Things To Do On a Snow Day
By the time this blog is read, the Washington State “snow days” of January 2012 may be long behind us. Still, the concepts can be applied when you encounter airport closures, canceled conferences/meetings/concerts or when someone gets cold feet and pulls out of a wedding. The intent of this is not to suggest you micromanage your time to the degree of being inflexible, but to help you gain control over your time and make better choices when unplanned events create havoc.
The notion came to me when I was forced to reschedule presentations, workshops and meetings over the course of four days due to our city being almost paralyzed by snow and ice this week. (Ok, I’ll have to insert this bit of info: Seattleites are light weights. We rarely have snow or sub freezing temperatures, have lots of hills and pretty much can’t drive safely under extreme conditions. The result is that many people become housebound and services often come to a screeching halt).
As I was playing chess with my events and coordinating with the several groups of people involved regarding the rescheduling, I discovered some very interesting dynamics. None bad, just interesting. Many of the people I tried to reach by email did not respond at all. Now, it was possible their power could be out, so I decided to try calling. As it turns out, since many people’s employers were not requiring them to come in, they took the day off (literally) and were not checking email at all. Their having a day off from work turned into being “off” from everything for them.
Taking time off from everything can be a reasonable choice, if your goal is to achieve work/life balance. I am all for that. An interesting coincidence I found however was that many of the people who had taken time off from everything, were also folks that have regularly complained about never having time to network or pursue their career goals. They had been given “free” days; days without commitments and no expectations. Yet several chose to use the time to “disconnect” and “disengage” rather than “connect” and “engage” in activities that could have easily moved them closer to their goals. For others, the time was a great opportunity to connect with people electronically. I was pleased to learn that just as many people I reached were taking advantage of the free time to catch up. The contrast prompted me to consider the dynamics of each approach.
It struck me that many people get so caught up in feeling “out of control” they completely throw in the towel when free time is offered and don’t consider the choices they have. Unfortunately, without “contingency plans” for free time, it’s much easier to fall back on old habits or simply take a vacation. (If a vacation is needed, excellent!) But if the drudgery of a painful workplace or an unfulfilling career is still waiting to be faced when someone returns to a normal schedule, then it’s probably reasonable to say the unexpected “vacation” could have been better used.
You might be thinking: “If I don’t know when these events happen, how can I plan for them?” My answer is: It isn’t as important to know exactly when something will happen as it is to develop a plan for how you will react when it does. It’s kind of like earthquake preparedness. If we wait for catastrophic events to occur to move us to action, we will operate as victims, not as owners of our situations. If we prepare in advance by thinking out potential courses of action, we simply give ourselves more choices and have more power in moving ourselves in the direction we want to go.
Here are some ways to make your unexpected free time serve you better:
- Clearly define your goals.
- Set time frames for accomplishing your goals to build your accountability.
- Break all of your goals into measurable objectives.
- List all of the tasks required to achieve your objectives and goals.
- Be prepared to tackle your list of tasks ahead of schedule when free time is an option.
If getting your office cleaned out is a goal, then taking free time to tackle one small area at a time could help you build momentum. If losing weight is a goal, then using unexpected free time to exercise could help you lose more weight, sooner. (Shoveling snow is a great calorie burner!)
If finding a new employer, changing careers or building a business is included in your goals, then networking will be an important key to your success. Being prepared with a list of whom you need to contact and scripts for what you need to ask/say will allow you to jump on free time and make it work for you. (Look for more information on networking to achieve your goals in other posts).
These gifts of minutes, hours and days are exactly what could make the difference between moving forward and staying stuck where you are. The choice is yours.
What did you do on your last snow day?