The One Thing I did Differently at #ISTE19 (aka “I suck at titles but I’m keeping this one” 🤣)

Sarah Thomas, PhD
Jun 28, 2019 · 3 min read

ISTE19 was unlike any other year. It was probably my best one, in a personal sense (although ISTE17 was my best professionally). I feel like this was the first year I was able to let go and relax, even more so than my first one back in 2014. Don’t get me wrong — I’m still mad tired. But this is a good kind of tired and not the cluster freak evidenced in last year’s meltdown (and resulting blog posts).

I’m not sure exactly what changed. I think some of it was good luck, some more of it was able to present with my amazing teammates, and even some more of it was the work I’ve done over the past year with the help of Iona from Talkspace (shoutout to Iona…and yes, I do talk about y’all A LOT with her 😄).

Here is the one simple tip that brought me the biggest ROI this year:

I filled up my Google calendar with “maybe”s.

I was talking with one of my friends who said she made no solid plans for ISTE and just kind of went with what she felt like doing. I had tried this dope strategy in the past, but I went about it all wrong. Technically, if I was free, I felt guilty saying no to invitations or excuse myself, even when I knew I was burnt out and needed to not pass go nor collect $200. (Retreat! Retreat! Retreat!) I finally found out how to do it in a way that worked for me.

This year, I took what appeared to be an opposite approach and filled my calendar to the brim. Actually, this was the same exact idea, turned on its head. I always had somewhere to go…but…spoiler alert…my plan was for my eyes only. I made no promises as to where I would be or not be. (That is the question!)

Therefore, I always had somewhere to be,but didn’t force myself to do anything I couldn’t handle. It worked out great! There were a couple of times when I had to change course and go chill somewhere to recharge, albeit not as many as in previous years because I wasn’t stressing as much.

With this tactic, I could prioritize self-care without beating myself up… nobody expected me to be there anyway. Just about every invitation, whether formal or informal, my default was “maybe” or “I will try.” It was rarely a hard yes or no, unless I had someplace I absolutely needed to be (or if that was where I absolutely needed to be). This. was. amazing!

All the guilt in my mind and spirit over “letting people down?” Screw that. Everybody understands that even the best of us get a little flaky sometimes with so much going on…I haven’t talked to anyone yet who said they were able to successfully do all the things and see all the people. C’est la vie de ISTE. There’s always next year. In my mind, it’s still hard to reconcile, though, because I like to do what I say. This is very important to me. So I honestly have to say, the underpromise and overdeliver really worked out for me this year for the most part. I feel like that sketch on MAD TV, Lowered Expectations.

Mad TV Lowered Expectations Theme Song

So there you have it, folks…nothing fancy, just a whole lot of maybe. While my new strategy wasn’t perfect, and I believe I did drop the ball at least once, I felt a lot better overall. As I always say, I may be back for more reflecting (and then I never do), but I might just do some periscopes.

Disclaimer: I do not have this figured out, and I probably never will :-D This is my experience and my experience alone. Hopefully, it will be useful.

Thanks for reading, and please join us online for Edcamp Voice, July 1–2.

ISTE19 Logo

Update: I edited the title. Thank you to my friend who told me that “Hakuna Matata” is a phrase in Swahili. I should have known better lol…Disney, man…so anyway, I felt a certain way about using “TF” next to it once I learned this and decided to edit the title. Also thank you to him for sharing the real Hakuna Matata song. Here it is for your listening pleasure.

Jambo Bwana by Lali Rondalia…the real “Hakuna Matata” (listen through the chorus)

Sarah Thomas, PhD

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Educator/Regional Tech Coordinator. Passionate about using social media to connect w/ educators around the world. We all have a story. What's yours? #EduMatch