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distractions, which may mean learning how to cope with their telephone on


silent, or learning how to use filtering rules on their device to determine who is allowed to disturb the peace and quiet. Why is this an important thing to do? It


is because if we overload our attentional resources, we are more likely to make mistakes in the work we are doing. Our response time slows, and it even degrades our ability to perform physically – an athlete distracted by having to process lots of things in their mind will not be as quick as one who is not so preoccupied. Or, as in the case of driving, we are likely


to crash. To be successful, you need to pay attention.


Work hard Our mental-workload capacity is impacted by experience and skill. As we become more experienced and skilled in a task, it needs less attentional resources effort to complete the task. This is because the behaviour has become


habitualised and habits require hardly any attentional resources to execute. Habits involve a different part of the brain from that associated with a mental workload. However, for the novice, the task will


require a lot of thinking about and this is using up attentional resources and, therefore,


It is a good idea to create habits that ensure the things you need to do regularly to be successful are ingrained into your routines. This will leave your attentional resources for the unexpected or more challenging issues that requires some thinking effort to resolve


demands a greater mental workload than the experienced individual. Thus, from a performance perspective, it


is a good idea to create habits that ensure the things you need to do regularly to be successful are ingrained into your routines. This will leave your attentional resources for the unexpected or more challenging issues that requires some thinking effort to resolve. As with all skills, gaining experience and


becoming skilled takes effort. There is no shortcut. To be successful requires hard work and diligence. The reward for this graft is an improvement in capability and a better ability to cope.


Underload or overload: find a balance Paradoxically, not enough mental workload can also lead to underperformance. You can probably recall a day when you


had limited amount of things to do and planned to use the free time to catch up on a whole load of tasks, but found yourself unable to get going to do any of them. In the absence of sufficient pressure and


motivation, we underperform. Somewhere between underload and


overload sits the optimum level of mental workload that enables us to perform at our best. Where the exact red lines, which demarcate underload from optimal workload and optimal workload from overload, sit is unclear, but, the signs when these lines have been crossed are well understood. The strategies to manage stress are


documented in detail elsewhere. What is useful to understand here is that excessive workload is a key cause of overstress. But, by freeing up mental capacity to


cope with the pressure of work through better management of distractions and improving skills and gaining experience, much can be done to mitigate the risk of overstress and to avoid mental fatigue. By recognising when there is insufficient


pressure, you can create self-imposed goals to generate the right impetus. By spotting the signs when you have overdone it and are in danger of overload or burnout, you can manage your workload with and through others to alleviate the pressure. To be successful, you need to optimise


the pressure you are under to drive your best performance.


Conclusion We are not machines. We do not have an infinite capacity to cope nor are we any good with very little to do. Success comes from recognising the things that inhibit our performance and those things that help. Technology is both a distraction and an


enabler – it is both part of the solution and part of the problem. If we want to make the most of our


cognitive abilities, we need to work hard at optimising our performance. But for now, leave your mobile phone alone in the car. Using it will not help you or anyone else. CCR


26 www.CCRMagazine.com February 2019


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