As a kid, when I ordered food at a restaurant, I had no concept of what went into making it. For all I knew, a menu was a magical list of food items which could appear on my plate in just a moment’s notice. The process was simple: tell the waiter to bring you something on the list, wait a few minutes, and voilà.
I remember my first time ordering something that a restaurant didn’t have:
Waitress: “I’m sorry, we don’t have any burgers here, sweetie. Would you like something else?”
Internal thought process of 7-year-old self: “What do you mean you don’t have any burgers?!? This is TREASON!”
Actual words: “Oh, ok. I’ll have the chicken instead please.”
A restaurant menu is a sacred thing, slaved over by chefs and restaurant owners alike. It represents a list of promises. Each item on the menu is a promise to be able to deliver it at quality and on time at any given moment while the restaurant is open. To be able to make this sort of promise about an item, a restaurant needs to have…
- The raw ingredients required
- Any necessary prep done
- A well-trained kitchen staff that is skilled in preparing the item
- A well-trained front-of-house staff that is skilled in explaining the item to guests
Without any of those four elements, a menu is an empty promise. Too many things on the menu, and the restaurant won’t be able to deliver on all its promises. Too few things and no one’s interested in dining.
It’s easy to see how this translates into everyday life. Each day we’re in charge of deciding what’s on our own “personal menu” for the day—what we’ll hold ourselves responsible for. The day often starts with good intentions to stay focused, but then gets derailed by distractions throughout the day. Sometimes tending to distractions happens out of necessity, but other times it’s out of sheer boredom.
By setting the menu for yourself each day by writing down a short list of focus items, you can decide what you’ll hold yourself responsible for. And by deciding what’s in scope, by definition you also decide what’s out of scope, taking control of an unlimited number of distractions and inhibitors. Try playing around with this by completing the exercise below:
Set the Menu
Active time to complete: 3 min
At the start of the day, take a scratch piece of paper, draw a vertical dividing line. On the left side write “On the Menu” and on the right, write "Out of scope." The left are things you want to focus on today, be it tasks, habits, or attitudes: finish report, pick hotel, be more patient, etc. The right should be things that you anticipate being distractions during the day: social media, tv, text messages, etc.
- Do I have the raw ingredients required?
- Do I have any necessary prep done?
- What else will be needed to complete this?