I’ll be the first to admit that I’m on board with almost anything Anthony Bourdain says. Whether it’s his cooking advice, his adventurous soliloquies, or his spot-on commentary about Rachel Ray, it seems the man can say little wrong. So when my friend (who’s attending culinary school) told me to look into his organizational tips, I was incredibly intrigued.
You see, I have a bit of an organizational issue. Why would you want to take advice about being organized from a self-proclaimed shlub? To quote Liz Lemon, “Julia Roberts in a movie about eating? Give me a Kirstie Alley, somebody who knows what she’s doing.” I speak from experience, so hear me out.
Chef’s organize their work stations in a way that is unique to their trade. It’s called “Mise en Place”(pronounced mee-zahn-plahs), and it’s a technique that has been keeping chefs, kitchens and culinary institutions composed for centuries. The literal French translation is “put in place”, taking your tools and ingredients and laying them out in a way that makes everything accessible and intuitive. It’s preparation on a whole new level. But it’s also a state of mind. It rids you of distraction by setting a clear path to your goals, and helps you feel ready to tackle any task ahead of you.
Here’s how that applies to you. As told by Anthony Bourdain:
“What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at your desk? For many of us, checking email or listening to voice mail is practically automatic. In many ways, these are among the worst ways to start a day. Both activities hijack our focus and put us in a reactive mode, where other people’s priorities take center stage. They are the equivalent of entering a kitchen and looking for a spill to clean or a pot to scrub.”
Tomorrow, before you start your normal routine, prepare yourself for the day. Define your projects, goals and priorities right off the bat, and figure out what tools you’ll need to tackle those tasks. In the eloquent words of Ron Friedman, a contributor to Harvard Business Review:
“A good approach is to begin your day with a brief planning session. An intellectual mise-en-place. Chefs envision the perfect execution before starting their dish. Here’s the corollary for the enterprising business professional. Ask yourself this question the moment you sit at your desk: The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved?”