Six Steps – December 2017

These 6 Steps Will Help You Get More Done in 2018. Guaranteed.
October 17, 2017

 by Jim Sullivan

These 6 Steps Will Help You Get More Done in 2018. Guaranteed.

“Lost: yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.” –Horace Mann

Time. It flies, is spent, goes by, is money, waits for no one, is on my side, takes its toll, changes everything, is fleeting, has come today, is right, you can’t turn back the hands of it, and you can fool all of the people during some of it. You can kill it but you can’t keep it.

Time is many things to many people but the one thing it isn’t is real, it’s a concept invented by humankind to facilitate commerce and make sense of sunrise, sunset, and all the moments before and after. So any attempt to “manage” something that doesn’t really exist is as worthless as a tip jar at the DMV.

Still, we measure our days, labor, and lives in minutes, hours, days, weeks and years, so time is woven into the very framework of our existence. And in this harder-smarter-faster-more world we live and work in, it seems we’re constantly forced to do more with much less. And yet: everyone gets 1,440 minutes a day, no more, no less. So why do some managers seem to get more accomplished than others, given the same finite hours in a day? Why do some teams outperform others doing the exact same work? And what are the most successful foodservice and retail brands doing differently relative to setting stretch goals, targets and objectives for 2018?

What they don’t do is “manage time.” Instead, they focus and prioritize.

Our company,, helps restaurant and retail chains re-design their Manager Learning & Development programs for 21st Century learners. One of the very first things we audit with new clients is the number of documented tasks their managers are expected to oversee per their daily shift checklist. It’s downright sobering. Based on our internal research with the companies we work with, a typical GM in a full-service restaurant has an average of 52 tasks to supervise per shift. An assistant manager on that same shift has an additional 37 duties, a shift leader 22 more, and the cumulative hourly employee duty list averages 118 further tasks. Add them up and that GM has 229 tasks to oversee per shift. And that doesn’t include the unexpected fires thrown their way during a busy shift.

So how do you possibly “manage your time” effectively enough to perfectly execute all those responsibilities? The short answer is that you can’t. To paraphrase author Tim Ferriss, here’s the thing: we don’t need “more” time. We need to prioritize. Here are six strategies to help you separate what's most important from what's most urgent:

1 Strategic Clarity. Job one is to determine what to pay attention to and what to ignore. That ensures that the stuff you spend your time on has the biggest impact. Focus on the things you can control, not the things you can’t. Break down your Key Performance Indicator (KPI) targets like Food Safety, Training, Hiring, Service, Sales, Speed, Accuracy, Cleanliness, etc. into smaller shift goals, so that everyday you’re both focused on and working toward attaining Big Picture goals through incremental advancement. Search Google for programs/methods like V2MOM (vision, values, methods, obstacles & measures) and OKRs (objectives & key results) to help you define a set of targeted goals and then align your team’s daily efforts to achieve those core objectives.

2 Productive Teams. Three focused actions build the strongest teams: 1) make hiring and retention primary priorities, 2) make learning and development a daily ritual for everyone, and 3) recognize that training’s priority should be absorbing culture, not memorizing procedures. What adjustments do you need to make to your team’s learning and coaching process?

3 Inspect what you expect. Pros don't wing it. One of the most effective ways to prioritize and focus is to target objectives (see Strategic Clarity above), follow a plan and use a checklist. No matter how many hours a pilot has logged in their career, I want her using a flight plan and a checklist before she flies me anywhere. Would you trust a pilot, a doctor or a financial advisor who says “Plans are overrated. Let’s improvise instead.” But this is exactly what most restaurant managers do every single shift by neglecting to set shift goals and direct their teams to achieve them. Lackluster discipline in shift goal-setting produces a routinely lackluster P&L.

4 Eat a roadblock for breakfast. Every evening I make a list of the Three Most Important Things I have to accomplish the next day. And first thing in the morning, I focus on the One Must-Do task that gets me started accomplishing those three things. This jumpstarts momentum and focuses me on getting even the biggest projects started. Doing a little every day is better than doing nothing, and accomplishing three key things daily has a greater impact than attempting twelve things that never get completed. Heck, what if you could improve just one thing per week in your business? A year from today you’d be 52 improvements ahead.

5 Communicate clearly and often. Details need Direction. We recently polled 303 hourly foodservice employees on goal-setting. When we asked them what the targeted focus areas of their jobs were, 61% said they didn’t know, 22% say they “kind of” knew but weren’t held accountable for them, and 72% say they never received any daily direction on how to achieve those goals. In other words, they didn’t know the goals or how to achieve them, weren’t committed to them, and weren’t held accountable for them. Yikes. Does this describe your team?

6 Scoreboards matter.  Do your GMs set clear, attainable goals for their teams? Does everyone understand their role in attaining these goals and know what they need to do to attain them? Here are 7 questions to help define focus:

  1. Do my people know what to do?
  2. Do they know how to do it?
  3. Do they want to do it?
  4. Do they know the best ways to get it done?
  5. Do they know the measurements?
  6. Do they have a scoreboard?
  7. Do they work together & hold each other accountable for what they do (or don’t do)?

You can’t spend the same minute twice, so make each one count at work by asking yourself: “Given all that I have to accomplish today, is this the absolute best use of my time right now?” You don't have to be perfect, just improving. If you'd like to go on a deeper dive of the topics above, consider the book below. Thank you.
Jim Sullivan is a keynote speaker at leadership conferences worldwide and author of two books that have sold over 400,000 copies including Multiunit Leadership and Fundamentals (Amazon, Bookstores). Get his apps, podcasts, training catalog and more at and follow him on LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter @Sullivision.

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