Do you suffer from Rocking Horse Syndrome?

Executive Chef Time Management Rocking Horse

Self-management is being defined by Google as the taking of responsibility for one’s own behaviour and well-being. An Executive Chef that can effectively manage him/herself is destined for greatness – Executive Chefs that need to be managed by somebody else probably don’t deserve the title. So what are characteristics of good self-management? In this blog we will take a closer look at one of them; planning your tasks.

In your position, completing tasks within deadlines is vital (or actually just completing them. Full stop.). These days, an Executive Chef’s tasks are diverse and as everything in life, there are things we like to do and things we don’t like to do so much. Throughout my professional career, I wrote hundreds (if not thousands) of to-do list. I finally realised that the unwanted tasks always remained at the bottom for weeks, months (or even years), whilst the tasks I loved doing never even managed to get onto the list as they were completed right away or without a reminder. My excuse was that I just never had time to get around to those nasty tasks. Either I was too busy, or it was too late to get started or I couldn’t concentrate after a long day etc. But those were exactly that – just excuses. When I got dangerously close to running out of excuses, I had to top up my to-do list with more urgent (not more important) tasks, so (un)fortunately the nastiest ended up at the bottom again.

My piece of advice: keep your to-do-list simple, because it is just a tool to get to your outcomes faster. Don’t spend valuable time making them pretty or constantly re-writing them, or else you risk wasting your time rather than investing it wisely. Writing to-do-lists can be like riding a rocking horse: keeping you busy while not making any progress.

“The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.”
~ E. M. Gray


I got myself in time-management trouble too often before I realised and truly understood that prioritizing is all about getting organised and actually performing the tasks that are important! It is a phenomenon how obsessed we all are with time, and the fact that we perceive time as precious means that we need to stop time from managing us. WE need to manage time or should I correctly say, manage ourselves better? Let’s face it – we all have 24 hours per day, whether we like it or not. Often, we’re caught up in busyness and feel stressed. We use sentences like: “I have no time”, “I ran out of time” or “I need more time”. How well you use your 24 hours per day mainly depends on your skills, planning, strategies, evaluation and SELF-CONTROL.

Time cannot be managed – Time is an investment

Be aware that not everything we do truly matters. Too many little tasks that are blaring at us every single day appear to be urgent but are in fact unimportant and distract us from what is more important. Therefore, we must learn to prioritise, let go of things that we can’t control and invest that time in the things we can control. As singer John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” To be more productive and to achieve better outcomes, prioritise your tasks according to Importance and Urgency, rather than in the order of personal preference.

First of all, you need to realise that you are spending all your time (kitchen and leisure) within what Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” calls the 4 task quadrants: 1) Urgent and important; 2) Important not urgent; 3) Urgent not important; and 4) Not important not urgent. The quadrant you choose will determine your outcome. For example if you spend most of your time in quadrant 4 (doing things that are not important and not urgent), you certainly will end up in chaos and it is only a matter of time until your operational processes will collapse. This could for example mean that you suffer from the Rocking Horse Syndrome and ‘hide’ in the chef’s office writing and rewriting to-do-lists without actually ever achieving much, because you are not willing to face the dysfunctional, non-cooperating brigade members.

Versus spending most of your time in quadrants 1 and 2 (doing things that are urgent and important, and important not urgent), and keeping up to date with demands from employer, brigade members, customers, suppliers, sales and regulatory requirement, just to mention a few.

Let’s define the two key terms:

  • Urgent– requiring immediate action or attention in response to a pressing situation presented to us
  • Important – of great significance or value
    For example things that significantly contribute to our goals and outcomes, such as customer satisfaction, revenue, staff retention, OH&S (Occupational Health and Safety), Margin Improvement etc.

Now here is the thing: humans are more responsive to urgency than importance. This is because urgency is presented to us and we are often acting reactively, whereas importance needs to be analysed based on our vision and outcome, and it needs discipline. Urgency doesn’t necessarily mean that it is also important although we often assume it is. For example, if an employee pops into your office and starts unimportant small talk, you are likely to engage with him/her as you feel a sense of urgency to respond and engage. You might even drop planning the implementation of a new menu you’ve just worked on, rather than choosing to continue with what is important. This will certainly lead to ‘Time management’ issues over time.

“Managing your time without setting priorities is like shooting randomly and calling whatever you hit the target.”
~ Peter Turla


[box style=”1″]Time for Action

Take a critical look at how you are spending your time at work. In which quadrants do the various tasks belong?

  • Quadrant 4 – Not important, not urgent
  • Quadrant 3 – Urgent, not important
  • Quadrant 2 – Important, not urgent
  • Quadrant 1 – Urgent and important[/box]

Want more tips like these to improve your time management, please contact us or subscribe to our mailing list. We are here to support you…

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By Martin Probst

In a nutshell, Martin Probst is the Managing Director of LEADING CHEF ACADEMY. He is not interested in teaching you how to suck eggs and is convinced that you are a top banana if it comes to your cooking ability. His mission is to add to your existing kitchen experience a blend of innovative LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT, EMPLOYEE MANAGEMENT & ORGANISATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS skills, so you can taste the success you deserve for all the hard work you put into your career over the years. His vision is to connect modern chefs around the globe and take them to the next level with our online education & training solutions.

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