I rise early most mornings and brew a cup of coffee. It’s the perfect elixir to rouse my sluggish brain from the fog of slumber. A small bowl of cereal, a glass of water to hydrate, and I’m out the door. During my work week at the police department, I often attend morning roll calls. It’s a chance to interact with our patrol team and find out what’s going on.
Later, once phone messages and emails have been reviewed, it’s time for the morning coffee jaunt. Two Lieutenants join me and we drive to a local coffee shop. Sometimes Starbucks, sometimes Peet’s, and sometimes an independent coffee house. The location is less important than the purpose. And getting coffee isn’t really the purpose.
Several years ago there was a best selling book entitled “The Millionaire Next Door.” The book offered many fascinating insights into the habits of wealthy people. Not too surprising, frugality was one characteristic of many wealthy people. They buy used cars rather than new. They resole their shoes rather than replace them. And they brew their own coffee rather than pay for a marked up cup at Starbucks.
No doubt, there are many ways to cut costs and save a few bucks. So why blow four dollars on an overpriced coffee drink at Starbucks? Because what I’m really doing is investing in relationships and my personal well being. I’m taking time out of my day to connect. To listen, bounce ideas, laugh and appreciate the people I work with. As well as the community of locals I regularly see in the coffee shop.
Coffee breaks allow me to build rapport with coworkers and recharge for a bit. It’s best if I use the break to completely escape digital distractions. I’m still working on that. The habit of checking my iPhone is hard to break. There’s always that latest email or buzz of a text message. The impulse to check is strong, but rarely are the messages urgent.
A lot of research seems to back up the notion that coffee breaks are good for productivity. Check out this article. People seem to work better in batches of time as opposed to long stretches. But shelling out four bucks for a Starbucks coffee isn’t really about productivity to me. Nor is it about escaping work or my computer, both of which I generally enjoy.
Nope, I buy the coffee to buy myself time. Time with people I respect, enjoy and admire. People who make me laugh. And think. Fellow professionals and friends, who enhance my life. When we sit down to coffee each work day, we perform a pleasant ritual. An investment in relationships.
It’s seldom images of a person’s work you see at funeral memorials. It’s usually photos of the vacations, hikes, outdoor exploits, weddings and celebrations of life.
Coffee breaks are mini celebrations. The human spirit needs them. To renew, recharge, connect and remember. What are we remembering? That life is short. Time with friends is precious. And we’re willing to pay for it. We may not become that frugal millionaire next door, but that’s okay. Those expensive cups of coffee buy us joy. And joy is priceless.