8 Steps for Productivity on a Snow Day

by Kristin Luckenbill, Jan 9th 2014  

If you live just about anywhere in the continental United States, there is a good chance you have had to deal with a number of hefty winter storms this year. And if you are lucky enough to work for a firm with sensible management who doesn't want you to crash your car on your way to the office, then you have probably already logged quite a few work-from-home days. Sure, it's great to have the opportunity to stay home once in a while, but an unfortunate byproduct of multiple snow days can be a drop in productivity and a long laundry list of to-do items when you get back to the office.

I have had my own ebbs and flows of productivity recently, so I came up with some thoughts on how to turn an otherwise wasted work day into something productive.

1. Sleep in, a little

According to the Center for Disease Control, a third of all Americans are sleep deprived. Do yourself a favor and sleep an extra 30-60 minutes. After all, you don't have to drive to work today so you have already gained back your commuting time. Don't sleep in too late though. Get out of bed in time for the normal start of your work day. Remember, you are still working today so you should get in a professional mentality from the start.

2. Allow yourself to be a kid

If you have kids, or tend to behave like a child whenever it snows (that's me), by all means get outside and enjoy the gift that Mother Nature just provided you with! If you just purchased a new pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes, there is no reason to sit inside all day wishing you could go play with them in the fresh snow. Those thoughts, or your children, will be a distraction until you give in and let yourself have some fun. Go out and play. Get it out of your system. Seriously, right now. Go!

3. Shower and get dressed

Okay, welcome back. I hope you enjoyed the snow. Now it's time to get down to business. Clean yourself up and get dressed in real clothing, not sweatpants. It doesn't matter how cold it is outside. Dress for work. You don't have to put on your suit, but at least put on some sort of respectable clothing that makes you feel like a productive human being. Getting dressed for work will help you dial into your working mindset.

4. Find a private, quiet place to work

If you have a home office or desk, you are all set. If not, find yourself a good working space to set up your laptop and other work materials. A dining room or kitchen table is usually a suitable spot, particularly if it is away from most of your household traffic. Sit in an upright chair with a tabletop. Your couch and bed are not acceptable alternatives! Your brain associates the couch with watching television and socializing, not working. And even if you are actually able to get past that hurdle, you are probably doing your neck or back alignment some damage. Schedule your day as if you are in the office. Take your normal lunch and coffee breaks. As much as you can, try to avoid household chores or frequent trips to the refrigerator.

5. Turn the television off

If you like having some white noise in the background while you work, having the news on or some music can be suitable. I particularly enjoy the local news on the morning of a snowstorm. Who doesn't love sitting in the comfort of their warm home watching a clip of some naive soul who thought they could make it to work but now can't get their car out of the snow bank? I personally wouldn't want to miss that. But after absorbing your fill of those stories, go ahead and turn the TV off. Dr. Phil is not going to help you get your work done. Neither is a marathon of South Park episodes.

6. Tend to the most critical items first

Let's be honest, unless you are a work-from-home pro, at some point during the day you are going to be distracted. Work on your top priority items first. Focus your energy and check off a few important boxes. Avoid the stress of playing catch-up over the next few days and give yourself the ability to go to the office tomorrow and say, "Look what I got done at home yesterday." As an added bonus, staying on task can also offer you an opportunity to build trust with your boss and coworkers. Show them how reliable you are when you work independently. The next time something comes up requiring you to work from home, everyone will trust that you are going to take care of your responsibilities.

7. Free your mind to work differently

Once you have finished your critical tasks, take advantage of your freedom and do things (productive things!) that you don't typically do when you are at the office. Dip into your non-office brain for some creativity. For example, I think it would benefit me to spend more time reading books or articles related to my field of work, however I seem to be completely incapable of comprehending anything I read while I am in the office. A snow day is the perfect opportunity for me to crack open a good book and learn something new. You can also start working on a project you've been thinking of but always seem to put off, or perhaps write a blog post about improving snow day productivity...

8. Reward yourself

Congratulations! You made it through the day and actually got a few things done. Celebrate your snow day success with a warm beverage in front of the fire. You deserve it.

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