Cooking is messy, and a chef cleans as often as they create. The act of returning to equilibrium as often as possible gives their future selves the ability to find things easily, and to create from a fresh slate. There are two ways cooks approach cleaning: ritual and mindfulness.
Writers can adopt these lessons in how they maintain their "second brain" (the digital notebook that stores their inspiration and fuels their essays).
The Daily Meeze
The "Daily Meeze" is a ritual to reset the kitchen. We all know that heavy feeling when our kitchen looks like Ground zero after we make some exotic dish. Cooking is a messy act. If a chef is experimenting, they create all kinds of unforeseen chaos.
When the clock ticks and the stove turns off, professionals knows instantly what has to be done. It's clean-up time (everybody do your share). But in a chef's kitchen, cleaning takes on the form of ritualistic organization. Cleaning isn't for the sake of visual beauty. It's an act of function. Only when the tools are washed, ingredients returned, and surfaces available, can the chef feel prepared to cook the next day. The OCD hive-mind returns the kitchen to it's ideal state, enabling the team to operate at peak performance tomorrow.
Chef's think of their Daily Meeze as a non-negotiable habit. If they miss a night, then the team struggles tomorrow, and the next ritual becomes double the lift. Chef's will do whatever it takes to make the Daily Meeze consistent, but also, as SHORT as possible. The mindful act of "cleaning as you go" makes reset rituals even easier.
Working clean is about keeping a system of organization "no matter how fast and furious the work is." It's all about mindfulness amidst chaos.
Each action, if done incorrectly, creates a mess that has to be dealt with in the future. It's easy for a small chain of bad decisions to compound into a full-scale dumpster fire. To reduce the sprawl at the end of a session, cooks engage in small acts of micro-cleaning as they go. Additionally, for a minute every hour, some cooks do something called "Coming to Zero." They step away from the task at hand, scan the kitchen, and tidy things that are out of place. It's a dumpster-fire prevention protocol.
Good habits in the moment make the Daily Meeze shorter, or even, completely unnecessary at the end of a session.
Your Second Brain is a Pantry
We can learn from how chef's handle chaos, and incorporate both mindfulness and ritual into how we save the information we come across.
Whether an idea pops up in the shower, comes across in conversation, hits you on social media, or reveals itself at the bottom of a rabbit hole, we typically scramble to capture it. These golden nuggets of information are either scattered across tools, or piled on top of an Inbox with "999+ Unread."
We should think of our second brain as a pantry. Instead of blindly shoving information into it, we should place things deliberately into jars, as well as develop a ritual to check in on them every night. The name Mise-en place translates to "everything in it's place."
Equilibrium in a kitchen means a chef can find their ingredients and tools without thinking. Equilibrium in a note-taking system means a writer can find any note they've ever captured within a few seconds.
Working Clean isn't about having clean notes. (Fuck Zettlekasten!?)
Working clean is about filing notes into the right place, as soon as you can, in a way so that your future self can find them without friction. It's not about perfecting the things in the jar, but perfecting your system to retrieve imperfect jars.
There is a dangerous assumption that we need to read and highlight articles before we file them. This turns Inboxes into black holes. Whether it's read, half-read, or unread, you want to associate a note to an essay ASAP. This turns your second brain into a series of jars that are associated with future essays.
The Daily Meeze is about checking in on your pantry every night to make sure everything is tidy.
"What have I captured today?"
Do you have loose nuts on the shelf?
Is there an opened stick of butter not in a container?
Is there soy sauce leaking out from the bottle cap and into your Cherios?
Information is captured in a frenzy. Make sure everything is in a labeled container that your future self can summon. If a note isn't associated to a potential essay or a tag, it's basically crammed in the back of the shelf, slowly expiring and losing relevance, until you find it half a decade later.
The Daily Meeze is non-negotiable habit if you want to find your notes and avoid those weird smells from the depths of your pantry.
Notion as a Pantry
I capture (literally) everything into a single "Notes" database in Notion using their Web Clipper and Quick Add feature. There is only one rule (simple but religious) that I've followed when tagging my last 3,000 notes:
Every note needs to be associated to either an Essay or a Tag.
"Essays" and "Tags" are basically two different types of jars.
Tag Jars are loosely defined. They contain notes around a general theme. I currently have 1,630 Tag Jars, and one of them is "Bitcoin."
Essay Jars are highly specific. They contain notes that will contribute to a distinct essay. I have 255 Essay Jars, and one of them is "An Algorithmic Money Supply is a Libertarian's Wet Dream."
The beauty of Notion is that a note can simultaneously live in multiple jar types, and in many instances of that type. Notice how a single note can live in 5 jars at once.
Coming to Zero in Notion
I do my best to store notes into jars at the point of capture, but I'm a falliable creature. To monitor chaos throughout the day, I have a filtered view in my main Notion dashboard. The "Today's Notes" view shows me everything I've captured since dawn. This table me gives the ability to quickly assign notes to jars and "Come to Zero." No notes left behind.
The Daily Meeze in Notion
When the day is chaotic, I don't get the chance to jar my notes as I go. This is where the Daily Meeze comes in. It's the back up plan. It's 10pm, is there cinnamon scattered all over your pantry? I have a Notion view called "Note Limbo." I check it every night to find the stragglers. There is an inspirational quote pinned above the view, saying: "Any note outside a jar will burn in hell for eternity." When the day isn't chaotic, and I have a chance to jar things throughout the day, then the Daily Meeze is a breeze. 0 minutes.
- Be mindful to capture your notes into jars
- Pretend that un-jarred notes spoil like milk
- Develop a ritual to scan your pantry every night
8:40 - Dump Ideas (5)
8:45 - Arrange Ideas (5)
8:50 - Short draft 1 (15)
9:05 - Short draft 2 (20)
9:25 - Final draft (30)