If I were to put a new sandwich on my bistro’s menu, then accept a bunch of orders, I must find a way to serve my lunch crowd in time for them to get back to the office. If I can’t deliver on what I’ve promised, then I seemingly need to take the sandwich off the menu, hire more cooks, or just shutter the damned restaurant and grab a non-stop to São Paulo. Resource Constraint 101, right?
The less obvious option, of course, is to only provide as many seats as I have the capacity to serve, while still making the kind and quality of sandwich that I take pride in sharing with customers. And, right now, metaphorical Chef Me is very interested in transitioning my cafe to an artisanal, 2-table affair. They’re easy to clean, and there’s almost never a line for the loo.
This seems like a sustainable approach that manages expectations while letting me behave like the grownup, authentic cook that I want to be. But, then it gets weird.
Because, as it turns out, the already-belabored metaphor goes insanely upside down when I notice there’s a disused door in the back of my imaginary kitchen. And, when I open it up, I discover a giant-ass studio full of whiteboards and books and fresh coffee and piles of clean, white, 20# paper waiting to be filled with words and pictures.
Holy shit. This explains why I’m always so stressed out about making sandwiches; turns out the job that I really want to be doing is getting killed by the time I spend sweating in my makebelieve kitchen. Sure, I love making sandwiches and meeting customers (as long as I’m not shitting out McCrap or fake-smiling as I pretend to recognize people I’ve never actually met). But this new studio thing? That changes everything.
That’s where I want to be.
Email’s not really a sandwich, and I don’t really own a cafe or a big studio. Yet.
But, it’s clearer than ever to me that we all need to cut back on every part-time attention sink as far as we can tolerate. Then we need to manage expectations with everyone who’s standing outside, wondering what happens in that big, cool building behind the cafe.