We’ve all had those days when things come to a screeching halt without warning. The culprit could be dangerous weather or road conditions. Or maybe just a fluke power failure or other minor catastrophe. But it happens, right?
Some people are just happy for the unexpected break and there’s nothing wrong with that. But what if you are the type who is unable to enjoy playing hooky because you’re too busy thinking about what you should be doing? Or you just have a brain that is constantly in overdrive? As I have learned from a recent snow day here in northern Texas (and from 4 years of sporadic “typhoon days” in Okinawa, Japan), you don’t have to let a snow day break your stride.
Here are some suggestions for how to squeeze something productive out of your day if work is cancelled, clients are unavailable or in the unlikely event of a sharknado:
(1) Pull out your list (mental or written) of “someday when I have time” items.
If you have any work related ideas or tertiary tasks that you haven’t been able to take action on because they kept falling in urgency or priority level, grab them now. Go through them. You might find that some of them are actionable while business has stalled for the day. Are there any that involve emailing or calling people? Have you been wanting to research something but unable to justify the time expenditure? Take an hour and just do it.
(2) Get your groove on.
A lot of smart folks on the internet say you should listen to classical music to stimulate thought. I actually disagree- I tend to go straight for more alternative selections like Temple of the Dog or classic country like Willie Nelson. But many of us don’t have the luxury of blasting tunes or having 30 second dance parties at work. Do it now! Here’s your chance. Pull out that old mix tape from junior high school or find a good radio station and go with it. Don’t be afraid to move about freely. When you’re done, write down anything you happened to think of while you were doing the robot. Go crazy and leave the music on while you work, too. It’s your day!
(3) Take some time to handle your own admin.
If you’re a busy person with a family, a job and other endeavors in your life, there’s a decent chance you have unfinished business somewhere. Are you overdue for the dentist? Do you keep forgetting to refill your toll tag account (guilty, here)? A lot of times these pesky little tasks just hover in our periphery and that’s OK—but most of us know that sometimes they boil over and cause problems during our work. If you don’t get to the dentist you might have to miss a meeting one of these days. If you don’t pay your tolls? Well, I don’t know yet exactly what happens if you don’t pay your tolls…. and I hope not to find out….but I think the point makes itself. Knock out a few of your own chores. Maybe you can’t go to the dentist but maybe you can call or set up an appointment online. You’ll feel better. That means you’ll work better.
(4) Do some good, old-fashioned brain storming.
You can do this alone or you can even get on a call with your team if that’s an option during the sharknado. We here at Bay Leaf Digital did this accidentally-on-purpose one snowed in Friday and we talked for over two hours. Come up with a couple of things you want to have epiphanies about, and go to town. Ask questions (of yourself if no one else is available). Play devil’s advocate. Dream a little dream. Make sure you write down your thoughts…. There might be gold or a Nobel Prize in there.
(5) Plan and organize.
If you’re like the average person and there’s any room at all for you to improve upon your organization or schedule, today’s a great day for that. This can be as simple as deleting the copious amounts of emails that have built up in your inbox or more complex like creating a new calendar. Take an objective look at your daily routine (we called this the “battle rhythm” when I worked for the Marines) and consider if any changes would be beneficial. Maybe you should do your professional reading in the afternoon vice the morning? Maybe you’d get more done if you didn’t keep your email open all day, but instead checked it a few times a day at certain intervals. Think about how you spend your time and any obstacles that might be holding you back. Go all Lean Six Sigma on it.
If you choose to spend your day relaxing, that’s OK. Working folks need to do that sometimes. But I’ll bet you’ll be able to pick out the colleagues who danced and made lists.