On the Job

Tips for Maximizing Time Management

28 June 2021 By Kylie O'Brien
clock with tiles spelling start on top of laptop

Kylie O’Brien has worked on some of the world’s most magnificent vessels with amazing people for more than 13 years. A graduate of The Australian College of Applied Psychology, she is the author of Crew Wanted, The Stewardess Bible, The Chief Stewardess Bible, The Inside Job, and has been a monthly contributor to Dockwalk magazine for more than five years.

Life as a superyacht chief stew is a remarkably busy one. As with all crew, your days are spent juggling many tasks at once. You need to strategize your time so that you balance the items on your to-do list effectively. Managing your time well allows you to focus your attention so that you get the results you desire.

Conversely, poor time management can be related to a lack of focus, hesitation, and procrastination. This will result in a substandard level of work and an unprofessional standard of service.

The following key elements will help you master time management.

The Big Picture

Business entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said, “Don’t spend major time on minor things.” The term “attention to detail” is drilled into every superyacht stew as soon as you step on board. But how do you not spend major time on minor things when everything on board is seemingly as important as the next?

As chief stew, it’s your job to see the big picture. Because of your training, you’ll undoubtedly be able to multitask and see many progressive tasks leading on to the next. Trying to multitask so many jobs at the same time doesn’t always work out that well, particularly when there isn’t enough time to get things done.

“The bad news is time flies fast. The good news is you’re the pilot.”
— Michael Altshuler

A classic example would be when the yacht is due to come out of the yard after a major refit. Let’s say that during this refit period, the crew has to take some overdue vacation time, take some training courses, and interview crew for newly opened positions. Just to add to the pressure, the first guests are due to arrive within 72 hours. In this instance, unless you hire an army of dayworkers (which of course, you have done), there’s still a mountain of work to do. This is when you need to be analytical in your thinking and your planning.

Analytical thinking and planning skills will help you to visualize, communicate, and gather information, which will enable you to problem solve and find well-informed solutions to your most pressing problems.

Priorities and Delegations

The next tip is to prioritize tasks from the highest of importance to the lowest. Then, classify the jobs from the least enjoyable to the most liked — find what works best for you and your team. If there’s anything that human nature has shown us, it’s that getting the least desirable jobs done first will often lessen the level of procrastination. This is especially true if crew are tired or feeling stressed, which can lead to mistakes on more complex tasks.

Be careful who you delegate to. Don’t entrust a big task to a junior or underprepared stew who may not be up to the task. 

Delegating the correct person to the most appropriate task is particularly important for all those chief stews who like to do everything themselves. By micromanaging your crew, you’ll burn out with enormous anxiety. On the other hand, be careful who you delegate to. Don’t entrust a big task to a junior or underprepared stew who may not be up to the task. This will result in substandard work due to the junior crewmember trying to achieve a high-task objective within a certain time frame; one that took a senior crewmember years to master.

An example of this would be scheduling the junior stew on night duties by herself. You may think this is a gentle introduction to night duties, as the guests may be off the yacht for the evening. But what happens when they return and they need an array of service requirements? This amount of pressure on the junior stewardess will be too much for her, resulting in poor service and a massive blow to her ego for not being able to manage.

Equally, you would not delegate your second stew to a menial task during a crisis. You will of course need your strongest service staff by your side.

Utilize Your Resources

Plan out the jobs by utilizing your well-established routines, training guidelines, time limits, operating procedures, and professional habits. If there’s something that is simply unachievable within the given time, you need to look at options. This may be to hire more day crew or outsource jobs such as provisioning. The key is communicating the key issues with the captain.

Use the tools at your disposal. Superyachts are incorporating technology on board to help the crew with their tasks. For example, a computerized stock maintenance system, new accounting programs, and internal communications systems can be shared with other departments.

Too Much Time

Many of us can relate to the pressures of being under the clock. But what happens when you have too much time on your hands? Take liveaboard superyachts, where the routine is a lot slower than that of a charter yacht. Boredom, gossip, and bickering may soon set in, which quickly becomes a matter of thinking of ways to motivate your team and keep things interesting.

In this instance, I would recommend applying rotational shift work for your team, with a heavy emphasis on training and setting achievable goals with appropriate rewards.

This article originally ran in the June 2021 issue of Dockwalk.


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