“I’m done with the carrot pureé, Chef,” I stated as I placed the small bottle of it on the stainless steel workspace in front of him. He had handed it to me moments earlier and asked me to garnish one of the dishes with it.
“That doesn’t go there,” he replied back, without even looking up. He continued, “And by putting it there, you’ve created a job for someone else. Someone else will have to put it away for you.”
The kitchen organizes itself in terms of jobs. Each station cook is in charge of a particular number of dishes, which translates to a standard list of tasks to accomplish during prep (the hours before service begins) to make service as smooth as possible. “As possible” is important here, because if the restaurant is busy (as it should be if it wants to stick around), service will always present challenges for the kitchen staff: a large table all ordering the same thing at once, a diner who considers himself or hersel allergic to everything (despite no actual diagnosis from a trained medical professional) and requires their dishes be heavily modified on the fly, a shortage of a particular ingredient, the list goes on.
In a top kitchen, a cook will be filled to the brim with jobs they’re responsible for, so they go about their business fast and efficiently. It’s easy for a cook to be motivated to use prep to eliminate as many jobs as possible for themselves before heading into service. If they don’t, they’ll pay the price just a few hours later. In a kitchen environment, it’s blatantly obvious who hasn’t done their prep work. Or even worse, who has cut corners in their prep work and actually created jobs for themselves that they’re now having to do during service.
I’ve been that guy. It’s no fun.
I also find myself being that guy all the time in everyday life. A simple example: saving files on my computer to the desktop instead of an organized folder where they can be easily found. Instead, files clutter my desktop, and I eventually dump them all into one folder called “Stuff to sort through.” It grows larger each day, making me less and less likely to ever want to go through it. I'm resentful of past me who created this mess for me to deal with.
Job creation can serve as a new paradigm for approaching productivity:
It’s easier to pile up work for your future self, because present time seems so much more precious and scarce than time in the future. But will whatever situation that's leading you to cut corners now really change in the future? Will I find myself with several hours of free time next week paired with a burning desire to sort through files on my desktop?
I sort of hope not.
Active time to complete: 3 min
When you hear "clean up work," is there anything that comes to mind for you? In addition to the desktop example above, another bad habit of mine is leaving my belongings strewn across my house after getting home. Later, I have to take time out of whatever I'm doing to put away my things. Not an efficient use of time, as it takes roughly the same amount of time to put something away in the right place as it would the wrong. Try to ask yourself the question above in bold about creating unnecessary work, and see if that puts a new spin on how you approach a particular task.