'Deep in the weeds' is an expression that goes by many names; head underwater, buried in work, up to your eyeballs, spread too thin, or, one that is especially familiar to those with restaurant experience, crashing. Despite the many different ways of saying it, the various forms of the expression all suggest the same thing: you have too much to do, too many demands on your limited resources, and simply can't keep up. It's not an uncommon phenomenon that any person can wind up with too much to do, and not enough time in the day to do it. What, then, is the solution?
Working in a restaurant provides a great contextual example that lays the framework for how to approach 'crashing'. In this environment, important and urgent bleed together; a server who has too much to do can't just not do it, patrons of the establishment wouldn't get their food (or drinks). As a server, you come to understand that the only way out is through - for the next hour or two, things might be hectic, they may be suboptimal, and they may be less than what you might consider 'acceptable', but at the end of the night, everything is done. There is no carryover to the next day, there is no task that persists, and there are no tasks that you can procrastinate. When you're in the weeds, you have to get your scythe and start hacking.
The biggest and often hardest problem to overcome is the sense of panic. As tasks mount, and completing everything seems more and more daunting, shutting down is the most common response. In the work environment, this often takes the form of needing a break for a makeshift reason. Smoke breaks, stretch breaks, snack breaks, all manner of excuse to get up and away from the pile of work to do is the first response, and one that must be recognized and quashed. Realistically, if you believe yourself to be that far behind in what must be done, there is no way to rationalize such a departure. And truly, when the analogous dinner rush hits, you'd be fired for disappearing even for a moment. Like a mantra, you have to accept and internalize that the way out is forward, and press on.
The second problem to solve is the immediate desire to complete the easier jobs. Rationalizations about starting easy, getting into the groove, motivating yourself through small victories, are all just the same as the earlier excuses. The satisfaction, and false sense of progress, from checking things off a list is an easy trap to fall into. A list of tasks to do is the most deceptive way to lay out everything that has to be done (unless that list is ordered in priority, and that prioritization is adhered to), as not all tasks have equal weighing. Filing corporate taxes and dusting the keyboard may make up 50% of your task list each, but the real weighting of the importance should mean 99.99% of your list is taxes and the other 0.01% is dusting. Crossing half your list off, when half the work is not done is a deception that only hurts you, and so this too must be caught and avoided.
Diving into the most important problems, and solving them first should be the focus of all your attention. Upon coming out the other side of the trial, the third and final problem to solve arrives: how to prevent this from happening in the future. Chronic problems will manifest in a business whose owner (or management) cannot put systems in place to prevent crashing in the future. The restaurant moves silverware to a more convenient location, hires an extra server, and has more dish towels made available to improve the efficiency, based off the challenges they solved the night before, so as to never encounter them again. You too must analyze how you wound up with too much to do, and implement long-term solutions for your future problems. The starting point for that is automation, delegation, and elimination.
And of course, if you find yourself so far into the weeds a scythe just won't cut it, then BMI is here with the gas-powered weed-whacker to help dig you out, and keep you out.
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