Mise en place

Mise en place” is a term I learned the other day on a Hacker news thread, it describes “the setup required before cooking”. Apparently, cooks usually prepare everything they need before cooking a meal, this includes having a clean kitchen, putting all the ingredients in already measured containers, so that the process of cooking is simply adding the ingredients, stirring and waiting, which gives them time to prep a bit more as they cook.

This relates to the 3rd law described in the book Atomic Habits, for making a habit easier, the point (3.2 from the cheatsheet) “Prime the environment. Prepare your environment to make future actions easier.”, it’s also similar to the aesthetic pleasing Knolling, which are two things that I very much like, but don’t actually use on my day to day.

Today, as I was working from home, I decided to use it on two opportunities, for cooking and for working.

For cooking, I simply tried to imitate what I watched in cooking shows, I was making a stew (I’ve been making lots of them lately) so, I took the meat out, the board, the knife, chopped it up in blocks, set it aside inside a bowl, peppered it up. I then, turned the hob on, dumped the bacon lardons on started stirring, and once they were looking good, I dumped the ready beef blocks and turned until they were brown, I dumped the tomato sauce and covered it. Now I could clean up the board, knife and bowl and get the second part ready…

As for working, I have a confession to make: I have a tab addiction, I open tabs that takes me weeks to close, I leave them there as reminders to read/watch/whatever with them, and then I can finally close them. I’ve seen worse, but I definitely could definitely could use “mise en place” to help me focus more on the task at hand.

Here’s what I did: I instapapred, put on a .txt file all the URLs that I could, I did any task that could be done in 5min, such as replying to emails, making a small change to a google doc, etc… Once I had almost 0 tabs on my browser, I could finally open the tab I needed for the task at hand, and do it without the clutter of all the other unrelated tabs trying to get my attention.

I also cleaned up a bit my desk, but I wasn’t as successful at that, moving on…

This post is both a reminder to myself that it felt amazing to work this way, and that I should do this more often. I think that if I manage to keep this up as a habit, I can be a lot happier.