Before cooking, chefs gather and prep the ingredients and tools they need for cooking, a technique known as “mise en place”. Mise en place could also be seen as an organising philosophy that you can apply outside of the kitchen to almost every aspect of your life.
Photo by Scott Atwood.
In French, mise en place means “putting in place”. We’ve discussed using this strategy or philosophy to apply it to your morning routine and prepping your work area, but you can take it even further.
When you set aside all the things you need to get out the door in the morning, that’s mise en place. When you follow an evening routine with your kids (e.g., bath, books, bed), that’s mise en place too. When you open a select set of browser tabs and apps that you need to work on — sans distracting sites — yup, mise en place.
Author Dan Charnas says it’s about working clean (Work Clean is the title of his new book all about mise en place):
Mise en place is not about making things tidy, it’s not about things looking clean. It’s about being able to work clean, which implies motion. The system has to be returned to order. So it’s not just about creating order, like, “Oh, look how I arranged my desk,” it really is about, “I’m going to move through all these projects, but I’ve also made the commitment to myself that when I’m done with this project I’m going to wrap it up.”
I’m either going to deliver it or I’m going to put myself in a position where when I resume it, everything is in a place for me to pick it up. Because that’s going to save me 20 minutes, I can use that 20 minutes to do other kinds of work or I can use that 20 minutes to be with my kid and read him a story. I think being a parent, that also affected my venture into this because that time really means something to me.
Charnas recommends daily 30-minute planning sessions and chef Wylie Dufresne recommends “mise en place” lists, and Julia Child was so methodical she had a place for every pan. However you want to mise en place your life, create and maintain the system so you can always be focused on the most important things at each moment.