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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

Snow Days. What Do You Do?

Note from Ned

Snow day.  This is my second snow day in a week.

For kids, snow days are an unalloyed delight.  But for adults, especially small business owners like me (my medical offices amount to small businesses), they are a disaster.  My patients miss appointments, they get annoyed, my practice loses income, all of us who work there get anxious.

Of course, we deal with it, we’ve dealt with it before, and we will again.

But then at home, there’s shoveling.  And where I live, you’re responsible not just for your yard, you’re also responsible for the sidewalks.  Since we live on a corner, we have lots of sidewalks.  Fortunately, other than clearing a path to get the newspaper and let the mailman in, we’re able hire the man who cuts our grass to clear away the snow.

Which gives me free time on snow days.

Which I adore.

Once my anxiety subsides, I settle in for a long’s day’s whatever-I-want-to-do.  What would you do?

For me, today it was working on the memoir I am writing.  Although writing always causes me distress–it’s in the nature of the work, only idiots like me do it–I am loving this project.  It’s not like anything I have ever written before.  I just hope other people will enjoy reading it.

But it got me to wondering, as I sat down to write this monthly note, How do we decide what to do on a snow day?  How do we decide what to do when no one has decided what we’re supposed to do?

I settled on the memoir as priority #1.  I wonder what I would have chosen if I were not working on that.  For that matter, I wonder why I chose to work on that.  There’s plenty of other things to do, lightbulbs to change, and of course there is nothing, blessed nothing, beckoning me to do that as well.

When you were a kid, there was no doubt.  You’d have fun!  Didn’t really matter what you actually did, you’d have fun for sure.  Maybe play outside, maybe watch TV, maybe go over to a friend’s house, maybe catch up on overdue homework (maybe!), who knows, but you’d have no trouble deciding.

But now, as an adult, if you got a snow day, what would you do?  Let’s say, due to the snow, you could not go anywhere, you were stuck at home.  And let’s say you were lucky, your electricity did not go out (we lost ours for a few hours yesterday and it got pretty cold inside–my wife and I huddled under the covers).

What would you do?  Cook up a storm?  Pay bills?  Watch old movies on TV? Fool around with your mate?  Read a book you’ve been meaning to read?  Surf the Internet for the perfect whatever? Plan a vacation?

My point is we can get so scheduled that when an unexpected free day opens up, we are truly lucky.  But what to do?

        I can’t write all day, not many people can.  So I had to fill in my day with other activities.  I just bought a pressure cooker, so I spent an hour or so learning how to use it.  I was scared of it, so was my wife, so we approached it like it was a bomb.  We handled it with great care.  But, with time, we followed the directions and in 90 minutes cooked a very tasty pork shoulder.

      What else?  I called my friend, John Ratey, and asked him to send me his latest thoughts on the science behind ADHD for a talk I am giving soon and a book John and I are soon to write.  I called my 3 kids, and managed to connect with 2 of them.  And now, I am writing this note from Ned.

You know, every advice book you ever read tells you to live this day as if it were your last. But no one does that.  Still, to tell you the truth, if this were my last day, other than consulting with attorneys and arranging for my funeral, I am not sure I would have done anything terribly differently.

Tom Friedman’s new book, which I highly recommend, is called, Thank You For Being Late.  It’s kind of a paean to snow days.  Of course, Friedman being Friedman, it’s chock full of arresting insights and trenchant analysis, but it is also a cautionary reminder to remain open to free time, ready for snow days, equipped with an imagination that’s ready to pounce, rather than feel bad about what you’re missing by not being at work.

One last thing.  As you know, those of you who read these notes, my passion is to connect with people in general, and you readers in particular.  Please email me.  Sometimes I feel sort of isolated, wondering who reads these.  I’m a terrible marketer, I’m not like my friends Joe Polish or Tim Ferris who are genius marketers, so I rely on luck. But I’d love to hear from you!  What’s on your mind?  Email me at drhallowell@gmail.com.  About anything.

And try listening to my podcast, called, simply, Distraction.  But it’s really about connection.  It’s dedicated to trying to build a community, to bring people together, to create networks of warmth, humor, and joy.  You can download it on iTunes, or go to our website, distractionpodcast.com, and, of course, it’s free.

Goodbye for now.  Enjoy all your snow days.

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