Nadav Spiegelman

Everything in Its Place

Dan Charnas
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Dogen in the year 1237 wrote about the sanctity of the cook in a treatise called Tenzo Kyokun.
fare (or à la carte, meaning “from a menu”)
Mise-en-place comprises three central values: preparation, process, and presence.
The by-product of these values may indeed be wealth or productivity, but the true goal is excellence.
We can complete immersive tasks on our own; process tasks require us to interact with physical processes or other people to get benefit.
Fear often masquerades as fatigue, with a similar physiology: heavy eyelids, sore muscles, even sleepiness. Real fatigue is to be respected. Fear-related fatigue often needs a cup of coffee, a pep talk, or a kick in the pants.
Chefs plan, cooks don’t. Chefs see the whole kitchen, cooks zone in on their own station. Chefs move calmly and smoothly, cooks rush.
In the same way that you pick your Missions with the year in mind, you select your Frontburners and arrange your Backburners with the coming week in mind.
When do you have lunch? What hour would you like to be home? When would you like to go to sleep, and when would you like to wake up? When would you like to have time with your spouse or your children or your friends? When do you do your chores? When do you commute? When would you like to exercise? All these Actions should be either blocked or shaded out on your schedule. Your Personal Routines also include making time for your 30-minute Daily Meeze.
You may also want to block out specific times for “making the rounds” at work—not meetings per se, but a more casual time to share information with your colleagues and address issues.
Commitment to a process that makes you better means following the schedule you’ve set for yourself, using checklists, and cultivating better techniques and “life hacks.” It means incorporating the values and habits of working clean into your workday. It also means a commitment to the inverse: altering or abandoning processes that make you worse. How can you tell whether a process makes you better or worse? Understand first that what we’re after is excellence, not productivity. Productivity is working hard. Excellence is working clean. Plenty of well-meaning people equate working hard with a work ethic. But what’s so ethical about working wastefully into the night while the people you love wait for you? A work ethic must include ethics or it isn’t worth a damn. Any process that helps you balance your professional obligations with your personal ones is a process that makes you better.
To create your Mission list, envision your life like Chef Eric Ripert does, by dividing it into thirds: Work, Family, Self. For each of these three areas, list the things you want to accomplish within the next year. Each Mission should begin with a verb.
I think 10 is probably the optimum number of active Missions for most working people.
your number of Frontburners will always equal your number of Missions.
The first one or two Backburners remain in your peripheral vision. Backburners get murky beyond the second or third in a Mission list. That’s perfectly okay. While it’s good to list out every step in a Mission before you embark, in many cases that won’t be possible. We don’t work so far ahead of the curve all the time. It’s sufficient to make a daily habit of ordering your Backburners on the fly as your Missions progress.
Scheduling blocks of process time at key points in your day is just about the smartest thing you can do to be honest with time. Process Routines group similar tasks that benefit from being executed together; into these time buckets you collect individual tasks that feel too small to schedule individually but will nevertheless need time: rolling or returning calls, checking e-mails, consulting with colleagues to keep projects moving forward, processing paperwork, doing small errands.
Remember, a Routine is not an Action, but a time bucket for Actions,