How much thought do you give to how you start your day? Most of us know that a bad start – oversleeping, a missed train, being late for an appointment or meeting – can throw out the entire day if we let it. But how much thought do we give to actively starting our day in the best way possible? This blog post is about two different ideas – “mise-en-place” and “Morning Pages” – on how you can start your day in the best way possible.
The idea of “mise-en-place” (literally “putting in place”) comes from professional chefs and kitchens. There it refers to the planning that takes place before a service – thinking ahead about what needs to be done, and ensuring that the necessary knives, utensils, ingredients, and preparation are in place. This removes any need to break off once service begins, and allows chefs to concentrate entirely on the job at hand.
The same approach can be taken to your working day. Instead of starting by reading emails or picking up phone messages straightaway, spend ten minutes thinking about what it is that you want to achieve from your day. This will allow you to sift out what’s urgent and what’s important; identify the activities that will help you reach your goals for the day; and make sure that you can block out time to spend on them and keep control of your day.
The aim is to do this in a structured and deliberate way, and not whilst driving or doing anything else. That way the ten minutes that you spend on it can significantly improve what you achieve and feel about your working day, and reduce the amount of mental energy you spend being distracted or switching between tasks.
Morning Pages is an idea that comes from a book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Originally a creativity exercise it involves writing an unedited stream of consciousness and filling three sides of A4 paper first thing every day. This hasn’t just stayed as a creative writing exercise but is being used by people to start their working day because of the benefits it brings.
Whilst “there is no wrong way to do Morning Pages” there are some rules about it. It must be done first thing, in order to bypass the mental habits and defences that come as you become more fully awake. They must be written, not typed, and must be three pages – any less and you won’t realise the benefits, any more and you risk self-indulgence. The subject of your Morning Pages is entirely based on what comes to mind – problems, memories, wishes – but must be unedited.
Morning Pages can be entirely unedited because they don’t have to be kept, referred back to or shown to anyone else. The idea of them is give you a safe space where you can explore whatever you want to, externalise your thoughts, and see the psychological benefits that brings. –
Whether you choose “mise-en-place” or “Morning Pages” – or even both – what you will find is that you start to notice a quieter mind, freer from distractions and much more able to identify and focus what matters to you.