Down Time = Practice Time
What do you do when you're playing poker and you are not actually playing poker? If you have played much poker at all, you know that there is a large part of the time you are sitting at the table or in front of your computer monitor during which you are not actively in the game. Once you fold your cards there are no demands on your attention. Depending on where you are -- home or in a live game -- you may decide to use this time when not in a hand to socialize, watch television, read a book, surf the Internet, or any number of things. You could do this, but the question is -- should you do this?
There are some schools of thought that suggest that being distracted when not in a hand will help you focus when you actually are in a hand, and this certainly can be true. However, if it is your goal to become a better poker player, then you may consider using your downtime as Practice Time.
What sorts of things could you be doing for practice that will help your poker game? Arguably reading a book on poker is a good choice, however, there are plenty of activities that will help improve your game that you can do at the table. There are an infinite number of skills that a poker player can develop to become better at their game -- there's no better time to do this and when you're not in a hand.
When it comes to how to play particular hands, you get plenty of that during regular play. But when it comes to, keeping track of your opponent's chip stacks, calculating pot odds, adding up how much is in the pot, learning details of your opponents, and the like, these are very hard to do when you're focusing on how to play your cards. When you set your cards down and are out of the hand, however, spend that time wisely and practice.