Dead Time: Making The Most of It


LanceBy Lance Eaton

While time management is a challenge for everyone, for Frequent Flyers, it’s particularly vexing as we dart from campus-to-campus, classroom-to-classroom, leaving trails of ungraded (or graded) papers in our wakes. There are two major types of “dead time” that I contend with, and I suspect you do, as well.

The Commute:  Whether on foot, bike, bus, or car, an awful lot of our time is consumed with transporting ourselves. Some days, I hit three different campuses in three different cities (and sometimes three different counties). This balancing act of classes and commuting is central to the formula we create in deciding our course loads at the various schools each semester. But commuting can swallow up a good deal of vital time.  So how to maximize that time?

If driving, I’ve found that audiobooks are absolutely divine.  The library is a great resource to get them on CD, but if you’ve gone digital and prefer free, Librivox is the place to go with thousands of free audiobooks. These are books read by volunteers who select public-domain works to record and make available to the world at large.  Now, dead time during the commute has become my leisure reading time. I swallow up to 2-3 books per week.

I’ve been toying with the idea of recording my classes and replaying them while I drive between campuses. This would not only give me an opportunity to refresh and reflect, but also to be more aware of aspects of my own presentations that may need fine-tuning.

A colleague of mine swears that singing during his commutes helps relieve stress/frustration (Who would imagine all of this to be stressful, right?).  Not my first choice, but an option for the more musically inclined.

Time Between Classes:  Because my commuting times vary, I allow for wiggle room between campus commutes. As a result, I often find myself with varying unscheduled time prior to, or directly following, a class. These 10-30 minute intervals are inconsistent enough that scheduling meetings, office hours, etc… seems futile. So what do we do with such chunks?

Here is a link to some great ideas to maximize this time.

I use this time to respond to emails, grade, and to record some of my graded assignments in my gradebook. 

So, what kind of dead space do you come up against in your day and what do you do with it?  What tools, tricks, methods have you devised and utilized over time?

About the Freeway Flyer: Lance Eaton has a Master’s Degree in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts in Boston where he focused primarily on Popular Culture and Gender/Sexuality studies. He also has a Master’s in Public Administration from Suffolk University, where his concentration was on nonprofit organizations. He teaches at several schools in the Greater Boston area including Emerson College, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and North Shore Community College. He’s professionally written and presented on topics such as comics, zombies, audiobooks, and adaptation. He also keeps a running blog with his students at When not flying from school-to-school, he also enjoys reading comics, cycling, gardening and cooking.  

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