The "Buffet Rules" are timeless, simple, and practical fundamentals for approaching and tackling any project or task. (You’re probably thinking of Warren Buffett. Nope...and his last name is spelled differently.) I am talking about the rules when you go to the buffet at Shoney’s or Bamboo Garden, etc. You don’t run to the first thing you see and start chomping away. Yet that is what many people do in work and life. We start working away as soon as we arrive at the company, checking and responding to emails, new "urgent" tasks, interruptions, and then wonder what we accomplished at the end of the day.
This is the way that the Lio clan applies the "Buffet Rules" when we go out:
- Settle down first. Pause. Go to the rest room. Relax, you have time.
- Define the goal and time limit. There's a one hour time limit during holidays.
- Survey and observe. Look at the food stations to see what looks good and fresh. Note the crowds (the "bottlenecks" or inefficiencies that cause delays).
- Define what offers the best “bang for the buck”, i.e. is worth the $20 tab per person. Crab legs are always good. Sushi a la carte can easily go over $20 per person at a Japanese restaurant.
- Determine what not to do (or minimize) based on past experience or current assessment. Fried rice and noodles are cheap stuff that will fill you up quickly. Skip the green mussels or you will get a green something else when you go home. ("The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do." - quote from Michael Porter)
- Don't be wasteful - do not get too much food or things that you're not going to eat. However, know when to cut your losses - don't eat stuff that tastes funny or bad.
- Plan and delegate. Timing is everything. Hit the seafood, then the sushi, ribs. You might have different family members assigned to bring back different foods for all to share.
- Be flexible and allow adjustments. The order may change depending what the server just brought out. Move to another station if that guy is camping out in front of the chicken wings (why don’t he just take the whole tray?).
- Eliminate Distractions. Concentrate. Focus. This is not the time to check emails, text, look at Facebook, or discuss Plato. Decline soda – that’s not part of the buffet deal.
- Work away! Take a break to digest, breathe, observe what else is happening around you, think about what to get next...and loosen the belt one notch.
- When you’re done, you’re done. Know when to stop. Mission accomplished. Squeezing in that last shrimp will only lead to heartburn or barfing.
One can approach each day and any project or task in a similar manner. Relax. You can accomplish much more, be less stressed, and more productive by simply taking the initial time beforehand to contemplate, survey and map out the situation, resources, and processes. Eliminate distractions (turn off the emails and phone, put a sign out that you are in “monk mode” and not to be disturbed). It is important to define what not to do. Add in a buffer for sudden changes and be flexible. Then just get to the task at hand.
Don’t forget to celebrate when you are done and remember - there’s always room for Jello.