Even though science and technology have dedicated years of research to the intricate workings of the mind, we still have huge gaps in our knowledge of how the brain works. One thing that is clear from a purely experiential point of view is the fact that the brain can actually skew and distort our perception of reality. This includes how well we work, making some days easier than others, helping us work harder some days. So why do we work better on some days? Let’s take a look.
Fatigue can definitely make a demanding day, even more, challenging and perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of fatigue is that it can be a result of multiple factors. The spectrum is so wide, in fact, that according to one of the worlds best healthcare facilities, the Mayo Clinic, fatigue can be caused by such disparate items as extreme activity or inactivity. It can also be because of unhealthy eating habits, such as pasta, bread, sugars or generally anything that will make blood sugar spike and fall abruptly.
For example, you might feel energized momentary from having a sugary energy drink, but soon enough you will “crash” feeling lethargic and tired. The signals that your body sends don’t help either, because when your blood sugar levels drop making you feel tired, your body’s immediate response is to crave something sugary. But sugar is only a quick fix, a few minutes later (especially if what you eat is processed sugar) you will be just as tired or maybe, even more, tired than you were before.
According to an article on newscientist.com distraction can inhibit a person’s focus and ability to complete cognitive tasks at the same level as losing an entire night’s sleep. The article calls it info-mania and includes the bombardment of information that we receive on a daily basis in the form of emails, instant messages, texts and phone calls. Imagine your brain as a squishy computer housed in a really cool looking case (that’s your head), much like a non-squishy computer the brain has power it uses for certain tasks, and that power is finite.
Much like a computer would bog down if you opened enough programs, the brain bogs down in the same way. Now imagine that email from corporate, that message from your significant other and the phone call from your boss are all intense programs that your brain is trying to run at the same time. At some point it realizes that it needs to take a break because it used up a lot of resources, and it does this by telling the body to sleep and since you’re at work and can’t sleep that means that you’ll just sit there yawning until you can sleep hours later.
Another finite function the brain has is decision making. If during your day you must make multiple successive decisions you might experience cognitive fatigue, which isn’t even obvious to the person suffering from it, but it can result in some very disturbing effects. According to the a New York Times article, a person with decision fatigue will probably seek out a short cut, which is either making an impulsive judgment or not make a decision at all.
Are there any other factors that affect how well you work? Let us know in the comment section below!