Incremental Mise En Place

Feb 14, 2021 :: workflow

Instead of taking a break in between projects, waiting for feedback, and worrying about what’s next, use the end of one project to light up the next one. Just do the work that’s in front of you, and when it’s finished, ask yourself what you missed, what you could’ve done better, or what you couldn’t get to, and jump right into the next project.

Austin Kleon Show Your Work!

Have you ever worked with someone who seemly has complete mastery over their tools, frameworks, and languages? Working with this type of person is an eye-opening experience. You’ll quickly notice the workflow gaps between them and you. If you’re anything like me, this gap will also feel intimidating and insurmountable.

However, it’s within everyone’s ability to improve and close the gap. It takes a small amount of effort, spread over a long period of time. No manager approval required.

The next time you wrap up a pull request, or whatever unit of work that makes sense, take some time for a workflow retrospective. How can you do better next time? Where is there room for improvement? What do you have control over that you can improve?

Control is the key word. Everyone has part of their workflow that is dictated to them and is outside their control. The complicated processes, slow project management tools, etc. There are avenues for improving those issues, but this is not it. Instead, focus on what you can improve by yourself.

  • Was there a library or standard lib function that I didn’t understand, or totally miss?
  • Was there part of my editor or IDE that slowed me down?
  • How can I answer unknowns faster next time?
  • Is there a tool I can add to my workflow to make things easier?
  • Are there tools I should remove?

Look for pains that you have internalized.

Some of these changes will be tooling related, others may be communication or even physical workspace related. It doesn’t matter where the improvement comes from, just that it happens.

This retrospective and iteration doesn’t need to take long. Take just a few minutes a day. The results will be small, incremental improvements to your workflow. Small improvements to your mise en place. They may not even make an immediate difference. However, over time, they will compound to something amazing.