Posted 146 May 2011, by Michael Arloski, The Coloradoan, coloradoan.com
Ever since the beginning of the industrial revolution, we’ve been trying to work like machines. We emulate the computer instead of the steam engine, but the results are in complete conflict with our psychophysiology.
Living organisms do not operate like machines. We are not built to sustain high speeds for long, continuous stretches of time. We living organisms are all about waves and rhythms that activate and retreat. We increase in speed and intensity and then slow down, recover, rejuvenate and repeat. Simply put, our biology is still in hunter-gatherer while our demands are in the current era of technology.
The fact is we will never evolve to meet the machine model because we aren’t just hunter-gatherers; we are living organisms who by definition and design simply don’t work that way. Instead of regretting this or fighting it, we might just want to embrace our own true nature and live it.
In the past 20 years, we’ve seen a real shift in most workplaces with a simultaneous emphasis on increased productivity and downsizing. We’re expected to do more with less. People in such high-stress work countries as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Japan are working more hours and taking less vacation time and getting less sleep. As a result, our performance actually decreases and we experience more stress-related illnesses and lifestyle diseases. The book “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working” by Tony Schwartz and others sums much of this up.
Schwartz and his colleagues have amassed a great number of studies and combined it with their work with The Energy Project. They have concluded that some fundamental changes in our work lives and personal lives need to occur if we want great performance and good health, too. Their work shows that the same things we do for greater health yield the higher performance we’re looking for. When we are stressed and fatigued, we are less focused, less creative and are often blind to effective solutions we would be able to see if we were fully engaged in our work.
Inadequate sleep yields higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers as well as setting up more auto and industrial accidents. Relationships at work and home suffer when we are sleep-deprived and over-stressed. The major solution The Energy Project team points to is that it’s not the stress that is killing us but the “insufficient frequency and volume of recovery.”
Living organisms operate on ultradian rhythms, which are cycles that ebb and flow throughout a 24-hour day. Our cycle of attention is on a cycle that peaks every 90 minutes and requires a 20 minute break in between. We often push through that 20 minute downside of the cycle and keep on working, but we’re not very productive and we’re not getting the biological and emotional recovery we need for our health.
We have proof that emulating machines is biological suicide and bad business. Let’s change our habits and thrive.