Alt Design Summit 2013 photographed by Justin Hackworth

By Amy Hackworth. Image by Justin Hackworth for Alt.

In a series of tips about joyful living in July’s “O Magazine,” a little piece by Chef Thomas Keller caught my eye. He writes about the idea of being prepared, in the kitchen and in life, and uses the term mise en place. It’s French for “put in place” and refers to preparations and arrangements required for the night’s cooking: ingredients and tools, and even, Chef Keller suggests, a mindset that’s on the lookout for potential snags, fixing problems before they can happen.

He shares that this sort of habitual preparation in the kitchen has spilled over into his everyday, and he’s thinking ahead, double checking, and planning carefully in all aspects of his life. This way, he’s minimizing bumps along the way, and he’s as ready for the unexpected as anyone can hope to be.

Because “joy” connotes a sort of spontaneous delight, the idea of preparing to maximize joy is an interesting one. When I think of those occasions I’ve been unprepared—anything from last-minute birthday party prep to dashing around the house looking for my keys—I can certainly see preparation as the foundation for a less stressful life. Though I’m sometimes most brilliant (though most frantic) at the last minute, I’m up for the challenge this summer of developing the habit of mise en place.

How about you? Do you already have mise en place routines that fuel a sense of joy in your life? Do you think it’s true that careful preparation creates a space for enjoying life more fully?