A study that was conducted at the University of Birmingham and the University of Oxford measured people’s willingness to work over a period of time. They used a physical grip task where 36 participants were given the option to squeeze the device as hard as they could for a monetary incentive or take a break and rest. Essentially, this was testing to see what choice people would make and which mindset they were in, either work or rest.
To translate this into real-world experience, it would be the difference between someone deciding whether or not to answer their work emails, or simply take a rest and do nothing for the same amount of time.
The results showed that the more times someone squeezed the device, the more fatigued they ended up. Usually, after taking a break, participants were then able to bounce back and start squeezing again. The squeezes only consisted of a few seconds per time, but the fatigue built up quickly. However, even though they were ready to squeeze again, they still maintained some degree of fatigue throughout the day. This was shown through the lower levels of effort that was demonstrated later in the day, even for the same reward that was offered in the beginning.
There were people who got fatigued more often and quicker, who had breaks earlier in the trial but then they bounced back rather quickly. However, there were others who then squeezed many times in a row, but then they needed a longer period of recovery compared to those who were taking regular breaks. As such, two experiences of recoverable fatigue can be seen here. The first is where shorter, and more frequent breaks are needed, whether the other is longer, less frequent breaks in order to get back the motivation that they need.
If you are someone who identifies with the first finding that we discussed, then in order to make your life easier, make sure that you break your day up into shorter parts. Between these parts, you can then take multiple, little breaks in order to gain back your motivation. However, if you find that you identify with the second, and you can concentrate for a long period of time, then you may want to organize your life around this. For example, you can plan out to spend three hours in the morning doing your work, and then take a long lunch break of around an hour or so.
When you switch from break into the back to work mode, make sure that you are not doing something straight away that requires a lot of physical effort or mental effort. But, remember that during your breaks this needs to be the case too. Don’t sit there on your phone and scroll through social media, as this can take the same amount of energy as work.
During your breaks, make sure that you are doing things such as getting a snack, going on a short walk, or even having a small conversation with someone. As long as the activity isn’t strenuous, especially mentally, you will recover quickly from your fatigue.
The opposite of recoverable fatigue is unrecoverable fatigue. As you may have guessed from the name, it is a lot more difficult to get yourself out of this kind of fatigue as this happens throughout the day. It is a natural reaction to doing things all day and happens regardless of how many breaks you have. Your body is becoming more and more tired despite the fact that you are resting. Usually, if you are experiencing unrecoverable fatigue, you are going to need a full night of sleep in order to get rid of this feeling. Though, when you are super tired, sometimes this is harder to achieve than it sounds, leading to more issues.
Going back to the study that was conducted, when the monetary incentive was increased, people found more motivation to squeeze. This was the case even when they were experiencing unrecoverable fatigue.
The mindset of this is the same as when someone is running a race. While they get progressively slower as time goes on when they see the finish line they tend to sprint to the finish line as they want to get there as soon as possible. The reward is right in front of them, so they want to get to it, and their motivation returns for a brief period of time.
Essentially, you have two options when it comes to unrecoverable fatigue. You either need to make the reward more visible so that you can achieve what you have set out to with a renewed sense of motivation, but this doesn’t get rid of the fatigue. The only way to truly be rid of it is to go to bed and get a good night of rest. Without this, you are constantly going to be tired throughout the next day until this happens. At the end of the day, this shows that you can do anything if the reward is high enough, even if you at first thought that you were too tired to do so.
Your mental health is severely impacted by the amount of rest that you get, so you need to make sure that you are doing what is best for you. If you know that you are someone who benefits from longer, less frequent breaks, ensure that you find the time to incorporate this in your day. Likewise, if you know that you would benefit more from shorter, more frequent breaks, plan your day around this idea. There are always ways to sort this out, it’s just a case of finding them. We wish you the very best of luck and hope that this helps you to manage your time better for your personal preferences.