of that. By the time the bar was closed down after a rough night, I could even tell myself it wasn’t a complete trainwreck. Sometimes, even mosquitoes get preserved in amber.

I’m glad I worked at the restaurant, because I learned more about managing my time than I have at any other job.

But First, Multitasking is Wrong

I will always be the first to say that there is no such thing as multitasking. Even when it’s at a party and someone mentions it in casual conversation, and I know it will bring the mood of the party down. Especially if I know it will bring the mood of the party down. If you have a podcast on while you are writing a paper, then you are moving your full attention back and forth between listening to the podcast and writing your paper. You’re not doing both at the same time, and you’re not giving either the attention they deserve. Otherwise, you’re not listening to the podcast at all. Maybe you write better when there is a little white noise in the background.

Reasons why I don’t get invited to parties aside, multitasking is really just prioritization. When you are trying to provide each one of your restaurant guests with timely and effective service, you have to prioritize. You make a checklist in your head of what needs to be done now, and what can wait. This is what is going to keep you from drowning in an environment where everything does have to be done now.

Effective Time Management is Prioritizing

215 needs their salads, but 217 just got sat. Andy’s take-out order is ready in the back, but he won’t be in for ten more minutes, which gives me time to mix this, that, and those because my servers are waiting. The Bud keg sprays foam in my face because Lady Luck loves me, but while the server tells my drinker it will be a few more minutes, I can take 217’s drinks, bring out 215’s salads, and roll a fresh keg out from the back. Check, check, revise, and check.

I was gamifying work. If you are the kind of person who likes collecting everything in a video game, or doing all there is that the developers stuck in there for you to do, you might like restaurant work. Even beyond the now, now, now nature of being someone in the food and hospitality business, we all only have twenty-four hours in a day. The luckiest of us spend eight of those sleeping, which leaves us with sixteen that could be productive. On average, we spend nine of those hours working.

You’re not going to get everything you want done, but if you knock off the items on your list that are most important, then you keep your head above water.

Effective Time Management is Keeping Organized

Everything has its place. The well is, without exception, always kept in this order: vodka, rum, gin, triple sec, tequila, and whiskey or bourbon. Everything else is either in alphabetical order, color-coded, or there because “that’s the way it’s always been.” One of the other bartenders I worked with said that part of being a great bartender means being a little anal-retentive. I believed him because it works. Knowing where everything is, reaching for it without even looking at it, will save you precious seconds when 215 still hasn’t gotten their salads.

Having a system in place may not be for everyone, but it’s done wonders for me. This is coming from someone who used to never write time-sensitive obligations down. Some people called it “Filipino time,” but let’s call a spade what it really was: being inconsiderate. The best I could stake a claim to was keeping impeccably organized folders on my computer. But a story longer than 10,000 words without good notes is a mess, and an inbox without labels is a pile that doesn’t stop building on itself.

Even if it seems like it will be a time sink to create your own system and have a home for every item, it will save you time in the long run.

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