Every day, school administrators and educators find themselves in challenging situations that require immediate and smart decisions. While all part of an educator’s profession, the responsibility of making so many difficult choices is exhausting, both physically and mentally. School administrators must therefore be quick to detect decision fatigue and develop appropriate strategies to overcome its detrimental effects.
What Is Decision Fatigue?
Decision fatigue, an expression coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, is “the emotional and mental strain resulting from a burden of choices.” When faced with the responsibility of having to make multiple decisions, personal capacities begin to slowly deplete. As a result, every decision becomes harder, and, to save its physical and mental energy, the body’s natural inclinations are to either make decisions impulsively or avoid decision-making altogether.
Educators can be especially susceptible to decision fatigue for the sheer amount of choices that must be made in a day. Teachers and administrators are regularly faced with having to successfully solve problems related to curriculum, funding, student progress and behavior in the classroom by making on-the-spot decisions.
The Results of Decision Fatigue
If left unaddressed, decision fatigue can take its toll on both the institution and the individual. For instance, at the end of the day, after making countless decisions, leaders and educators may skip analyzing possible consequences for lack of energy — leading to levels of risk or confusion that could have otherwise been avoided.
On a more personal level, the stress and exhaustion from decision fatigue can result in a loss of focus, irritable interactions with colleagues and students, or complete decision paralysis where even simple decisions cannot be reached. To lead both the school and the classroom with professionalism and poise, educators must be free of decision fatigue.
Overcoming Decision Fatigue
As a school administrator, you can implement several practical strategies to beat the effects of decision fatigue. One of the first steps is to recognize the signs. If you find yourself not thinking clearly, processing information slowly, or easily losing patience with others, stop to analyze the problem.
Next, have a clear mission statement in place, including goals and objectives that demonstrate the vision for your school. When teachers, staff and students see clearly defined goals, everyone will make more consistent and effective choices. In addition, encourage teachers to create and implement strong systems in the classroom which will lessen the need for quick and frequent decision-making. Establishing clear building and classroom procedures to streamline commonly occurring scenarios (e.g. tardiness, playground supervision, testing procedures or homework submittal) will reduce the number of incidences that require a decision.
Last, prioritize self-care. Administrators should purposefully schedule stress-reducing activities into their week and provide opportunities for teachers and staff to do the same. Activities can be as simple as journaling your day, enjoying some coffee or tea, staying active, and taking brief breaks throughout the workday. By following these simple recommendations, educators will stay calm in the midst of challenging situations and exhibit strong decision-making skills.
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