I love Anthony Bourdain and learned a lot from his book Kitchen Confidential. No, not much about cooking, but quite a bit about life. One tool he uses is one I think all of us could benefit from, getting everything in its place, called mise-en-place in the biz.
“As a cook, your station, and its condition, its state of readiness, is an extension of your nervous system,” he continues. “The universe is in order when your station is set up the way you like it: you know where to find everything with your eyes closed, everything you need during the course of the shift is at the ready at arm’s reach, your defenses are deployed.”
Too many times we let the day hit us. We arrive, jump straight into email, let the first emergency hit, and then continue on hour by hour being reactive instead of proactive. We’ve got to get everything in its place before heading into the tasks that need our attention. Otherwise, our attention is broken right from the first tick of the workday clock.
Ron Friedman at the Harvard Business Review says:
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?
Spend the first 10 minutes of your day planning. I also like to close out the final 30 minutes of the day prepping for my arrival the next day. This way, your day doesn’t happen to you, you happen to your day.