Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

An OlyO’s List For Your Work

There used to be a fantastic pizza place on Highway 101 in Encinitas, California: OlyO’s. (It’s been a wine bistro since 2006.) The small space had casual tables and wooden benches that were always crowded but fun. There was noisy conversation, laughter and a beach within walking distance. Dave and Sue Olsen were the owners and when Dave chatted with me briefly one time when I visited, I felt very special because he had a role in making OlyO’s the perfect California beach town pizzeria. (And, the pizza was spectacular!)

There was a sign at the front, “If there is time to lean, it is time to clean.” Dave told me he had been given that advice early in his career. He and the employees apparently followed the advice, because they were constantly wiping, washing, tidying and putting away. For a hectically busy, small pizza kitchen, it looked very clean.

Since then I’ve heard bartenders and store managers say that adage–and I’ve said it to myself! I have a mental OlyO’s list of things to do–recurring tasks, now and then chores and things to start even if I don’t get them done right away. It’s been useful for keeping me energized, productive and caught up with tasks I might normally procrastinate about.

Create An OlyO’s List

If you’re supervising, managing or working with a group, enlist their assistance in developing a list of things that can be done instead of killing time in the afternoon, before lunch, the days before vacation or when the schedule has some free time–even five minutes. Or, make a list just for yourself.

  1. Clean the break room or coffee area.
  2. Clean around the copier or in the supply room.
  3. Clean your desk top or get rid of clutter.
  4. Contact someone who could be a good resource.
  5. Do something on a project that always needs work (Research, organize, file, shred, replace, stock, clean, inventory or whatever ongoing work is required.)
  6. Delete old emails or old files or organize them more conveniently.
  7. If you’re going to talk with coworkers anyway, talk about work in a positive way or focus on solving problems not just complaining about them.
  8. Pick three recurring problems and write them on a card to place where you can see it. Now and then use your less-busy times to think of solutions to those problems. Put a due date and swear you’ll have at least one option to consider or to present to the group.
  9. Leave your work area if you can and go to another area to say hello–without being disruptive there and without taking more than a few minutes at most.
  10. Make a list of the people who have helped you recently and send a thank you note. It doesn’t have to be mushy, just sincerely appreciative.
  11. Put something on your calendar and get it started as a way to force yourself to take action.
  12. Scan some material you want to save or can share.
  13. Get started on something you’ve been stalling about.
  14. Produce some work in advance of when you need it, so it will be ready to go.
  15. Freshen a PowerPoint presentation or edit a document you use but haven’t evaluated in awhile.
  16. Use some of the ideas in my article on Time To Tidy Your Work Area.

Make a list that fits your situation or have your group make a combined list, then distribute it or have it in your desk drawer, billfold or workspace. Use it to provide a push when the temptation is to lean instead of clean!


September 17th, 2010 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Keeping On!, Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 10 comments


  1. Man! I was REALLY looking forward to just doing some serious leaning. Now you’ve got me all guilt-tripped thinking I need to be walking around cleaning something.


    Oh well, great post as usual and very practical. I guess it might not hurt to lean just a little bit before I start to clean.

    Comment by Jeff Adams | September 18, 2010

  2. Tina says: Jeff, this is not about away-from-work-time. You of all people need to relax more often! But, when you’re at work, stop making Emily do it all. 🙂

    Comment by TLR | September 18, 2010

  3. My work runs in cycles of busy and not busy every day and one other employee and I find things that need to be done. We are the ones who keep everything ready for everyone else for when the busy times start. Our boss knows its happening and says we are role-models for everyone else. BUT, the others get the same or more opportunities for out of town training, perks and money. It’s irritating but the other person and I have a work ethic and we just keep at it. Thanks for your articles. Oly O’s sounds like a fun place.

    Comment by Meeker | September 18, 2010

  4. Excellent ideas for ways to be valuable to an employer too! We have something similar in our offices, which we refer to as having a Pick Up List or doing Pick Up Duty. It just means each employee should look around at what needs to be picked up and put away, picked up and cleaned or picked up and worked on. We all understand the need and its just part of what we do here. I wish I could have visited OlyO’s. I looked it up online and see it had a cult following!

    Comment by Careerist | September 18, 2010

  5. You brought tears to my eyes with this post! I know about OlyOs! I didn’t know it was closed though and have always had a fantasy that I would go back someday, squeeze into a booth and eat a veggie pizza with the cheese stringing all over the place. I was fifteen years younger when I used to go there and play around on Moonlight Beach and it was some of the best times of my life, if not the best.

    I’m a lurker who has never commented on one of your blog posts before, but I had to for this one. The photos are priceless. Thank you for this memory! D.G.

    Comment by Little Surfer Girl | September 18, 2010

  6. Tina says: Thank you, Little Surfer Girl! Now that you’ve commented I hope you won’t lurk anymore. I love comments from readers and always respond personally—as I did with you, including files of the photos! Enjoy them!

    Comment by TLR | September 18, 2010

  7. Dear Tina,
    I can’t express how touched I was by your email and the files of the OlyO’s photos. Your comments meant a lot to me. I want to thank you in public for your generosity and to tell you that in my opinion you have achieved the glide without going near the water. Thanks so much! D.G.

    Comment by Little Surfer Girl | September 18, 2010

  8. Tina says: It’s always good to connect with a nice person! T.

    Comment by TLR | September 18, 2010

  9. There is nothing like a beach town pizzeria and OlyO’s was among the best.

    Comment by Furrly | September 19, 2010

  10. Santarpio’s in Boston. Excellent pizza with amazing sauce and crust. But the whole place is an experience!

    Having said that, I agree with having a list of things at the ready for slow times. I have a list on a bulletin board in our work area that says: Pick One. Then, below that is a list of things that nearly always need to be done, like running the vac or taking out trash.

    Comment by R.T.R. | September 23, 2010

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