I spent this week on the east coast of the US, where there's just been a huge snowstorm. I ended up getting stranded for a couple of days, which disrupted quite a few aspects of my plans. I thought this was a great metaphor for work, and came up with a few parallels.
One thing I did right on this trip was check the weather report before flying from the west coast to the east coast. I found out it was very cold, and that a snowstorm was very likely.
As a result, I was able to bring a heavy coat an gloves, plus some extra clothing in case I got stuck. I also did some research on alternate flights and methods of transportation - just in case.
I was traveling with two colleagues, so I made sure they were aware of what was coming so they could plan, as well.
Look for options
When our flight got canceled on the first day of the snow storm, we explored our options: wait for a flight the next day, or drive to our next city. We asked for a lot of advice from others, looked at weather forecasts, etc. and eventually decided to stay put for the first night and wait it out. Why? See the next point.
We also explored options for places to stay for the next couple of nights (just in case) and booked a room at a local hotel - with free WiFi, even.
Figure out your priorities
On the first day, one of the options was to drive on to our next city (about a 4-hour drive in normal conditions). We decided that:
- The weather was too nasty for us to safely drive - especially at night, which is what we'd have been doing;
- The meeting we were heading to was less important than our safety;
- We could still get a lot of work done from the hotel.
In other words, our meeting wasn't worth risking our necks for.
Know your limits
The next day, all flights out were cancelled again! At this point, we got a little tired of waiting around so we ventured out in our rental car. The roads seemed pretty good, even though the planes weren't flying. We didn't make this decision without testing our limits to make sure we could handle the situation.
We decided to go for it, but wanted some insurance (so to speak). Working with the most helpful Avis car rental employee I've ever met (Nancy in Clarksburg, West Virgina), we managed to swap our little car for a big 4-wheel drive SUV (the last one available because it wasn't officially available - thanks, Nancy!)
Comfortable that we could drive safely, we decided to brave the roads.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
All along the way, we asked for help from others - advice from the people at the hotel; assistance from the aforementioned Nancy at Avis; help and advice from the (also friendly) United Airlines people at the Clarsburg airport; and more. We couldn't have been successful without their help.
And we weren't shy about asking (nicely, of course).
- We got to our next city in good time, safe the whole way.
- We only missed one of our meetings, and got to our destination at least a day earlier than if we'd waited for a flight.
- Nancy at Avis connected us with a couple of very nice folks who also wanted to go to our next city, and we decided to give them a ride (ironically, they didn't ask for help but they were lucky enough to have Nancy as a "matchmaker" to put us together so all 5 of us could be successful).
- We learned the value of "good people" and being open to help from other people.
To net this out, when you feel overwhelmed, stuck, and helpless, try this:
- Plan Ahead,
- Look For Options,
- Figure Out Your Priorities,
- Know Your Limits,
- Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help.