Sunrise designed by Wayne Middleton from the Noun Project

Sunrise designed by Wayne Middleton from the Noun Project

How you spend the first few minutes of your work day sets up the remainder of it. On Harvard Business Review, Ron Friedman explains why we should spend the first 10 minutes of every morning performing “mise-en-place.” Friedman writes about what it is, and the inspiration behind it (legendary chef and author Anthony Bourdain):

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?

By detailing your response to the question about how your ideally productive day would end, then laying out all of the groundwork that needs to be completed that day in order to get you there, you’re setting yourself up for accomplishing the truly important work.

Why do this first thing in the morning? Friedman states that it’s the time of day when our brains are at their freshest.

Read the story of mise-en-place and how it can help you to accomplish more each day, on HBR.

PreviouslyWhy You Need a Daily Prioritization Meeting

  • Zelda

    That’s *mise-en-place*

    • tannerc

      You’re right, it is! Thanks for pointing out the typo.

  • Madeliene Rose

    Sounds reasonable but I always think that knowing from the day before what I want to achieve tomorrow is a good way to hit the ground running the next day and not feel like I have to rearrange my thoughts and goals first thing in the morning… Mornings should be about feeling fresh, excited about having woken up and maybe breakfast al fresco when time permits…

  • Katie

    Also, just doing the simple act of physically organizing everything before getting started every day helps. My morning starts with a 10 minute clean up around my house, just picking up items and putting everything in their proper place: mise-en-place at home. When I get to the office, I take 5 minutes to organize my desk, dust, and sanitize. Sounds OCD, but it really gets me started to work well. And then when I get home, everything is in order and I come home to an organized life.

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