Earlier this week, the city of London, Ontario received a dumping of three feet of snow in two days. After dragging myself through the snow Monday morning, the university wisely called a snow day. And then, two more snow days.
As a child, snow days were those rare days when the school bus couldn’t make it through the snow. You cuddled up inside to watch television, play with toys or help mom bake cookies. When the storm cleared up, you went outside, covered from head to toe in winter gear, and made snow angels.
But this time, snow days were different. I packed up my laptop and files and drove home. I then set up my laptop in my home office, and started to work. Essentially my day didn’t really change. I checked email, followed up with students, prepped classes. It wasn’t really a snow day at all. With technology, for many people it doesn’t matter where we work, only that we have access to the internet.
And then, I received a blog post from the Skinny Professor, “What Happened to Downtime”. We know that downtime, sleep, daydreaming, and play are all important to our cognitive processes. We can be more effective when we have time to think deeply and to not think at all. If we’re never unplugged, we never give ourselves a chance to muse. Snow days are those rare days where we have permission to just do nothing.
When marking papers or doing research, I’ve recently taken to removing myself from my office and home. Why? To escape the computer. By unplugging for a few hours, I allow myself the luxury of focus. For me, the temptation to surf, check email, facebook, linkedin, twitter is just too great if the technology is in front of me. So my solution has been to go where I can’t access the technology. If I don’t bring the computer and phone with me, the temptation isn’t there.
I’m prescribing old-fashioned “snow days” for the rest of the winter. That is, days where I’m unplugged, and able to focus on the tasks that require deep thought. How about you? Can you unplug for one afternoon a week?