How to Plan an Efficient Schedule.
You travel on the sea in a floating hotel and you attend to the needs of the passengers and all the while you keep on smiling. That could be a brief description given by one superyacht chief stewardess when she was asked what her job is about, but as an interior manager, you have a lot more on your plate.
That is why you need to take a little time here to focus on what you have to do.
As a superyacht chief stewardess, you will often need to work on several projects at once, therefore efficient planning and organisation are the most important skills that you have. This effective planning will also help you to maintain the elusive work /life balance that so many Yachties dream of.
So let’s look at what you need to do to plan and write an effective schedule.
Start off by looking at your workload. The workload is likely to comprise of a range of tasks and responsibilities that you will need to work through.
These tasks are obviously different for on charter, off charter and during a yard/refit period.
Please refer to the sample schedules in the Stewardess Bible and adapt them to your own needs keeping the following points in mind:
- The time required to execute the task to a high standard
- The manpower required and available
- Priorities. When you have a range of your demands on your time you will need to find a way to complete one task at a time (this is a very important point), do not do a job half-heartedly or incomplete.
For me, I always gave my jobs a letter or number A, B, C, D or 1,2,3,4, for example:
- A – tasks, are urgent and need to be handled immediately
- B – tasks, should be given a time deadline and should be completed that day or immediately the next day
- C – tasks, are next in line and could be completed with or without guests on board
- D – tasks, could be done during downtime when there are no guests on board or during a yard period.
You will need to identify which tasks will help you achieve your goals, allocate time accordingly and set deadlines. Make sure your team has the right tools or skills to get the jobs done and make sure the task is completed before moving on to something else.
Planning methods and tools
There are many planning methods and tools which you can you. During my time as a chief stewardess/purser, I used a range of tools to help me, from a simple diary to computer programs which linked all departments (this was generally for D jobs).
I had established standard operational interior procedures on board and trained my team accordingly, so everyone knew the routine.
The knowledge of the routine and training was essential to remain flexible with any surprises that may occur (especially when on charter). The informal notepad and diary worked very well for everyday to-do lists because you can always just cross it off when that job has been completed.
However, when it comes to longer planning then I would recommend using a computer program that works best for you. Also, when you are planning, make sure you include the following:
- Daily jobs
- Weekly jobs
- Periodical jobs
- Training/ education
- Meal breaks/ rest breaks
- Holidays/time off
The above is very important to get right because there is nothing worse than being called off your break early because of poor planning (this leads to very tired and grumpy crew especially on long charters).
Make sure you plan sensibly and logically, further, by incorporating the above points into your planning, you will ensure you have enough crew members to get the work done.<
When you conduct your morning and weekly meetings, make sure that you have a clear agenda. Honestly, so much time is wasted in meetings that keep going around in circles, with no positive outcome.
A good idea is to have your desired topics on hand to discuss (written down in front of you).
The idea here is to create a system that flows with effective communication which is bilateral, that is a 2-way system that allows everyone to be heard. The goal of the meeting is to make sure that:
- The purpose is clearly communicated and everyone is taking responsibility for their part.
- Is the meeting helping to coordinate and distribute the tasks?
- Are the right people being allocated to the correct job?
- If things arise in the meetings are you as the interior manager following up on concerns, or loose ends?
- Are you as the chief stewardess, meeting and maintain training goals, offering support and increasing teamwork?
These are all points which you should take into consideration when planning.
Some pitfalls to watch out for. When planning your schedule, there is no one size fits all. You have to maintain a flexible attitude and adapt your system to work with what you have, i.e. the team, the vessel, the geographical locations and the guests’ demands.
As the chief stewardess on board, you will have an overview of what is going on, so learn to delegate (you can’t do everything yourself). If you have a weaker team member then make it a priority to train the stewardess/steward so that they are as strong as the others.
Remember to concentrate on the task at hand and ask yourself the following:
What is the best uses of my time right now?”
Don’t get distracted by the “white noise”, (the drunk guest, the sick deckhand or the disgruntle stewardesses). The chef is waiting for you to serve dinner, the captain may be waiting for you to turn in your accounts for the month or 1 million other things that require your attention before the drama does…
My point here is to set the priorities straight.
Remember, you are the interior manager and we know that you have a lot to do. The job description of a superyacht chief stewardess is really broad and you will find that different super yachts may have other duties and responsibilities added to this job description, but remember as the saying goes,
“You are only as strong as your weakest team member”.
You can’t do it all yourself, so remember to:
- Invest in your team with training and educational courses or material
- Plan your time well
- Delegate tasks
And you should be able to maintain your work/life to a standard that you are happy with.