The Mobile ‘Meez’

Don La Vange via Creative Commons

When you travel two hundred-plus days per year like Gonzo TV presenterand Chef-at-large, Anthony Bourdain, it’s not easy to stay grounded.

From the kitchen of Brasserie Les Halles in New York City to Khmer cookouts in the back alleys of Cambodia,“Mise-en-place,” writes Bourdain, “is the religion of all good linecooks.”

If you live a mobile lifestyle, you ought to make it yours too.

To perform ‘The Meez,’ is essentially to put everything in its rightful place. Bourdain might not describe himself as an otherwise-religious man; but like it or not, ritual works.

According to Scientific American, even something as superficially meaningless as drawing one’s feelings on a piece of paper, sprinkling a pinch of salt over it and then tearing it up, helped participants control their mindset and feel less frustration after losing a lottery.

Sprinkling a pinch of salt doesn’t exactly qualify as high class cookery, nor does it confer miraculous power. However, the process of the ritual itself inspires a feeling of control in the participant that has a measurable impact – even when the participant knows that the ritual is meaningless. Think of it as a sugar-free placebo effect.

“Do not fuck with a line cook’s ‘Meez’ – meaning his setup, his carefully arranged supplies of sea salt, rough-cracked pepper, softened butter, cooking oil, wine, backups, and so on.” – Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

For the record Tony, we wouldn’t dare.

Mise en Place at Indian Restaurant

Charles Haynes via Creative Commons

In fact, rather than interfering with anyone’s ‘Meez,’ we suggest you create your own and make sure no-one else even thinks about effing with it. While you may not spend much time juggling shakers of Himalayan rock salt or exotic ground citrus on the road, you certainly can manage the constants in your daily routine. Whether you’re bouncing from cafe to co-working space, or continent to continent, creating those constants and a ritual that goes beyond cracking your laptop can have an impact on your productivity.

Consider the benefits in Bourdain’s words:

“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, your defenses are deployed.”

It’s not always possible to work from the same location each day – or all day for that matter. (We’re looking at you,cafe-hoppers.) But these simple strategies can help you create your personal ‘Meez’ no matter where you are in the world.

Working on the boardwalk

Georgio Montersino via Creative Commons

Dominate Your Desk

Take command of your work surface. Whether the table you’re at is round or rectangular probably can’t be helped, but everything, from the order in which you take your gear out of your bag to the way you arrange it, can be made a part of the process that gets you ‘into the zone.’

Your computer’s desktop is your digital chef’s table. Personalize your ‘Meez’ by putting some thought into the tools you use to get your work done on a regular basis. Are there any processes that could be batched, streamlined or automated? Are there workflows that would help you operate more efficiently or dashboards that could be used to group tools and applications and reduce clutter? (spoiler alert: the answer is yes, and we’ll be talking about a bunch of them in weeks to come.)

Own Your Audioscape

The audio environment is a huge variable in most workspaces,especially in public ones like cafes, open plan offices and coworkinglocations.

Whether your new favorite spot is beset by a gang of wailingbabies, construction noise or that guy across the table who really isbegging to have his phone privileges permanently revoked – unwantednoise causes serious distraction.

In his TEDGlobaltalk, soundconsultant Julian Treasure claims that noisy open plan offices areresponsible for up to a 66% drop in productivity versus quiet rooms.Treasure recommends buying the best headphones you can afford andfilling your ears with birdsong. For more check out the actual TEDTalk.

Open Plan Offices Statistics

If birdsong isn’t exactly your ‘jam,’ pick a favorite tune and build it into your ‘Meez.’ The song you choose doesn’t matter as much as consistency and routine formation. You could take it to the extreme and play the ‘Eye of the Tiger’ everyday before you begin a session, or you could  simply take a deep breath and draw comfort from the fact that once the headphones go on, you’ll be in a sonic cave of your own design until the work is done.

Press Pause

Before you begin a work session, take a moment to get into the right mindset. This can be somewhere between taking a deep breath and practicing mindfulness meditation. If you think you’re too busy to meditate, read this.

Think through the day and plan how you’ll tackle the tasks on your plate. What does it mean to complete them successfully? Is any triage necessary? Take mental inventory. Note your resources, your alertness and energy level. Making yourself aware of potential distractions is a great way to shut them down before they become problematic.

NOTE: This practice is the exact opposite of dragging your laptop onto your chest at the wail of an alarm clock and diving straight into your inbox. If you’ve made it beyond that state, it’s a start.

Day Beds in Paradise

Daryl Mitchell via Creative Commons

Make Your Digital Bed

Just because you’re not using it, doesn’t mean you should leave it a wreck. After a work session, put things back where they belong. Can you imagine a chef leaving her knives and pots laying around haphazardly at the end of the day?

Take care of any desktop clutter, reset your dashboards and close those browser tabs so you won’t feel overwhelmed the next morning. Having a zillion windows and apps open is a great way to get lost before you’ve even begun. Pocket or Readability are easy ways to save all your tabbed articles for future reading.

For more productivity tips – literally one hundred more – click here.


So sharpen all of your pencils. Do jumping jacks. Bark twice or shriek like a sheep. Whatever rituals, tools and sounds you build into your ‘Meez,’ be consistent,be mindful and you’ll soon notice yourself getting into the zone faster.That’ll leave you time to follow a bit more of Bourdain’s advice from his latest book Medium Raw, “I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible.”

That’s great advice. Advice we take seriously.

Of course, he also notes: “There’s something wonderful about drinking in the afternoon.”

On that one, we reserve our decision.

Let us know what’s working for you in the comments below.

Street Food on Skewers by NDStrupler

NDStrupler via Creative Commons

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