Have you ever experienced decision fatigue? Like your brain is so exhausted, you don't know what to do? 🥴
The theory suggests that a human's ability to make decisions can get worse after making many decisions, as their brain becomes more fatigued. The overload of minute-by-minute decision-making is mentally exhausting. By the time the average person goes to bed, they will have made up to 35,000 decisions.
The first few weeks of school are mentally and physically exhausting. The minute-by-minute micro-decisions that educators make on a daily basis can cause irritability, procrastination, avoidance, and so much more!
The more decisions you make, the more shortcuts your brain tries to look for shortcuts. This can look like procrastination, impulsivity, irritability, avoidance, and indecision. As an educator, this can pose a problem being that we have to make many minute-by-minute decisions to gain some sense of control and routine.
Think about the decisions you have to make in one day of teaching.....
Should I respond to this email?
Who should I call on next?
Should I take attendance yet?
How can I rephrase this so they get it?
How much more wait time?
Is this a good stopping point?
What do I wear?
Make copies now or later?
What's for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner?
Should I add my opinion in this meeting?
How can I help this person?
Stop and chat or get some work done?
And that's probably just the first half of your day! YOU make SO many decisions each day. No wonder you're so tired!
Here are some ways you can get ahead of decision fatigue.
💫 Streamline routines at home and at work. Automating tasks and practices enables your family and students to know what to expect. If you know going to the grocery store after work will result in you buying unnecessary items, schedule a day and time when the grocery shopping will get done.
💫 Implementing workstation/center rotations, daily. This will take LOTS of practice and training BUT will save so much time and prevent future headaches. You'll have the classroom running like a well-oiled machine in no time. Once your centers are up and going, pick one day per week to plan for and prepare materials for centers. Every Friday, I made all my copies, assigned all digital work, and prepped materials for the following week. Saved lots of time and provided materials to reuse for the next year.
💫 Planning meals and outfits helps minimize decisions because you already know what to expect. When I was in the classroom, I rotated between a few pairs of olive green pants every Tuesday. Even my kids knew it was "Olive Green Pants Tuesday" We could wear jeans with
school spirit colors on Mondays and Fridays, so I'd already had 3 possible outfits picked out. It eliminated the confusion of the morning.
💫 Track the source of your decision fatigue. Determine the point of the day that you find yourself experiencing a fogginess. Is it after a specific time of the day? Or after a weekly meeting? I noticed that I was exhausted after recess, so I changed the structure of my second block to enter it with ease rather than hot, fifth-grade-smelling chaos 😂. As I conferred with students, this looked like a 10-15 minute warm-up and independent reading time. It created space for me to reserve my energy and everyone enjoyed the peace and quiet.
💫 Schedule daily time for YOU! How can we squeeze in 5-10 minutes just for you? Perhaps a sweaty workout after work? Or jamming to your favorite song on the way home? Or sitting in silence to slowly release the stress of the day? Either way, make sure you're penciling some YOU time in your planner.