The Power of Mise-En-Place
-by Jon-Stephen Stansel
If your work space is organized, the rest will follow.
Walk into any professional kitchen and you’ll see the power of “mise-en-place” in full effect. Translated into “everything in its place,” it is the concept by which professional chefs organize their work spaces and work flows. It’s a way of organizing spaces in the most effective way so all your tools are exactly where you need them when you need them. But, beyond that it has expanded into a philosophy of life. If your workspace is organized, the rest will follow.
I first came across this concept in Dave Cameron’s amazing "Human at Work" presentation at the 2014 HighEd Web conference and since then I have fully adopted it into my daily life.
I have organized my workspace into its most basic essentials. Everything I need is easily at hand and free of clutter. This extends beyond just my physical desktop and into the digital world as well. My desktop is sorted into clean folders and email is sorted as it is received. Even the apps on my phone are arranged so my most frequently used apps are an easy thumb-reach away.
At the end of every work day, I take 15 minutes to reorganize and prepare my workspace for the following day. I put my headphones on their charger, put my pens and notebooks in their proper drawers, water my plants, clean out my email inbox, and declutter my digital desktop as well. I even keep a tube of disinfecting wipes in my cabinet and wipe down my desk before I leave. It might seem a bit O.C.D. but it’s like a little present I’m leaving for my future self. It signals to my brain that the work day is over and when I arrive the next morning, I have everything where I need it and I’m ready for a new day.
I’ve even extended this beyond my workspace. I have a “mise en place” for my car, my shaving kit, and briefcase. It might seem a little much, but once everything has found its place, it is easy to maintain and establish a habit. In the end, it frees your mind of a lot of mental clutter and allows you to work with a clean flow and focus.
I highly recommend Dan Charnas’s book “Work Clean: The Life-changing Power of Mise-en-Place to Organize Your Life, Work and Mind.” In it he details how chef’s use mise-en-place and many of the ways you can incorporate it into your life.