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Mise-en-Place for Knowledge Workers

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Mise-en-Place for Knowledge Workers

6 Practices for Working Clean

Forte Labs,

5 min read
7 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Borrow key principles from French culinary philosophy to improve your productivity.

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Restaurant kitchens were once messy, chaotic, disorganized places. In 1859, a 13-year-old boy named Georges Auguste Escoffier revolutionized how kitchens operate by introducing a philosophy called mise en place. His method streamlined culinary work and is now the gold standard for kitchens worldwide. Productivity expert Tiago Forte argues that knowledge work must undergo a similar transformation. By infusing your work with a dollop of mise-en-place principles, you can reap palatable productivity gains.


Knowledge work lacks a “culture of systematic improvement” common to other professions and trades.

Trainee nurses learn the best method for starting an IV, and apprentice carpenters learn the best practices for constructing a door frame; but knowledge workers receive no such guidance for structuring their work. Left to their own devices, they often end up using ineffective, self-concocted systems which breed chaos.

To prevent disorder in their kitchens, chefs employ a philosophy called mise en place, whose guiding principle is to “work clean.” Chefs prepare their equipment, ingredients and work stations prior to cooking to create simple, frictionless processes and to externalize a portion of their cognitive load to the environment. By automating the repetitive aspects of their jobs, chefs have more time to focus on the creative aspects. Knowledge workers can benefit from adopting a similar workplace philosophy.

To increase your productivity, borrow from chefs’ six-part mise-en-place philosophy. First, sequence your work.

Sequence is of vital importance in a kitchen; after all, you can’t cook pasta if the water’s...

About the Author

Tiago Forte is the founder of Forte Labs, a San Francisco-based consultancy for improving productivity.

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