Mise en Place in the Workplace

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | November 2014


A few days ago a friend of mine posted something clever on Facebook.

“Work on your piles and you'll be much happier.”

This struck a chord with me because I have lots of piles, and I like being happy.

She was of course joking around a bit, but there’s definitely some truth to what she’s saying. Piles drag us down, zap energy, and distract us from doing something bigger.

Getting organized is part of it but there’s more to it.

This morning NPR ran a piece called “For A More Ordered Life, Organize Like A Chef.” Find it here.

Professional chefs use a ritual called mise-en-place to organize their kitchens. Mise-en-place literally means to put in place. Before cooking anything they prep their station, making sure things are in place. They don’t barge into the kitchen and immediately throw something on the grill.

One chef interviewed in the story talks about “clearing space and clearing your head,” meaning properly putting your space in order makes room for other, important stuff.

So how can you apply mise-en-place apply to your work life? Follow these 10 tips:

  1. Always, always, always, keep a list. Writing something down gets it out of your head and lets you focus on other stuff. As one chef puts it, "Be one with your list."
  2. Do your prep. Make your list the night before. What three things do you need to get done? What things do you absolutely need to get done for you to feel like you’ve had a productive day?
  3. Clean up. Put things away & clean off your desk. At the end of the day, give your desk the once-over so you can start the next day fresh.
  4. Go old school. Warning: This is old school. Use a filing system. Label your file folders.
  5. Take action. Don’t keep mail that you plan on reviewing later unless you really, truly plan on doing just that. Recycle immediately. Better yet, remove yourself from the mailing list to cut down on wasteful clutter.
  6. Setup is key. Arrange your desk with care. If you use something frequently, make sure it’s within reach.
  7. Say no to knick-knacks. Keep knick-knacks to a minimum. Unless they are inspiring all they'll end up doing is collecting dust.
  8. Make it Zen. Speeding through things often means making stupid mistakes. Slow down when you need to. Be deliberate and do something right the first time.
  9. Don’t be a slave to your email. Designate times to check your email and stick to it.
  10. Go outside. When you’re stuck, take a walk.

Time is one of our most valuable resources. Use the mise-en-place attitude to make the most of it.

Topics: Inside ArcStone, Business