They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself
– Andy Warhol
If the past year has taught chefs one thing, it has to be that we could really improve our relationship with time. We went from being starved for it to being inundated with empty hours to fill during the lockdown. And not knowing what to do with them.
Do we lean? Do we clean? The truth is that our identities and our sense of worth are tied up in that notion of busyness.
We believe that our rotas play a big part in determining the quality in our lives. Of course, there is no denying that we are time-poor professionals. But how well we would use a more spacious schedule is decided by how we currently use the precious moments that we can call our own.
Today I invite you to reflect on this question: Does the way you use your personal time serve your best interests, chef?
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete
– Buckminster Fuller
The bottom line is that we cannot afford to wait for the industry to change. When we are clear on what having a life means to us, we can create structures that help us carve out time and energy for the things that we value. Even through the constraints we face. Even when time and energy are in short supply.
But those structures do not have to be complicated. Yes, they require some amount of vision, but as with anything, you can take it one small step at a time. And before you know it, you will have built that new model, or way of living that supports your vision for what you want your life to be.
Our kitchen culture once taught us to compartmentalise our work and our personal lives. But we are no longer able to ignore the impact that these aspects have on each other. We now return to work without having fully unpacked the relationship between the two. At the same time, all of us want to experience better working lives than we used to.
Love Letters to Chefs is offering 1-1 support to Hospitality professionals who want to gain more clarity on how to navigate work life balance on their return to work after lockdown. This is for you if you want to:
Aspire towards a professional goal without neglecting your wellbeing
Retain the momentum on the wellbeing practices you started in lockdown
Overcome a challenge that you face on returning to work
These 45-minute sessions will be held over Zoom and are open to all Hospitality professionals. Sign up to book your place on the session. 10% of the fee will be donated to the UK charity Hospitality Action, which provides vital assistance to those who work in our industry.
I would not be surprised if you looked beyond the counter or the pass, to the very group of people you serve for the answer. What they are doing – enjoying a drink or devouring a meal, celebrating a joyous occasion, gathering with loved ones, engaging in idle conversation – seems to be living. Our ability to facilitate these things indicates our affinity towards the finer things in life. But in reality we simply lack the time and often the means to indulge in those things.
Added to this, we are also expected to be martyrs and give up any sense of attachment to the idea of a good life. But it is never truly quelled. This inner conflict just shows up in the many unhealthy habits and indulgences that Hospitality Industry professionals are known to embrace.
What we do not see is that having a life goes beyond having a good time. Having a career vs. having a life is far too simplistic and narrow a choice to ever bring us true fulfilment. And those indulgences will reveal their emptiness in a few years, or sometimes in the decades to come.
The better way to do it is to reflect on what having a life means to each of us. And take small steps everyday to build that vision.But first you have to see the truth about the choices in front of you. And have the courage to ask for more.
It might be easy to assume that work life balance is guaranteed to those who work a 9-5 job. Because on the surface it might seem like they face fewer struggles than we do. Or that their lives come with fewer sacrifices than we are forced to make.
But amongst those who follow that schedule, there are also people challenged with failing relationships, living in messy homes or having poor levels of fitness. This is my own observation from having worked in another industry. The additional time is no guarantee that we will use it to serve our wellbeing. Which means that even someone with limited time can, by setting the right intentions and making the right choices, aspire towards some degree of balance in their lives.
Back to you: if the lockdown was your opportunity to rebalance your life, you want to make sure to sustain the good work you put in. So that when you return to work, you build in opportunities for balance where and when you can, as you should when working in a demanding profession.
Join Love Letters to Chefs for next week’s webinar where we look at this very topic of how chefs can persist with their positive habits. You will have the opportunity to bring your own questions and challenges to the table, if you require guidance.
Here is the link to book your place. And please tag anyone who might like to attend.
Love Letters to Chefs is holding two upcoming trainings to support your return to the kitchen after our sustained absence.
This past year, so much has unfolded, concluded or been placed on hold in our lives. Yet, this return feels less like a new beginning, but more like a transition. How easily can we get accustomed again to the cheflife? How can we keep our bodies and minds in shape as we meet the demands of our work? What will it take to keep up our spirits as we navigate the uncertainty of this new normal?
If these are questions that you have asked yourself, be assured of your own agency here: you can make this transition easier for yourself. But the answers are not to be found in the workplace, but in the things that you do outside it.
“To be mature you have to realize what you value most. It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity. They seem never to have paused to consider what has value for them. They spend great effort and sometimes make great sacrifices for values that, fundamentally, meet no real needs of their own.
Not to arrive at a clear understanding of one’s own values is a tragic waste. You have missed the whole point of what life is for.”
These powerful words by Eleanor Roosevelt serve as a reminder that, at the heart of work life balance, is the fundamental need to know your values. And this is the reason why the Love Letters to Chefs trainings are never prescriptive, but are instead designed to reconnect you to your values.
Just like our industry is rebuilding following the effects of the pandemic, many of us are rebuilding our professional and personal lives after a year of seeing clearly what matters to us. We cannot unsee that vision. With such clarity, we can no longer go back to neglecting those things in our lives that are less urgent than the work demanding our immediate attention.
The concept of #BetterCheflife is all about helping you bridge the divide between ‘work’ and ‘life’ as a chef. So that you can realise your vision. Now.
A year on from the onset of the pandemic, we have all probably built some kind of toolkit to navigate this situation. Although we are optimistic but still uncertain about how it will all be resolved, living through it has highlighted what we need to support our wellbeing. We might avoid doom scrolling when we know it affects our mental health. Or make sure we put aside a little more of our income for contingencies. Maybe we started a new workout to boost our immunity. And we reached out to loved ones in order to feel less isolated.
We can feel so small in the face of such a huge global challenge that we do not give credit to our inherent survival skills. I invite you to reflect on the small things that you did over the year that helped you and celebrate them.
But do not stop there: keep persisting with those practices.
That is a responsibility that we need to take for our own wellbeing, as we emerge from this global event without a clear picture of what that will look like. A year ago, this was all new. But now we are better informed. And therefore better placed to support ourselves.
How can you sustain those wellbeing practices that you have worked so hard to put in place over the past year? If that is the question on your mind, join Love Letters to Chefs for this 30-minute webinar on the 3rd of May.
This session is in support of those returning to work, as Hospitality opens up again here in the UK. We cover five simple steps you can take to support your work life balance in the new normal. You will learn:
How you can structure your life to make room for those habits
What you can do when work gets busy
How to make it easy for yourself
As usual, the theme is explored through the lens of the chef culture, but this training is open to all industry professionals. Please book your place here.
The pandemic brought into sharp focus our mythology around the self-sacrificing chef. The question we have been or should be asking is this: what was it all for? What was the point of diminishing the other aspects of our lives, sometimes to the point of neglect?
Perhaps, once upon a time, it was okay to wing it. But we know that there are consequences to living out of balance. Now that we have stopped to really look at our lives and tune into what matters to us, how do we move forward? The time to find an answer to that question is now. Before the industry opens up and we return to the old normal, because that is the default.
Create Your #BetterCheflife is a 2-hour workshop to help you navigate the challenge of work life balance. It is designed for chefs of all levels. The principles taught in this training are easily accessible and adaptable. And you leave with a framework for how you can make time for the things that matter to you – to bring that elusive balance to your life.
If you are ready to take your cheflife to the next level, I invite you to book your place for Monday’s session at 2pm (UK).