The French have a term for organization in the kitchen called "mise en place," which in translation means "to put in place". For the organized cook this would mean that all the ingredients need to be prepared and ready to use before you start cooking.
As an example of cooking with mise en place, an organized cook would refer to the recipe for a list of ingredients and assemble those first. Raise your hand if you have ever started stirring up a recipe only to find that you were out of a needed ingredient or even two. (My hand is up.) No, your next-door neighbor does not want to loan you a cup of sugar or a stick of butter, don't ask. Also, if there is chopping, dicing, or other preparation that needs to be done in advance, take note and get those chores done before beginning the recipe.
Measuring out needed quantities of ingredients before starting to put a recipe together is another example of mise en place. This not only saves time when preparing food, it can help with the accuracy of measurements. Think of how much better it is to measure out 6 cups of flour and set those aside when baking bread than to try to measure one cup at a time from your canister and keep an accurate count as you mix. If you're like me, you'll lose count after about three cups.
In the process of getting all your ingredients assembled before you start to cook you can use a lot of prep bowls to have your supplies ready. The more bowls needed for preparation, the more dirty dishes will stack up for the cook. You can apply a little mise en place to this situation as well. One way is to always have some hot sudsy water ready in your sink while cooking so that you can keep utensils and bowls washed as they are used.
With the holiday season quickly approaching, many of us will be planning meals for a crowd. A little mise en place will help tremendously with preparations for guests. Even though I love to cook and entertain, standing in the kitchen for long periods of time is not as easy as it once was. I plan to take my own advice and let mise en place help me out with my cooking. I think mise en place is another tool to help us work smarter, not harder. While I'm not too fluent in French, I think the concept of planning ahead is a good thing in any language. Lest I forget to practice what I preach, I have this reminder written on the chalkboard in my kitchen - Mise en place, y'all.