Home Good Teaching Productive Downtime: It’s Not a Paradox!

Productive Downtime: It’s Not a Paradox!

by Susan Meyer

When the word “downtime” is said, most people think about activities such as watching TV, eating a snack, or sleeping, which gives it a negative, lackadaisical connotation. In actuality, downtime can be quite productive, especially when a lot of information is given to you at once. During TCEA’s convention, for example, many attendees go to session after session because they don’t want to miss any valuable information. While this is all great, attendees are actually missing out on the other valuable side of utilizing their downtime. Whether you’re at a TCEA convention or going through your daily routine, here are some tips on how to get the most out of your downtime.

Process Your Information

Though it seems great on the surface, receiving nonstop information can be counterproductive. For instance, if your students received nonstop information from nonstop classes without having a chance to reflect on it, research shows that their retention rate will decrease and they will not retain their class material. This also happens when educators attend sessions back-to-back at our TCEA conventions. There’s no doubt that the information is helpful, but it will do no good if you aren’t taking the time to let it marinate. Instead of planning your day with information overload, plan out pockets of time to reflect on what you have learned.

Reflection allows you to think deeply about not only what you’ve learned, but how you learned it. It is a powerful way to examine your own learning processes and how effective (or ineffective they are). Mulling over what and how you’ve learned something new during downtime also helps your neurons to build connections to prior knowledge, which enhances how long that new learning will be retained.

Build Your PLN (Personal Learning Network)

Some of the best tips and tricks you can receive are from those who have already gone through what you are learning. However, if you don’t take the time to talk to others and hear about their experiences, then you are at risk of missing the best way to apply what you are learning. For instance, though our TCEA Convention offers over 1,100 sessions and 470 exhibits, these details are only half of the experience. The other half is the networking opportunities with educators from all different walks of life. All of them have amazing stories to tell and enriching resources to offer. You just have to take advantage of it.

Chances are you have a passion for learning if your field is in education. Downtime is the perfect opportunity to learn new ed tech tricks and teaching methods from your colleagues. Some educators, however, may be a bit more introverted and prefer not to talk to other people if they don’t have to. If you’re more reserved, build your online PLN by using your downtime to catch up on blogs or community forums or follow new educators on Twitter. As long as you have some kind of learning community, it doesn’t matter if it’s online or face to face.

Plan Your Next Step

Once you’ve had a chance to process your thoughts in your downtime, you can take advantage of this time to transition into your next step. Though you’re not expected to have every detail, it’s always helpful to have some sort of plan in mind, whether it’s your daily routine or attending a convention. If you’re constantly moving, you’re at risk for missing time to build a strategy of really making the most of your day.

For example, at our 2018 TCEA Convention & Exposition, we offer sessions for educators with every level of expertise. Therefore, some classes may not be of value to you because you already know the information or you may not know enough information. Using your downtime to strategize what sessions to attend will maximize your convention experience and even allow for some free time because it won’t be wasted on sessions you don’t need. This idea could be used in the classroom as well.

Take a Breather

Last but not least, downtime can be used to refresh yourself. Sometimes it’s best to completely separate yourself from your work and busy schedule to be reminded of what you’re truly trying to accomplish. Downtime allows for breathing room to make your priorities clear and focused. For instance, if your students are constantly weighed down by nonstop assignments, they will soon begin to feel stretched too thin and overwhelmed. This can lead to work of less detail and quality. For you and your students to be the best versions of yourselves, take a step back and renew your mind. You’ll thank yourself later.

As mentioned, downtime offers various productive opportunities. It allows for you to process information, build your PLN, plan for what’s to come, and become refreshed. These benefits will help you become more productive and proactive, while also setting an example for your students.


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