Start Early

07 April 2010, by A. Cedilla

Time management is a big deal for most of us. It’s the most common source of stress today. What’s a good way to handle all the things we’re given in the time we have? Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

“Soonest begun, soonest done.”

Here’s an oddball collection of thoughts and tips on how starting early helps you manage your time.

Mise en place
For anyone who’ve ever been a follower of any cooking channel, you may have heard this phrase tossed around from time to time.

Literally translating to “putting in place”, cooks following this practice prepare everything ahead of time, before cooking starts in earnest.

This means having all ingredients prepped (washed — peeled, cut, chopped, etc.) and measured out in neatly arranged containers. Tools and equipment are standing by, much like a surgeon’s tools are set out in the OR.

Mise en place can help you in the way it helps the chef, similar to how prepping helps a surgeon or say, an orchestral conductor. Can you imagine the doctor or the maestro pausing in mid-movement to hunt for something they forgot?

Mise en place helps you by removing distractions, and ensuring a smooth, orderly work flow with the fewest interruptions possible. Why would you turn that down?

Bonus links: In this post by Peter Hertzmann, find the Zen in food preparation. There’s a ton of incredibly well-written articles on food in this section, or you can just navigate from his home page.

This is pre-planning during a mental free-fall, actually. You jump from a point of reason, letting go of preconceptions and nerves, so you can envision a huge landscape of possibility in front of you. The closer you get, the more details you can make out, and the better you can see where you plan on landing.

In brainstorming, you don your oracle hat, and try to see what can happen, what’s coming, making up expectations and forecasts based on historical data. You draw your own map, charting your way in seemingly familiar territory, to get yourself where you need to go. And the time you spend on preparation can save you time in the actual progression.

Boy Scout it – “(Always) be prepared.”

Start ridiculously early.
Don’t underestimate the compounding power of time, preparation and practice. Just as attending to your money as early as possible can get you to accrue more interest over time, starting real early, even in–especially in –small steps, pay off.

Bonus link: Basketball legend Larry Bird practiced before the actual practice — and it made him a titan.


What other small steps can you take to start today?

  • Anticipate – not just in terms of “Oh man, what now?” but “Oh boy, what’s next?” Let a little smile in your life.
  • You have routines. I have routines. Everyone has routines. Regularly inspect your routines for tiny ways to improve your processes, before the groove they make becomes a rut.
  • Keep buffers handy.

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