Snow Day Productivity

Joe Mamlin, PMP
Senior Consultant, Grays Peak Strategies


It’s a snow day today in Central Ohio. I can remember when I was a kid going to sleep seeing snow falling and wishing for a day like this. At that time, the only way to find out if you had a snow day was to get up early, turn on the radio and listen to the alphabetical list of school districts being read. If you missed it you had to wait 15 minutes or so (which seemed like an hour) until they read it again. I was in Washington Township, so I was always waiting for the tail end of that list. The notification process is better now, but I’m sure the excitement is the same. I’m not one of those people who long for the “good old days”, I embrace progress for the most part, but in a small way the instant text message or district wide email alert has taken away some of the magic of the snow day in two ways. First, there is a level of excitement listening to the radio, or even the morning TV news to see if you were going to be given a free day off. It really compares to nothing else we experience. Something beautiful falls from the sky, and you get a reprieve from your normal schedule, fully excused. Hearing it on the radio or TV is like hearing your lottery number called.  Second, and more importantly, there’s no need to get up early, and naturally you wind up sleeping late and missing a big portion of your free day. I can get on board with a nap later in the day, but it is just a shame to waste this rare free pass that life has handed you.

As adults, we may not get snow days in the traditional sense. For most of us, work waits for no one, and if we miss a day, that’s often just a day we must make up later. There are still things that happen, there are still days when you won’t be able to leave the house. To make the most of these days, and to hopefully recapture some of the joy from snow days’ past, I’d recommend the following 5 snow day goals.

Trudie is making the most of her snow day

Trudie is making the most of her snow day

1.     Go Outside
This is of course weather permitting. If your “snow day” is really a hurricane or if it’s 70 below zero, maybe skip this one. But most of the time, there is at least the opportunity to step out and breath some fresh air. Maybe you need to shovel the walkway, or take the dog out, or just go for a walk. Whatever it is, make your way outside. Maybe even take some pictures and share your adventure with your friends. If it’s an actual snow day with snow make a snow angel, or a snowman, or if you are ambitious a snow fort. It may seem like this won’t do anything for your productivity, but the fresh air will be exhilarating, and it will give you energy.

2.     Make a list
Most of the time our day comes at us fast, and we must react to whatever comes our way. A day like this gives you a chance to get organized and think about what you want to get done over the next week or month. If you are already a list maker, this is your chance to pull them all together, and to create a new fresh one. Eliminate the lurkers that have been on your list for far too long. Think about what your priority items are for the next few days. Then when the snow day is over and you are back to reality, you feel prepared and maybe even a little bit ahead of the game.

3.     Learn something new
I love to listen to podcasts, so for me this would be a great day to search for some new ones or listen to some that have been in my queue for a while that I haven’t had time for. If you aren’t a podcast listener, this is a great day to read some articles, catch up on the news, or even find some new music that you haven’t heard before. Expand your world a little bit, and you might be surprised where it takes you. If you want a recommendation, probably my favorite podcast is called “99% Invisible”. The episodes are short (20-30 minutes) and cover a wide array of interesting topics. Listen to a couple of episodes and when you get back to work you will have some great stories to tell. You can find them at this link.

4.     Spend time on communication
You can read this as “catch up on email” and indeed it’s a good opportunity to clean out your inbox, but this is also a good time to reach out to people you have been thinking about but haven’t heard from in a while. What about even writing an actual letter to someone. Talking on the phone is a dying art, so maybe make some calls to friends and family just to check in and say hi. They might think something’s wrong at first, but they will be happy to hear your voice.


5.     Enjoy some down timeI don’t recommend that you spend the whole day on the couch watching Netflix… but this day is a gift, so you should enjoy it. Take some breaks, watch some “guilty pleasure” shows, and let yourself unwind. If you got up early and especially if you went outside and got some exercise, you have earned a nap in the afternoon.

If you didn’t get a snow day today, or if you are reading this in a place where it never snows, schedule yourself a free day soon. Self-care is not selfish. In the meantime, this is still a good list of daily goals, and you will be pleasantly surprised with what you can accomplish. I have to go shovel now.