By Stephen Kukucha

This is a season of traditions.

In addition to spending time with family and friends, one of my favourites is to look to the year ahead to set personal and professional goals that are clear and measurable. While that may not sound very festive, I have found it allows me to both enjoy the holiday season and enter the New Year re-energized and focused.

As someone who strives to be an organized person*, I work at being proactively focused on actions targeted at realizing my goals. At the same time, I am always looking for ways to improve my performance and effectiveness. Considering that,  I was delighted to recently discover a book that reinforces my belief in the power of order to prepare the mind and body to respond and adapt to today’s fast-changing, tech-driven world.

Work Clean: The Life-Changing Power Of Mise-En-Place To Organize Your Life, Work And Mind by American author, radio host and record company executive Dan Charnas explores how a French culinary system that prescribes having all your equipment and ingredients prepped and ready before you start cooking is an excellent philosophy upon which you can build a successful personal and professional life.

Work Clean appeals to two of my great loves: food and organization. As someone who has his TV defaulted to the Food Network (Top Chef is my favourite), I was familiar with the definition of mise-en-place. I just hadn’t made the philosophy’s connection to my work and personal life that Charnas did.

Literally meaning, “put in place,” Charnas describes how mise-en-place goes well beyond facilitating the creation of French cuisine. He explained to Forbes contributor Shawn Setaro that it’s: “a personal code of ethics, and a system that comes from inside out….It is a system of personal improvement, not about efficiency, but about excellence.”

As Charnas explains, mise-en-place espouses three core values – preparationprocess and presence. The book showcases and describes how teams that cooperatively strive for perfection and precision deliver quality. It speaks to constantly being vigilant and operating with a sense of urgency to optimize time, space and energy, which leads to the creativity and thinking necessary to innovate.

For many of us, the continuous distractions of the 21st century make it challenging to make an investment in slowing down and preparing so that we can engage in deep work. Instead of making us more adaptable and creative, rushing and reacting makes us slaves to the immediate need and makes it harder to recognize and/or break old patterns – whether that’s constantly reacting to your smart phone or not breaking patterns such as not enough sleep, a messy desk or an unhealthy lifestyle.

On the other hand, taking a step back, setting goals and making a detailed, even granular, plan is an organizational mise-en-place that takes time and effort up front, but pays off by making us more intentional, productive and ultimately vastly freer and more creative. In the world’s best kitchens (whether home or restaurant) it includes reading the recipe in full, preparing all the required ingredients in advance, plus designing a workspace that requires as few movements as possible.

Being organized, sticking to my agenda and having a clean physical space helps me be proactive and responsive to an ever-changing environment. It gives me the presence of mind to understand the strategic nature of any given situation or to catch negative patterns as they evolve. Ultimately, it frees up mental space for clarity and innovation. Professionally, it allowed our Wazuku team to bring on new senior leadership, government relations whiz Kim Haakstad, while also freeing up time and energy to launch an exciting new opportunity — Wazuku Capital.

As someone in the business of helping companies get organized to perform better, Charnas’ book really resonated with me — so much so that I bought a copy for each of my Wazuku colleagues.

From our Wazuku family to yours, happy holidays and best wishes for a healthy, prosperous and intentional 2017!


*What makes me organized? I keep a running to-do list of action and response items, live by my schedule, maintain a clean and organized physical environment to work to keep my mental space uncluttered.

Wazuku Principal and Wazuku Capital Founding Partner Stephen Kukucha is a lawyer, business consultant, political advisor, sports fan, entrepreneur and passionate “to do” list maker.