I have never understood those people who jauntily stroll into the gym, put down their jacket, and hop right onto a treadmill.

Where is your valuable half-hour spent lolling around the locker room, testing the Wi-Fi, rifling through leftover magazines, slowly putting on threadbare workout clothes, and otherwise procrastinating? Where’s the stretching? Shoot, don’t you want some water?

Similarly, I do not understand how people – particularly fellow freelancers, whose work/play boundaries are often so nebulous to begin with – can just jump cold-turkey from free time into working.

I need the warm-up.

And I don’t think I’m alone.

Warming up – engaging in a nice, brain-activating ritual that gets you ready to work – is a great way to draw a line between work and playtime. It’s a good way for perfectionists and those of us prone to project-dread to ease into productivity. The right warm-up can also inspire you and spark creativity.

Warming up doesn’t have to be particularly arduous, complex, or time-consuming.

What’s especially nice about a warm-up is that it’s ultimately your ritual; you can choose whatever activity works best for you (I’d lean away from drinking endless Bloody Marys, although many a famous writer might disagree). And if you ever find yourself growing bored or getting stagnant, switch it up!

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An informal survey amongst freelancer buddies reveals several common warm-ups:

  • Reading – news, poetry, novels
  • Light exercise – yoga, a run
  • Industry news – checking out websites, news forums
  • Low-stakes creative work: drawing, sketching for pleasure
  • Journaling
  • List-making
  • Doodling
  • Making elaborate meals (yes, I’m looking at you, 20-part smoothie recipe)
  • Messing around on social media
  • Getting out into nature

I, personally, tend to spend my first vaguely-conscious half hour, meandering around the Internet and catching up on the news. Because so much of my work is centered in poking around the human condition, it’s super helpful to stay on top of what’s happening in the world (it also keeps me from becoming a boring, one-note Freelance Bot).

A friend of mine who’s a graphic artist likes to start out each day’s work by doing some freehand sketching; it’s a no-pressure way to get the neurons firing. A filmmaking colleague likes to look through photography websites; even if she doesn’t consciously remember the images later on, she’s inspired to start thinking visually.

If you struggle to begin your work, if you regularly despair about a lack of inspiration, or if you consistently find that the initial part of your workday is the least productive – I bet that you’d benefit from a warm-up, too. Join us in a little light mind-stretching!

What's your warm up? Tell us in the How do you plan your day Hive.

Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.