How Cooking at Home Can Make You More Productive at Work
Published: May 16, 2018
Cooking at home can save you money, but it can also eat up a lot of your time. That is, in the time it takes you to buy groceries, chop vegetables, heat your food, eat your food, then clean up, you can go out to dinner (or order in) and watch three episodes of Atlanta. And yet, there are some side effects of cooking at home that, overall, can save you time in your day. In fact, cooking at home can make you a more productive professional and significantly improve your workplace skills. Here's how.
1. It teaches you how to better manage your time.
Time management skills are among the most important in any job; companies want employees who do great work and do it fast. So, speed and efficiency are highly sought after by hiring managers. And if you're lacking in this area, or just want to improve your time management skills, cooking can help. After all, timing always comes into play when cooking a meal.
For example, say you want to eat dinner at 8 p.m. and you're making three simple dishes: a lentil and rice main dish (topped with sautéed onions), a green salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, dressed with olive oil and lemon), and roasted broccoli (tossed with olive oil and sea salt). Ideally, you want to serve the broccoli and the lentil and rice dish warm, and the salad cold (at room temperature). Note that although this isn't a fancy meal, there are all sorts of plans to make in order to get the food on the table by 8.
Consider that all of the following tasks need to be done: rinse and cook rice (45 minutes start to finish), rinse and cook lentils (30 minutes), chop and roast broccoli (20 minutes), chop and sauté onions (15 minutes), and wash and chop lettuce, tomato, and cucumber (10 minutes). If you did all of these tasks one at a time, one after the other, it would take you about two hours to make dinner—and some of the food you want to eat warm would be cold.
However, if you optimize your time, and are always doing at least two or three things at once, it takes you less than half that time. For example, first you wash and begin to simmer the rice. Then, while the rice cooks, you rinse the lentils and chop the onions and broccoli. Then you put the lentils on the stove. As the rice and lentils cook, you wash the lettuce, put the broccoli in the oven, and put the onions in a pan. While the rice and lentils and broccoli and onions are cooking, you make the salad. When all is said and done, and you're food is ready to eat, you've spent about one hour start to finish.
Translating this into the workplace, it's common that, no matter what role or industry you work in, you're likely working on several projects at once. And these projects typically take various lengths of time and have various deadlines. So, you'll need to budget your time properly to ensure that you complete each task on time. And you'll often have to tend to more than one project at a time, often several at once. Just like you have to do in the kitchen.
2. It teaches you how to be more creative.
Cooking is both science and art. It's science in that if you follow certain directions and budget your time properly and use the physics of heating and cooling food, you'll get to a desired solution and solve your problem—of making your meal.
Cooking is art in that once you become adept enough in the kitchen and know the basics of cooking and have several recipes memorized and perfected, you can start to create your own. That is, you begin to take what you've learned about which ingredients go together and what heat does to food and begin to experiment, adding twists to tried-and-true recipes based on your personal preferences and own ideas.
Which is where the joy of cooking comes in. You begin to realize the pleasure of making things that you and you alone came up with and created. Of course, like any art, cooking will come with its successes and failures. And it's in those failures that you learn about how to move forward, to do better next time.
Again, translating this to the workplace, in most jobs there are a certain amount of "recipes." Which is to say there's a defined set of expectations and duties that you need to hit and perform in order to be successful. But beyond that, putting out truly unique and excellent work relies on the personal touches you bring to your work—the personal marks you make on your work projects.
And finding and making these marks is the creative aspect to any work, even if you don't work in a so-called "creative" role. Something as simple as the way you sign off on emails or post to a corporate social media account can be considered a creative task. And, like cooking, working will have its successes and failures. The point is this: try new things, be creative, and learn from your missteps. All of which you'll find in the kitchen day after day.
3. It teaches you to be mindful.
In addition to an art and science, cooking can be looked as a sport. Or, at least, a moderately physical activity that can help you de-stress, unwind, and prepare yourself for the following day of work.
Since cooking is typically done while standing, and since most of us sit for a large portion of our days, standing and moving in the kitchen after a day of work can help your body stretch out a bit, giving your back and legs a much needed (light) workout. In addition, cooking can be very much like a moving meditation, proving to de-stress your mind after a stressful day at work. When you're cooking, you can't really be thinking about too much else; you have to be in the present. Otherwise you could a) chop a fingertip off, b) burn your arm, or c) burn your food. None of these things is desired, of course, and so cooking forces you to avoid these things and be in the moment, concentrating intently on what you're doing. Just as if you were practicing something like mindful meditation.
A final word on cooking as sport: You might find that, after some time in the kitchen, you'll want to challenge yourself. Which is to say, you might find that, much like you push yourself in a sport or some sort of physical exercise, you'll start to challenge yourself to cook more extravagant dishes, cook for more people, or both. Rising to challenges like these and surpassing what we thought we were capable of can be exhilarating, reminding us that the only way to reach a very high level of satisfaction is to push ourselves beyond our supposed limits. Which is exactly what we need to do, day after day, in order to be as successful as possible at work and advance our careers.
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