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How to Spend the First 10 Minutes of Your Day

5 August 2014

From The Harvard Business Review:

If you’re working in the kitchen of Anthony Bourdain, legendary chef of Brasserie Les Halles, best-selling author, and famed television personality, you don’t dare so much as boil hot water without attending to a ritual that’s essential for any self-respecting chef: mise-en-place.

The “Meez,” as professionals call it, translates into “everything in its place.” In practice, it involves studying a recipe, thinking through the tools and equipment you will need, and assembling the ingredients in the right proportion before you begin. It is the planning phase of every meal—the moment when chefs evaluate the totality of what they are trying to achieve and create an action plan for the meal ahead.

For the experienced chef, mise-en-place represents more than a quaint practice or a time-saving technique. It’s a state of mind.

“Mise-en-place is the religion of all good line cooks,” Bourdain wrote in his runaway bestseller Kitchen Confidential. “As a cook, your station, and its condition, its state of readiness, is an extension of your nervous system… The universe is in order when your station is set…”

Chefs like Anthony Bourdain have long appreciated that when it comes to exceptional cooking, the single most important ingredient of any dish is planning. It’s the “Meez” that forces Bourdain to think ahead, that saves him from having to distractedly search for items midway through, and that allows him to channel his full attention to the dish before him.

. . . .

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.

A better approach is to begin your day with a brief planning session. An intellectual mise-en-place. Bourdain envisions the perfect execution before starting his 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?

Link to the rest at The Harvard Business Review

The Business of Writing

11 Comments to “How to Spend the First 10 Minutes of Your Day”

  1. “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.”

    What happened while I was sleeping that might need my attention sometime today? Better check my e and voice mail.

    But actually, the first thing I do in the morning is see what I missed yesterday from TPV.

    Dan

  2. I like this idea. I’m going to try it: mis-en-place for the writer.

    • When possible, start your day with tasks that require the most mental energy. Research indicates that we have less willpower as the day progresses, which is why it’s best to tackle challenging items – particularly those requiring focus and mental agility – early on.

      By starting each morning with a mini-planning session, you frontload important decisions to a time when your mind is fresh. You’ll also notice that having a list of concrete action items (rather than a broad list of goals) is especially valuable later in the day, when fatigue sets in and complex thinking is harder to achieve.

      Fatigue does set in as my day goes forward. I’m realizing that I’ve informally done this “mis-en-place” (without thinking about it) on my most productive days. I like the idea of making more of my days that productive.

  3. i actually do this at the dayjob. I set up my computers, go get my gigantic cup of tea and bottle of water, put my pass on (so as not to get locked out when going to the loo) check my calendar to see whats scheduled for the day and only then look at emails

  4. Chefs are plotters? Who knew?

    Other than all of us who’ve spent time as line cooks, that is. :)

    • Right there with you, M Frank :) I never really made the connection before, but after reading this it’s as clear as day: you don’t blast out 100 meals per hour without some prep work, and you don’t write 5,000 words a day (or more) unless you have a few things in place before you even sit down.

  5. Other than turning on my computer, the first thing I do at the office is get coffee. That’s all the ritual I need. ;)

  6. I’m sorry. In this, as in all matters, the Oatmeal says it best. http://hollowlands.com/2014/08/too-many-distractions/

  7. “The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved?”
    – In quite a few of my Day Jobs, that feeling was… moving to another employer.
    – In my writing, it’s when I make *myself* cry at the keyboard…

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