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5 Minute Clinic: Eliminate Decision Fatigue

I read (or heard) somewhere that teachers make more decisions every day than surgeons.

Do you know how many decisions a teacher makes during the day? An article I read on Ed Week said that teachers make something like 1,500 decisions a day. Now I don’t know if there’s empirical evidence to back that up, but I believe it! It’s almost dizzying to imagine; but when you think about it, it makes sense. From the time a teacher wakes up in the morning and gets themselves to school, to the time that teacher drops into bed at night, the decision-making is never-ending - and I’m not even adding the intersectionality of being a parent or caretaker!

Teacher decision fatigue is real! If you’re a teacher or have been a teacher, I don’t think you even stop to consider just how many times in a school day, you’re tasked with choices and decisions. It’s an unconscious, automatic part of how you operate. Let’s take a second to look at just the first hour of the school day:

You arrive at school, where the early arrival students are already beginning to gather outside your door. You unlock the door to your classroom where you begin to think about the flow of the day. Did you finish those copies for the math lesson? If you didn’t, is it really worth walking all the way to the copier across the building or can you find a way to monitor and adjust so that you don’t really need the extra paper? And breakfast? Which students need to grab break - oh! Wait - Aidan is at your desk asking if he can walk down the hall to turn in his study guide to the science teacher. You guess it’s okay if he goes as long as it’s quick. Then, you remember that you packed your lunch - leftover pasta and salad - that needs to be refrigerated…hmmm, which student can you trust to take your lunchbox to the workroom fridge and come straight back?

Okay, so I went down the rabbit hole a little, but I think you get it. If you really step back and consider just the hours of the school day alone, the decisions you make on a minute-to-minute basis are astounding. I think you’d agree that your plate of decisions is overflowing.

In this episode, I’m going to share some strategies for how to not only reduce but also avoid decision fatigue that I used when I was a classroom teacher. The tips that I'm going to share with you were game-changers for me and helped set my future self up for success; after all, isn't that what real self-care is about?

Tip #1: Optimize picking out your clothes.

There are a couple of ways you can optimize your closet situation to make the decision of picking out clothes easier:

1.) Start a capsule wardrobe - which is kind of what I do. I have several classic and neutral pieces along with a few pieces that offer pops of print or color, all of which are pieces that can mix and match with one another. For the most part, I can choose any two or three items from my closet and feel confident that I’ll look put together. This is a relatively new journey that I started earlier this year, so it’s definitely a work in progress. I love Paige from @stylethislife on Instagram and all of her tips about the capsule wardrobe life. She is amazing and she has some very realistic tips on her blog if you’re interested in going down this road.

2.) Download an app that allows you to take photos of your individual clothing pieces so that you can create outfits in a digital closet whenever you’re just scrolling on your phone. Before I committed to more of a capsule-style wardrobe, I did this for about three-and-a-half months, and honestly, I loved it. It did take some time and work on the front end but once I had the majority of my clothing uploaded, I would sit on my phone and make different combinations of tops and bottoms, which helped me put together outfits without having to stand in my closet for 20 minutes waiting for my clothes to give me a "sign".

Tip #2: Make a monthly meal calendar.

Y’all. I hate grocery shopping! Even using Instacart for grocery pick-up can be a struggle for me because I have a hard time figuring out what we want to eat for the week and building a list off of that.

The last year I taught, I decided this had to change because the decision fatigue I was experiencing when it came time to grocery shop was impacting our week. I wouldn’t have the bandwidth to figure out groceries for the week, so we’d just get something for that night. Then every night, thereafter, someone would have to run to the store to grab ingredients for that night’s dinner. We’d end up spending even more money AND I’d end up making the decision fatigue even worse because now I’m having to decide on dinner every single night.

To make my monthly meal calendar, I downloaded a pdf copy of the calendar for that month and then I’d take an hour or so to sit with that calendar and pencil in all the meals we’d eat that month. I actually loved this routine because it then made grocery shopping so much easier because I knew exactly what we’d be eating and when, so I knew exactly what to put in the cart. I know this may sound daunting to plan your meals out that far ahead, but trust me and just try it. It might just change your life!

Tip #3: Create your own modified year-round calendar.

If you work in a school district with a traditional 9-month calendar, with traditional holiday breaks, consider building in some additional time for YOU - even if it’s just one additional day per quarter or semester. Look at the leave time you have allotted, evaluate your work calendar, and determine spaces within the school year where you can build in a 3 or 4-day weekend. I have an entire 5-minute clinic episode about this where I talk you step by step through the process of creating your own modified year-round calendar. If you haven’t checked out that episode yet, click here!

I hope my strategies inspire you to think about what systems and strategies you can put in place to help you manage your decision fatigue. If you have other recommendations or suggestions, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks! DM me on Instagram @theafroeducator so I can share them with the rest of our community!

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Style This Life - Capsule Wardrobe Blog

Find Paige of @StyleThisLife on Instagram

Ep 17: 5 Minute Clinic: My Fake Fall Break (& Secrets to Create Your Own)


If you are enjoying the podcast, please do me a HUGE favor and rate, share, and subscribe to this podcast. My hope is that the experiences and gems shared on this show will inspire teachers to become better versions of themselves as they redefine what it means to teach well and prioritize themselves.

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