Preheat the Cup

I’m a slow coffee drinker. Like, sips-on-cold-coffee-2-hours-later slow. And I still enjoy it! I know. Cue any self-respecting Italian rolling his eyes. But I do like my coffee more when it’s hot, and so in the morning, I pour some boiling water into my cup, let it sit for a few minutes, rinse it, and then press the “Lungo” button. That way, my coffee will stay hot for an hour or more. If I don’t preheat the cup, I’ve got 20 minutes tops.

This daily blog is me preheating my writing cup. It activates my creativity. It’s easier to work on another piece when you’ve already finished one. Already reminded yourself that you are willing and able to ship. It’s just a tiny bit of dopamine, but it motivates me. It also makes me proud. Before the day really begins, I’ve already written something true. I’ve already made art. Even if what’s next mostly pays the bills, my soul has not been neglected. It’s warm, just like my coffee cup.

We’re familiar with the idea of preheating. We do it all the time. We preheat our ovens, our irons, and our mugs. We also prepare in other areas. We stretch before a workout, rehearse for an interview, or dress up for a date. But for some reason, when it comes to one of our most important activities, work, we rarely put any conscious thought into our warm-up. It’s tempting to think that because you routinely spend eight hours working, you don’t need any preparation to do it. I’d argue the exact opposite is true.

Every time a pro soccer player starts practice without making sure her muscles are ready, she risks being injured. Just because our stakes at work aren’t connected to physical pain does not mean they aren’t high. Anyone who’s ever been fired for doing shoddy work would know. And as for the soccer player, we may not pull a metaphorical hamstring immediately. We can get away with cold starts many times. Sooner or later, however, we’ll get the bill.

What’s your start-work-ritual? Do you have one? You should. Coffee alone doesn’t count, by the way. Your ritual must be connected to your performance. If you’re a designer, you might browse your library for new elements for five minutes before hitting your first logo of the day. If you’re a musician, you may want to tune your guitar. And if you’re a nurse, five minutes of Mozart, meditation, or reminding yourself to be loving and kind might do the trick.

Coffee always goes cold eventually. Even if you only have a few good moments in you every day, however, those moments are worth teeing up correctly. Remember to preheat the cup.