Under the surface of our teaching life lurks a greedy time sucking monster. . . two, actually. They go by many names, these monsters. They’re the opposing team in our winning season, the fly in the coffee we just made, the slow cashier at the grocery store. These two hidden habits drain away our energy and time every day.
If I only had known how much these habits hurt me in the past, I would have saved hours of time and the consequences of ineffective decisions. But we are together now, so here are two habits that you can change right now that will boost both your happiness and your impact as a teacher.
Sucker Habit Number 1. Lack of sleep. An abundance of research demonstrates how ineffective or unproductive we become with a lack of sleep. Without enough consistent rest, we might spend 2 hours on something that we could finish in 20 minutes with enough sleep.
Look at it this way, the human brain is only capable of expending so much energy, based upon the fuel it receives. And it needs rest to refuel. If you don’t provide it with rest, it will not produce for you. Caffeine is only effective for so long.
A few years ago, I made the mistake of skipping sleep to get more work done. And each day, I would forget something important, lose my temper, or waste time solving problems that could have been solved easily if had enough sleep. The result: too much time wasted.
How so we get enough sleep and still get everything completed? Plan. Plan to grade during your child’s soccer practice or while you’re watching a movie. Don’t stay up late trying to get last-minute things checked off your to do list! Delegate that to your better-rested self. You’ll make more effective and better decisions that way. . .which leads to the second hidden habit. . .
Sucker Habit Number 2: Making Decisions with Decision Fatigue. Did you know that the human brain is capable of making only about 200 decisions in a given day? Once your brain makes those decisions, every one after that is likely a bad decision, if you can even make a decision to start with. I’m sure you’ve had those moments when you’re doing your planning after school.
I noticed brain fatigue just this past week. I was driving my son to an after-school doctor appointment. I planned the route in my head but drove instead a route that took me 10 minutes longer that it should have taken. Why? Because I made the wrong choice—I couldn’t follow my own decisions! I should have used Siri!
How do you eliminate the bad decisions as a result of decision fatigue? I do one of two things; I limit the amount of decisions I make at the end of the day, and I reduce the number of decisions on busy days.
This approach doesn’t always work when you’re planning after school. However, on the days I plan after school, I make sure I have all of my plans for the day prepared the day before, so I have less decisions to make every day to begin with. And one decision I always plan the night before is clothes for the next day.
My obsession for decades—-literally decades—is the human experience. As a teacher, I’m obsessed with how the brain works at optimal levels. If we don’t take care of our brains—-like our cars—they’re going to break down.
Do you want a clunker broken down on the side of the road or a luxury SUV cruising along comfortably?
I choose the SUV, so I’m going get plenty of rest and rest well in my decisions. What do you choose?