Reflections On Unexpected Downtime

Last week we were in the path of Winter Storm Stella and I wound up with an unexpected snow day. I was struck by the amount of articles I saw about how to stay productive when you are stuck at home. I found that idea to be opposite to what I believe and wanted to write a counterpoint article.

I’m all for taking advantage of found time such as when you are sitting in a waiting room. Catch up on some reading, write in your journal, etc. But when you have an entire day of unplanned downtime, as was the recent case with a snow day, I believe it is time to rethink what we mean by staying productive.

If by staying productive we mean to keep doing the same things as if we were going about our normal day we are doing ourselves a disservice. First off, you probably won’t get as much done. There are many factors that affect how much we get done, but unless you were expecting to work from home you might not have everything you need to get your task list accomplished. Most of all, however, is that we are missing a golden opportunity to unplug and recharge.

In the case of a snow day, no one is expecting any “work” from you. So why squander your time producing something that can be done at an expected time? Why not rethink productivity and tackle a wish-list project? Or spend the day playing games or binge-watching that show you’ve been meaning to check out?

We spend so much of our time trying to “get things done” that when we have the opportunity to step away and do something different we might not know what to do with ourselves. We might feel guilty about not doing “work” or being “productive.” But by taking the time to do something different we give ourselves a chance to come back to our work with a refreshed perspective and renewed energy.

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