It was early morning rush hour and I was driving home after a busy night shift in the Emergency Department.
The route was familiar, the traffic heavy and the radio host was rabbiting on about some funny story.
And then it happened.
That Keanu Reeves moment when everything slowed right down and I watched as an observer as each picture frame of what happened next snapped one after the other.
In my brain-befuddled state I had not noticed I was approaching an intersection, nor the traffic lights that were flashing amber, until I realised I was 2/3 of the way across. I hadn't slowed down, let alone stopped.
Paying attention matters.
It matters a lot, because fatigue (and our technology) are a major cause of motor vehicle accidents. Paying attention is a major survival tool and also drives our performance.
Our ability to pay attention is highly complex and highly fragile. It is easily influenced by a number of both internal and external factors and unless we are aware of these, we put ourselves (and sometimes others) at risk of our impaired cognition.
Maintaining workplace performance today is a given. We are all expected to put in the hard yards, do the work and keep pushing through the relentless onslaught of deadlines, boring meetings and heavy workloads.
There's just one problem.
Our brain isn't designed for long term attention.
Our brain works best operating with shorter periods of higher focus interspersed with regular brain breaks.
Think of it like interval training. You sprint as hard and fast as you can for a few minutes and then rest before repeating the exercise. It's a fabulous way of building physical fitness. It's also the perfect tool for using our attentive focus in the way it was designed for. Work hard for a chunk of time and then rest your brain to allow it to restore and rejuvenate and hey presto! You're ready to go again.
You produce more high quality work in a shorter period of time and have mental energy left over afterwards.
Sounds like a no-brainer to me.
How do you manage your focus at work?
If you've been used to the long slow burn to exhaustion, why not try interval training for your brain and enjoy those brain breaks.
It's about developing the right strategies for high performance thinking.
(Oh and you'll be glad to know, I no longer work night shifts, so the roads should be a safer place.)
Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/20187054@N00/5533696724/">GCRad1</a> via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="https://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147">cc</a>