I was once an overworked, irritated, greasy-food eating, no-life having, moody and perpetually sleep-deprived restaurant manager. I was definitely burning my candle at both ends.
I’d spend 11 to 12 hours at work, plus two hours driving both ways. My off days would evaporate into catching up on sleep, self-care and errands. My family never saw me in the daylight, and very rarely at night. My friends had written me off as the “always at work” type. I had no mental space to think about what I liked, who I was or what I really wanted my life to be about.
I was stuck in this rinse-and-repeat cycle.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was miserable. Every day I showed up to work and got my work done. I cared deeply about my team. But something wasn’t right. I was physically and mentally drained. My excitement was gone. My body was aching for rest. My mind was pleading for quiet time, some space to think. And my soul was dying to feel alive.
I wasn’t alone in my misery. My colleagues and I had nothing to talk about but regrets about things we didn’t do, excuses for why we couldn't do them, and discontent for our work and our lives in general.
Does this sound familiar?
Yes, restaurant management often requires long work hours, compromise and a lot of patience, but it does not have to be arduous, nor does it require us to renounce the very things that make us alive.
Here is how you can succeed in your job – however you define that success – and still have a life you love outside of work.
Regardless of your schedule, you cannot cut corners when it comes to eating healthy meals, getting ample sleep and getting consistent exercise.
Start with sleep. Over 40% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep per night. I think the number of restaurant employees who get less than 6 hours of sleep could easily double that figure.
Some sleep deficit symptoms include: moodiness, irritability, forgetfulness, poor impulse control, a reduced ability to focus and concentrate, loss of memory and cognitive functioning, a craving for carbs, depression, and weight gain or weight loss. Long-term health effects can be irretrievable, like heart disease, chronic illnesses (high blood pressure, diabetes) and even stroke.
So the next time you skip sleep for work (or for play), you’re not doing anyone any favors, including yourself.
I know the restaurant industry can be grueling, but only if you allow it to be.
Too often, restaurant managers succumb to the schedule that’s given to them. They believe in falsehoods like, it’s just the way it is in the restaurant industry. These people power through their days with a can of Red Bull in one hand and a quad latte in another.
Well, how do you get more time to sleep?
Make sure the company you work for puts their people first and understands the importance of health, self-care and quality of life for its team members. Most successful restaurant operators know that the best investment they can make is in their team’s wellbeing. In fact, that is how they become successful.
If your schedule doesn’t support your basic needs, like time between shifts for sufficient sleep and self-care, ask for it!
Worst possible outcome: No.
In that case, it’s time to find a company where you’re truly valued, so you can stop putting your health and dignity on sale. The best thing that can happen is you get exactly what you asked for!
Restaurant managers are often required to miss important life events, family time and holidays. However, constantly sacrificing life for work can lead to burnout, dissatisfaction, and ultimately resentment for your job.
When we sacrifice, we give up something in order to gain something else. Sacrifices are sometimes necessary for more and more valuable gains. But when we sacrifice our non-negotiables, we grow resentful of the very thing we sacrificed for.
What are your non-negotiables? Whether it’s family time, creative endeavors, side business projects, social events, or hobbies, they are an important part of living a full life. Set boundaries around your non-negotiables. Plan them as far in advance as possible to make it easier on your employer to accommodate.
Even if you don't have a family and kids to tend to, you can still set boundaries around your discretionary time. You don't need to explain or convince your employer, or go as far as needing to demand time off. Boundaries mean having a standard, letting your bosses know what's okay and what's not okay, and then sticking to it.
Once you set boundaries, you have a healthy offense.
Without boundaries, you will be constantly defending your standards and living in guilt.
Will my boss ask me to work overtime? Am I gonna get the off-time I requested?
If you want to have a life outside of work, stop sacrificing it for work.
As a restaurant manager, I made an agreement with my employer that I'd have a full paid week off every three months. And I didn't have to explain or justify it.
I showed up and delivered every single day. I constantly did more than what was expected of me. Going full-out at work created leverage that worked for me when I needed time off.
More often than not, restaurant managers are drifting through their shifts, putting out fires and reacting to what’s going on in the restaurant. That is how you become average.
Average restaurant managers have zero leverage.
Extraordinary restaurant managers operate with the mindset of ownership. In every situation, they ask themselves: What would I do if this was my own business? And they show up every day as if it is their business. They constantly do more than what’s expected of them. As a result they get paid more than what they do, and have the leverage to create more freeing schedules.
Yes, the restaurant industry is notorious for its long shifts, but you can still have a life outside of work. Prioritize your health to avoid burnout, set clear boundaries around your non-negotiable times off, and make your presence really count when you’re at work.
This article was also featured on Typsy.com