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Simple Ways to Relieve Decision Fatigue

Do you ever come home from teaching and feel you can’t make one more decision? You are not alone, and you are not crazy. Decision fatigue is a real struggle for people in helping professions. Teachers are making thousands of decisions a day, and that can be exhausting. Let’s look at some strategies that help us lean into rhythms so we can give our brains a break.

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Teachers have so many responsibilities and interactions with many different kinds of people during the day. Researchers estimate that teachers probably make at least 1,500 decisions during a typical school day, if not more. Just think about one classroom experience, one period, one block of time, and try to count all the decisions you have to make about how to respond to each student, about what your class should be doing, about how to pivot when something goes sideways. All of those add up fast. So what do we do to reduce the amount of decision-making?

In the Bible, we see many examples of rhythms. For example, Jesus rises very early to pray in Mark 1:35 and God rests on the 7th day of creation and deems the day Holy in Genesis 2:2-3. We can also incorporate rhythms into our days. Here's how: 

  • Leverage days of the week in curriculum: We can let days of the week decide what we are going to do. For example, in a high school English class, say 50% of the class focuses on writing, and 50% on reading and vocabulary. So let the week follow that pattern. Work on writing related material on Mondays and Wednesdays, and work on reading and vocab on Tuesdays and Thursdays, leaving Friday as a flex day. You can walk into a Monday knowing you need to plan a writing lesson. In other subjects this might look different. In Science you might always have labs on Thursdays, or in Math you always have tests on Wednesdays, which tells you how you need to plan in order for that to happen.  
  • Leverage days of the week in planning time: Many teachers use theme days for their to-do lists. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, they might lesson plan. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons they might devote their time to grading. One morning time might for classroom setup, another flex time for catching up. It helps to have already decided what type of work to do in those moments when you might feel exhausted or overwhelmed. 
  • Create daily classroom patterns: Having a pattern for the start of class and the end of class is good for students and takes some decisions off of your plate. If you decide to end each class with an exit ticket, then you always know you need to make one. The patterns don't have to be strictly academic--some teachers end with an inspiring quote or a funny question. 
  • Invite students to help with decisions: Teachers can have students help make decisions big and small. Some teachers invite students to help make decisions about what a good classroom looks like. This means they're having to compromise with the needs of the teacher and the needs of other students. Students can also have input on daily rhythms: the length of time or the content. You can do as much or as little of this as is comfortable for you.

We were designed to live in days that repeat and have pattern to them. The Lord created us for rhythms. Embracing rhythms is biblical, beautiful, and freeing.  As you think about relieving your decision fatigue, think about what rhythms can help you celebrate the goodness of life and the goodness of the Lord.


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