The “Meez” (or why the first 10 minutes matter)

I recently learned there’s something about why the first 10 minutes matter in commercial kitchens. I’d never heard of this, yet read the most renowned chefs do it and are almost fanatical about the ritual.

And I find it fascinating because I do it, too.

What is it?


Mise-en-place is translated as “everything in its place.”

The “Meez” is what the professionals call it. It’s much more than a routine. In fact, it’s a near fanatical devotion to creating the right state of mind in a kitchen before beginning any activity.

During the “Meez” professional chefs and their staff stop. They make room to study their menu, pick the right tools and equipment, and make sure they have the proper ingredients.

Why the first 10 minutes matter

It’s important because this is the planning stage. The mental prepping stage. Even the physical prepping stage.

It’s preparing before beginning.

I loved this idea after reading about it in a Harvard Business Review post. It resonated so much with me because I have naturally done this for my whole entire professional career and it’s what I teach my clients.

When I was a vet tech, we always stopped to review appointments and the surgery schedule for the day. Did we have the right equipment? Enough people? How about meds? And what about cage/recovery space?

As an administrative assistant, I always stopped to review my day and make sure I was prepared for meetings. My goal was to anticipate what my boss might need.

Now as a business owner, I review my week first thing Monday morning and review my day’s events as my first morning activity.

This practice gets me into the right frame of mind for my clients. It keeps me focused on my priorities. I begin my day in response mode rather than reacting to whatever comes at me via email or voicemail or person.

I have what I need. It’s organized. I’m in control of my time. I’m ready to begin.

Calm rather than chaos

You, too, could benefit from mise-en-place. It’s a routine that could permeate every area of business and life:

  • 15 minutes of meditation might revolutionize your daily outlook
  • 0 minutes of checking email and voicemail for your first hour of work allows you time to knock out those #1 priorities
  • 10 minutes to review your schedule and prioritize your To Do list helps you focus
  • 5 minutes of prep time before your calls and meetings allows allows you to review notes, discussion points, etc., plus you can take one minute to check in and create the positive mental state you want to bring into the interaction
  • 5 minutes at the end of each time block, task, or project allows you to finish what you start – put away papers, materials, and files; tidy your work space; prepare to “change gears” and begin the next time block, task, or project
  • 10 minutes at the end of your day to mise-en-place means you leave your work area tidy and ready to begin again fresh tomorrow

If you could create a mise-en-place routine, how would that change your productivity, your efficiency, your effectiveness, and even your attitude?


Angie Mattson Stegall

P.S. I’ve created a short summer series to help you create your own mise-en-place routines in business and personally. Learn more here: Registration ends July 3, 2014. The course begins on Monday, July 7, 2014.

Naked boxwoods – or how less really is more

You may or may not know I went to Queens University of Charlotte for my third of my three attempts at college. I finally got my bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communications there at night and worked there full-time during the day. And I spent a significant amount of time on campus four busy years.

Luckily, Queens has a gorgeous campus: stately red brick buildings, well-manicured lawns, pretty landscaping, blooming flowers in the spring, and beautiful artwork all around. Not a bad place to feast my eyes (and my brain) for those four tough years.

So I vividly remember showing up one morning and seeing something was very, very wrong with the 20 or 30 giant boxwood plants in front of the main campus building called Burwell Hall.

Those boxwood plants were tall – easily as tall as me. Plenty of birds nested in those leaves. The gazillion squirrels on campus would take refuge under those boxwoods to escape people, the sun, the rain, the cars, etc.

Yet those same squirrels would lay in wait for someone to walk by and then shoot out towards their feet. One time a squirrel actually crawled up the pant leg of the university president’s wife! I imagine she screamed in terror while the squirrel gleefully fled back to the refuge of those huge boxwoods.

So my walk onto campus that morning and see that those boxwoods had been pruned back within an inch of their life? Where not a single leaf remained? And to only see those white stems which looked eerily like bones?

The uproar on campus was intense, immediate, and undeniably negative:

  • Those groundskeepers have KILLED those boxwoods!
  • How could they do that?
  • Why did they do that?
  • Now campus looks UGLY!
  • Will those leaves ever grow back?
  • How long will it take?
  • What if the shrubs are permanently damaged?
  • Don’t they NEED those leaves?

And on and on. And on.

It took quite a bit of education (heh) for everyone to pipe down and understand what happened.

The grounds keeping staff explained that those boxwoods had gotten unhealthy due to their size. They were top heavy, the leaves were too dense to allow for new growth, and the pruning would actually help the shrubs regain their health and vitality.

I thought about those boxwoods the other day when I was having coffee with someone new. I was trying to explain how I work with clients and the results they see from our time spent together.

He astutely said, “Oh, you get to the root of the issue.”

And immediately I thought, “Dang. He’s right.”

Of course this makes me think even more about you, gentle reader.

Is your life top heavy? Are you not experiencing any new growth because the old stuff, the same stuff, is choking out your potential?

When was the last time YOU took stock of your whole life and did an aggressive pruning?

What could happen if you just did a big ol’ chop, chop in your life? What would you eliminate? What would you discard? What is no longer serving you? What could you remove that would actually restore your health and vitality?

Here are some areas to consider pruning during your big chop, chop:

  • Stuff – in your house, office, car, storage shed, storage building, garage, etc. You have too much stuff and you know it. Simplify.
  • Beliefs – those that are limiting and no longer serving you
  • Stories – that keep you stuck, small, brooding, hating, resenting and stagnant.
  • Work – do you love what you do? If not, chop, chop!
  • Debt: the A+, #1 way to stay stuck and feeling trapped.
  • Relationships – got folks in your life who don’t support you, add negative drama, or otherwise drag you down? Time to ax them off your contact list for good.
  • Business – is it time to make a change, a pivot, or declare “I quit?” Do it!
  • Religion/Spirituality – if it’s not expanding your heart and feeding your soul, walk away.
  • Hobbies – still playing tennis or disc golf or scrap booking because you’ve done it forever? If it doesn’t make you feel satisfied or joyful or awesome, let it go!

The drumbeat of my life these days is: MAKE SOME ROOM!

The idea of pruning everything in your life that doesn’t serve you anymore is becoming the foundation of my work and life.

There’s something so incredibly attractive about tending to the roots of a life – my life, your life – in order to allow the rest of it to grow strong and healthy. And oftentimes, the best thing you can do to nourish the roots is prune away the leaves and branches.

Your leaves and branches can be found in your home; at work; in your email; on your calendar; even on nights and weekends when you’re wishing you were doing something – anything – different that the task or activity or event at hand.

Time to get out those pruning shears. If you don’t have any, I’ll most certainly lend you mine. And if you’re afraid, we’ll handle the pruning together and I’ll guide you toward deliberately choosing what goes.

Make some room,


P.S. Still working on the content of the summer series. It’ll be focused on helping you make some room to get out of overwhelm in 30 days. Get your pruning shears ready!

P.P.S. And those boxwoods at Queens? They did indeed grow back. It took a while, but slowly, ever so slowly, new growth emerged. The shrubs looked more balanced, the new branches were healthy, and the emerging leaves were a brilliant green.

Three and a half years of practice

On Saturday, I saw the results of nearly three and a half years of practice. It was an almost every day practice. And admittedly, it was an imperfect practice.

Yet, I stuck to it.

Here’s the magic:

Nelson and I were taking our dogs, Marley and Rex, out hiking with us. We were headed for a five mile loop called Pink Beds in Pisgah National Forest. We were almost there when we passed the Cradle of Foresty and their giant sign proclaiming, “Free Admittance Today Only.”

I slowed the car and looked at Nelson. “Haven’t you been wanting to visit?” I asked. Indeed. And no entry fee was very tempting. We looked in the back seat at two very eager doggies. The ranger at the entrance assured us dogs were allowed as long as they were leashed.

We arrived just in time for a guided tour. As we wandered through replica buildings and learned the history of the Biltmore, foresty, and the school, the dogs wandered with us.

After the official tour was over, we continued down a nature trail. I looked at Nelson and said, “You know,three years ago we couldn’t have done this.”

See, when I first met Nelson, his dogs were…ummm…lacking manners that I expect all dogs to have. And although Nelson wasn’t bothered by the dogs’ lack of…ummm…manners, he agreed that for relational harmony, the dogs could probably learn a thing or two.

Over the course of the last three years, I made it my mission to train Rex and Marley (and at the time, Nelson’s foster dog Tyson) to be quality canine companions.

We worked on:

  • Teaching the dogs to sit before eating. No more bum-rushing for food OR dog biscuits.
  • Asking the dogs to wait before heading out the door. No more escaping wildly!
  • Requesting the dogs wait before jumping out of the truck. More control is good plus it’s safer, especially when there are cars nearby.
  • Not letting the dogs in the kitchen while we’re doing anything – cooking, cleaning, etc. This rule developed after an incident where my pizza was pulled off the stove top and eaten. And Nelson wasn’t the one who did it.
  • Reinforcing the “no jumping on people” rule. This has not been successful in our house and I apologize to anyone, ever, who has visited our house. The excitement, the slobber. Oh dear.
  • Exercise and leash walking. The Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan says, “Exercise, Discipline, Affection” in that order. The more exercise the dogs get, the more energy they dissipate and the calmer (and more trainable) they become.
  • Exercise and off-leash behavior. Rex, the black lab, used to bolt and run crazy away when he was off-leash. We simply couldn’t trust him. Over time, he started to understand. Now, Nelson is working on a “stay close” command: no leashes, with the dogs walking behind him at his knees. Awesome.

So on Saturday, after we calmly spent an hour or so on this walking tour with other people…and seeing how incredibly well-behaved Rex and Marley were…I was overcome with gratitude.

Three and a half years of diligent training. Reinforcing. Failing. Trying again. Being tired and frustrated. Seeing Nelson step up to reinforce the training. Watching the dogs respond. Seeing them get it.

And finally, as we were walking along Saturday, we passed someone and she said, “What nice dogs!” I thought my heart would burst with pride.

Success comes slowly. With practice. With patience. With diligent reinforcement. With frustration. Admittedly with anger sometimes.

Yet, if you stick to it, it does come.

Gentle reader, where are trying to succeed? Are you practicing every single day? Or most every day? Have you let go of the idea of perfection?

Good. Because often all you need to do is persist consistently. That’s the real secret to success.

Don’t give up.

Afterall, if I can teach two unruly dogs to walk quietly on leashes for an hour-long tour, surrounded by people, screaming kids, and the occasional other dog, then surely you can succeed at whatever you’re trying, too.

Make some room,



P.S. My clients thrive with practice, accountability and consistency. I’m creating a summer series to help you: teleclasses, videos, and personal Q&A calls. The goal of the summer series is to get you out of overwhelm and making room for things that matter, all in 30 days or less. Are you in? Details soooooon.

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