Question of the Week

Why do I feel tired and bored in the office?

Mon, 28th Apr 2014

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Question

Justin asked:

Why do I feel bored and tired and struggle to concentrate when I'm in the office but don't feel like this at the weekend?

 

Answer

Hannah - What's the scientific rationale for this? Dr. Tom Manly from the Cambridge cognition and brain sciences unit.Sleeping Student

Tom - I think a broad assumption obviously is that the things that you're doing in the office are less interesting and less enjoyable than the things that you're choosing to do at the weekend. But I think with any task, we can see that there's a sort of dynamic interaction with the degree to which it captures the resources of the brain that are needed to do that task. So, if weíre doing a task which is very interesting and salient, itís offering lots of stimulation that capture our attention. If you think about things like novelty, if itís very new that will tend to capture our attention, or if lots of very exciting things are happening very quickly.

Hannah - Frequent flurries of interesting, novel and salient tasks. Does that sound like your work? Perhaps Justinís work is more like this...

Tom - Watching paint dry, watching test cricket Ė all our effort is involved in monitoring whether our attention has moved onto the task, or has moved away from it and keeping it there. And that's what we experience as this subjective sense of effort. Itís easy to see how some tasks that we do in the office would more easily fit into that category. Weíve done it many, many times before. It holds very little interest or excitement for us.

Hannah - And are there any differences between weekend activities and what you're up to at work?

Tom - Maybe how sensitive the task is to a lapse in attention. So, if you're in the office during the annual accounts, your attention may wander just for a moment, but the consequence of that is that everything will be out in the accounts and you'll have to start again. So, you'll really notice that lapse and attention whereas at the weekend maybe you're, I don't know, hovering, pottering around the house, you probably wonít even notice if your attention has drifted from the task. It has no consequence. But the real key, if weíre able achieve it and itís not always easy to achieve I realise is, if we want to pay attention very well during our work, then do something that you love. That's what makes it easy to pay attention.

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