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February 14

Yes, that day is also Valentine’s Day and typically filled with luscious chocolates, hearts, and flowers! Instead, Texas experienced blizzard-like snow and unprecedented cold. I was raised in Chicago, I remember bundling up to trudge to school, mitten clips, filling the bathtub with water, and watching TV for days. But I now live in Dallas, and typically we have no snow and 70 degrees in February. This could be fun for the day … or maybe not!

The next day I woke up to a blanket of winter white, and a repeat performance of the prior day! Driving was impossible. OK, I will work from home. This had become common in the year of COVID. I turned on my computer and quickly realized the internet was down, and I could not do anything online…no email, no Netflix, no text, nada. I panicked, no electronics, no connection, AAGGHHHH!

Over the next few hours, I realized there was an outage in my area, and the internet would be fixed…eventually.

I can do this! The calm vanished in a flash. One hour later I was pacing, making lists, and organizing cabinets. The first day was difficult, technology detox in real time. I picked up a book that had gathered dust, hunkered down under blankets, and read between naps. The second day I had no water, melted snow for in house use, completed work projects that I did not have time for previously, and flexed my creative muscle and wrote 13,000 words. The third day was a joy, no internet or water, but we were warm and safe. I bundled up, checked on neighbors, tobogganed downhill on a black plastic bag, and worked more efficiently than I had in a very long time.

At 11:30 pm I was awakened from a sound sleep to the sound of PING, PING, PING. My internet had returned, and 600 emails were flying into my mailbox. My first thought was “back to reality!” Then, I felt a weight on my chest as I anticipated digging through that deluge. I loved the last three days, the chance to help others, be creative and focused, and detox from technology.

Last month the blog was titled, “What is your point of enough?” I had recently experienced nine hours of nonstop Zoom calls, and tried to take one more call, ENOUGH! Just push on, you can do it! During the last meeting, I was present, but getting crabby. Forming thoughts or providing creative solutions was difficult. The message to “keep on pushing” outweighed the idea of proactive self-care, and the acceptance of my capabilities. Now, when my enough point is bubbling to the surface, I stand up, take a walk, and unplug even for just a few moments. What is your point of “enough?

Every company, team, or individual has a point of enough, a moment or experience that tests your ability, character, and patience. I assumed the pandemic, remote work, lack of connection, or pivot/shift was enough of a test, but apparently not. Mother Nature had another idea!

Great story but what does this have to do with you or your business?

The “point of enough” for you or your employees, may be related to an overload of technology, and the belief that getting through it all is a badge of courage and success. We push ourselves, and the technology fatigue may lead to a lack of focus, creativity, and productivity. I was forced to unplug and a take a pause, and the benefits were significant. That may sound basic, but I was not aware that I needed to do this for well-being and to achieve my goals. The leader needs to understand that the “point of enough” and technology fatigue are real, and may be a common occurrence for the team.

What can you do if you don’t have SNOWMAGGEDON? Practice thinking time.

Bill Gates is famous for taking two “thinking time” weeks off each year to reflect deeply without interruption. Warren Buffet, the CEO of the sixth-largest company in the Fortune 500, has spent 80% of his career reading and thinking. The CEO of LinkedIn spends two hours per day in thinking time.

February 22nd was National Thinking Day. In case you missed it, here are some things you can do to implement a “snow day” or thinking time for you or your team.

Schedule thinking time in your calendar – Detail in your calendar the day or hour that you will devote to thinking time and communicate to others. If you provide thinking time to members of your team, avoid interruption.
Identify goals or ideas you want to consider – Think about what you might want to think about!
Leave your computer and shut off your phone – Go to a location where you will not be disturbed, and unplug from technology.
Bring a journal – Jot down your ideas. Do not to censor or judge yourself, write your thoughts without criticism or evaluation. You will review the notes later for actionable nuggets.
Do not feel guilty – This time may seem like an indulgence and you are probably saying, “NO WAY!” Try it for one hour each week and assess the results. If after three weeks it is not valuable for you, go back to your prior methods. If it works you may say, I want to double up and give a bit more time going forward.

Remember, you do not need snow, freezing cold, or inclement conditions to stop, think, and capture ideas or solutions. Give the gift of this time to you and your employees.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” –Abraham Lincoln