You’ve likely heard the phrase in the weeds at least one time in your life. Typically it means that you’re getting lost in the details, but if you ever waited tables, this phrase means something quite different … you’re overwhelmed by tasks.
It happens in the restaurant industry when a hostess seats multiple parties all at once in your section. Now what you have to do for one table, has to be done for multiple tables, all in the same minute. You can’t really greet four tables at once, you can’t bring eight people drinks at once, and you can’t deliver all the food at once … so this can easily cause you to lose your mind. This is what waiters mean by in the weeds.
Back in college I waited tables, and became quite familiar with the accompanying horror of dealing with that situation. It’s quite possibly one of the most stressful environments to navigate. It is so awful that those who have waited tables, often have recurring nightmares about being in the weeds, sometimes naked (aren’t our brains kind to us?).
When I was a waiter, I devised a strategy to deal with this problem. It was as much for my own mental health as it was to be a better server. The minute I got caught in the weeds, I intentionally started walking slower. Yes, you heard me right, and it’s a very difficult thing to do because it’s so counterintuitive. When you get behind, the first thing you think to do is rush, or panic. You become frantic in an attempt to dig yourself out of the hole that’s built-up around you.
When you start intentionally walking slowly, it forces you to evaluate and prioritize your tasks. You give yourself more time to think through your process, and you allow your brain to think without the toxicity of panic. In fact, people around you can sense your panic, particularly the people you’re trying to serve. They can smell fear.
I’ve carried this lesson with me for over 10 years. As business owners we typically wear many hats. Our list of outstanding deliverables is generally overwhelming. We don’t have enough time in the day to get it all done; or so we think.
I used to think this way every time I had a frenzy of customers all demanding things at once. How could I fit it all into my schedule? You simply can’t when you’re panicking. When you slow down, and think critically, it’s more about how you prioritize the execution of the tasks, than about the amount of tasks ahead of you.
More importantly, you aren’t sending shock waves of panic throughout your organization and clientele. Just like a table full of hungry patrons, your employees and clients can sense that panic, they can smell your fear, and that is more destructive than falling behind on tasks.
Fear and anxiety have the potential to cripple any organization.
The next time you start work and have the thought, “there’s not enough time in the day to get all this shit done!” start walking slowly. It works for me every time.