Emotional Fatigue

fatigueAll athletes know that as the competitive event progresses, no matter the sport, there is clearly physical fatigue. If it’s tennis, you are certainly more tired in the third set than you are in the first set. If you play golf, you are also more tired on the back nine than you are on the front nine, and so goes all sports. The physical body has a finite amount of glycogen (energy for physical activity), and our muscles heat as they exercise dehydrating the body and wearing them out. Similarly, athletes also emotionally fatigue as both a symptom of the physical fatigue where aches send messages to the brain as well as the neurological fatigue of having to focus on the competition. The same logic applies to working professionals who show up to work at 8AM and leave at 5PM. There is emotional fatigue from the proceedings of the day that impacts their intellectual capacity. Athletes make poor decisions towards the end of a game that in hindsight (or in practice) they would never make but the combination of other fatigue with emotional fatigue dilutes good decision making.

Knowing this, it is fair to assume that our most innovative and collaborative activities are likely to be less optimal towards the end of a day than at the beginning of the day, unless sufficient and the correct type of ‘refueling breaks’ are taken, and mostly of an emotional refueling kind. Clinicians in hospitals have told me they are tired later in their shifts and know they are not making best decisions, not because they do not want to but because they are just fatigued. As a leader, it is worth considering what time of the day you schedule events or meetings.  The more intellectual or challenging the task at hand, either schedule in the morning or if there is no choice but to schedule late in the day, to modify the agenda to make sure that some refueling is done or more time upfront/before the meeting to allow attendees to really refuel.
This week, take a look at your weekly calendar. See what time of day your critical meetings are. Consider changing them or trying some of the pre-meeting refueling strategies discussed. For the working professional, it is the intellectual capacity (ability to think, collaborate, observe, listen, etc) that is the sport they are being paid to play and as a coach, business leader, you have to consider intellectual and emotional fatigue as key variables when optimal performance is required.
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