The past few months, I’ve had more work than I can and should normally handle. This was a short-term problem based on some situational factors, and I know I’ll return to a reasonable load after this season. Still, I learned a few things during this time of overload.
One of them was that the type of work impacts how much I can manage. Certain types of work require different parts of my brain or my body. Physical labor requires more of my body. Travel also can take its toll on me physically. But the majority of my work utilizes my brain. Some work uses the part of my brain that processes multiple details and tasks. Other work, such as developing a new course, uses the creative parts of my brain. A third type of work involves interaction with people and uses the parts of my brain that oversee emotional interaction and functions.
I have learned during this busy season that it is not just the total number of hours of work that can cause stress, it’s also the parts of my brain that are utilized by that work. For example, social interaction taxes the introverted part of my brain that needs silence and solitude to recharge. And teaching a course utilizes different brain space than creating a new course or tweaking an existing course. Blog posts come from the creative space. Problem-solving and deep thinking originates from yet another space.
If I overload one particular brain space, I will feel overwhelmed even if the overall time demand is not that great. Therefore, I need to balance the demands on each space. Going forward, I have committed to not only reducing the total number of hours worked (I have a lot of teaching overload this semester) but also to balancing the division of work among these brain spaces. How does your brain space affect you and your work?