The Only Productivity Framework You Need

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” — Anthony Bourdain

A mantra for some, a tattoo for others, mise-en-place literally means “put in place” in French. It is the art of prepping and arranging the ingredients and the tools before starting to cook. It’s how chefs survive and thrive in the kitchen. And it is one of the most effective productivity frameworks I’ve tried. 

Can Mise-en-Place Bring Calm to Your Life?

While mise-en-place is intuitive, it is also intentional. The word “mise” is the past participle of the verb “mettre,” which means “to put.” To say mise en place, means that it has been placed at its place. It didn’t get there on its own. The concept of ideating, carefully planning, and arranging, in order to be rewarded by a great flow of execution, is hopeful and empowering.  

The concept originated from the kitchen brigade system led by the culinary royalty Georges-Auguste Escoffier, in the 18th century. Inspired by a military-esque hierarchy, the first iteration of mise-en-place, established defined roles and specific tasks to be completed at different times during each service. Instead of the chaos of cooks running around, this structure brought a sense of calm to the kitchen. 

The system is simple and the metaphor relatable.  David Charnas covers this topic in depth in his book Everything in Its Place (originally “Work Clean”). Out of the 10 work clean principles, the following three delivered results on my creative process from day one.

I. Arranging Your Workstation

Anthony Bourdain calls each workstation the chef’s universe and maybe he meant it in a literal way. Chefs make tiny movements, only pivoting within their quadrant. They rarely have space. Maybe they don’t need it– everything they’ll need has been carefully set up within reach.  

And isn’t our goal for productivity nearly the same? Everything we need, when we need it?  Take the Zettelkasten, or “slipbox” method. The German sociologist and philosopher Dr Niklas Luhmann published more than 70 books and nearly 400 scholarly articles in his lifetime by arranging note-cards in different containers. For each book he wanted to write, he had a drawer with all the ingredients prepped. 

In today’s digital kitchen, your “meez” is the equivalent of having your desktop organized, so you can access your notes and tools with fewer mouse clicks. You want to arrange your space and your resources, so you are not constantly switching contexts. For my English coaching I used to have different folders for articles and notes. Today, from one Notion page, my clients can access all the session notes and resources. Both my clients and I know exactly what to find where, because it is all organized and ready to be consumed.

II. Cleaning as You Go

Forget batch cleaning. In the kitchen the cleaner you work, the faster you work. And good chefs clean as they go. This applies to my notetaking. Creating and polishing notes on-the-go has been a game changer. I used to take a lot of notes, but a few days later, removed from the situation, they would be incoherent and unusable. The extra 5 to 10 seconds I now spend typing a brief context, what the note actually means, and where I want to surface it in the future, ensures that 3 weeks later I still understand. This is what I call the ignorance test, clueless test, and the no-context test. Last year only about 5% of my notes would pass this test. Now, about 80% do. Those ingredients are ready for future use.

III. Finishing

Commit to delivering. Imagine you have found the perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes to go with the imported burrata cheese straight from Italy, drizzled with that olive oil from the boutique vineyard you found at a small town in Spain, with the organic basil that you just picked up on your way home. You have the ingredients for a Caprese salad to die for. You even made the effort to clean, cut, and prep the ingredients. 

Now, imagine you change your mind and get takeout instead. None of the above matters if you don’t make the dish. The ingredients will go unused and some to waste. The same goes for our creative work. The notes you gathered for that essay you were excited about? Unless you hit publish, the notes will go unused and some buried. As Seth Godin said in his latest book The Practice, “shipping because it doesn’t count if you don’t share it.”


Is that all?

Things in their place? 

You put the ingredients in the right place, and you are set. Sounds easy, right? The concept really is that simple, but the underlying planning and careful calculation that paves the way for this system to work is much more complex.  When planning for my classes or even this essay, I researched, talked to people, gathered data from different sources, and, only then, started prepping my ingredients to arrange for execution. 

Chef’s Table is a Netflix documentary series of some of the most iconic chefs in the world. My favorite episode is Alinea’s Grant Achatz (Season 2, Episode 1). In one of the scenes, Achatz and two of his executive chefs plan the menu for their new restaurant Next. They are wearing white coats, in front of a whiteboard with no white space left. They discuss their goals, the experience they want the guest to have, the philosophy behind the meal. Before any cooking happens, there is serious planning. And this is the unsung hero of mise-en-place. 

The system works because the steps preceding the arrangement have been well-considered and carefully designed for each meal. The same goes with the work we put in for our creative pursuits. The wrestling with the ideas causes temporary pain. But there is a reward: if the ideations and planning is well thought-out, the rest takes care of itself.

How Can This Apply To Delegation?

When working remotely, we need to provide clear directions of what we want (duh), but also provide all (ALL) the necessary resources and tools for others to complete their tasks efficiently.

Let me share a fresh example. I am looking to hire an assistant podcast producer. I had a short list of 2 candidates, and I sent them a brief for a test project:, create a short clip with existing footage. Before going further, take a moment to think about what kind of information you would need to provide to a brand new contractor to complete the project.

In my project brief, I included:


Task description: vertical video clip (less than 60 seconds) to upload on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram (all links provided)

References: 3 sample videos showing what I liked. (bonus tip: I sometimes include what I don’t like as well, to educate the contractor on how I think). References are key for test projects to guide the contractor and not have them do redundant work.

Content: a rough cut of the video that I want the editor to use. It could be the raw video or a shorter clip.

Access: this is particularly important, because, for any given project, we are working with different platforms. It could be Figma, Canva, Google Drive, Dropbox, Artlist (where I have my music and stock footage), or any number of other platforms.

Loom video: a brief Loom video going through the task. I absolutely love this service, because it allows you to record your screen in the most effortless way. Why do the video if you have everything laid out? It is always easier to show and tell than just tell. I have had more success and less do-overs with extremely clear directions.

I could have all of these different items sent via email, but instead I have it all on a single Notion page, a tool I love, because you can mix different types of media and organize it with minimal effort. 


How Can This Apply To Day-to-Day Activities?



This is our garage. We placed a table in the path we take to leave for the kids’ activities. Before they hit the soccer field, we stop by The Table and pick up the shin guards, the shoes, the gloves.  When we get off, we put things back on The Table for our next trip. And it may sound a bit “weird,” but it works.

Something else that may sound weird: I started using mouth tape during my sleep. After I opened my Amazon Prime package, I ended up leaving the tape on the kitchen island, exactly where I had opened it I would only remember to do it right as I am getting into bed, and that meant havng to turn about 3 lights on to go to the kitchen island to grab it. 

But now, I keep it by my bed. When I need it (and when I remember it), it’s already there. In fact, set there, it serves as a reminder to use it.

This same visibility applies to my daughter’s comb, which is usually where the kids do the final prep before school. I used to keep it in the bathroom, but then I noticed that I normally noticed my daughter’s hair in the living room, right before we would have to leave. Since we are in a rush to get the kids out the door, I would often skip fixing the hair. Now this one specific comb stays in the living room, by the TV stand, so it is visible. I see it, remember, and do it. It is all conveniently placed. 


Embrace the art of mise-en-place beyond the kitchen. It’s more than arrangement; it’s noticing, mindful planning, intentional action. Chefs master their craft with it, and so can we master our day-to-day. Organize, prepare, execute. Implement it in workspaces, creative projects, and team collaborations. 

The result? Smooth workflows, clear communication, steady output. Revolutionary, yet super simple. Mise-en-place offers a platform and project agnostic framework to bring flow to your work and life. 

Now, let’s chop chop.

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