This is the time of year when I begin to obsessively check the weather. January in Wisconsin can be particularly soul-crushing, but it’s also January that’s the turning point: average temperatures typically hit their lows for the year in the late part of the month, and then it’s an incremental crawl back to air temperatures that humans can withstand without Gortex.
So I check Weather.com in the morning at my desk… having just walked from my car to the office. I’ve felt the temperature, dressed for it, and had visceral reactions to its aggressive wetness and winds. But I have to know right off the bat if it’s actually 18 degrees and “feels like” 13.
I also check the 10-day forecast, in my eagerness for the light at the end of the tunnel. I do this in the morning, around lunch, and oftentimes once or twice more before the end of the day.
Is there a reason I need to know—in such exhaustive detail—the weather estimates? It’s not like I have particularly important things to do every single day. In fact, January and February are the parts of the year I like to use for hibernation, and it doesn’t really matter how warm it is when you’re sitting on the couch watching football, right?
I’ve come to realize that while I do relish the weather report for the hope it brings me, I don’t think I check it because I really need to know. Let’s be honest: the difference between 15 and 20 degrees is barely discernible, and I hardly spend any time outdoors in the dead part of winter anyway.
So why do I check it 3 to 5 times a day? I think this is that weird habit that I go to when I am distracted, or bored, or shifting from one task to the next.
I’ve read studies about how long it takes workers to return to their original tasks once their productivity has been interrupted, and it’s pretty astounding. It makes me wonder if my little weather report breaks are doing more harm to my time management than I might realize. But ultimately, I like the easing of the transition that this little activity provides.
When spring hits, I’ll take a short walk in the afternoons when I can get away. It’s no more than ten minutes, but it seems to revitalize me for the afternoon.
What do you think? Is there a place in your day for the little “breaks?” Is there some habit in your day that keeps you focused? Or are our distractions disastrous for productivity? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.