According to the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH), cognitive ergonomics means “designing work on a human scale so that the cognitive requirements and conditions of working with knowledge support smooth working”.
Working with knowledge strains the brain
Are the cognitive ergonomics involved in your studies okay?
Studying requires brainwork. The three main stress factors in brainwork are:
- information overflow
Disturbances that occur in a study situation include ambient sounds (babble, various sound alarms, noise), visual alarms that pop up on the computer screen, and people moving around in the environment. Disturbances make it difficult to work and increase the strain on the brain. If possible, try to choose a quiet space for your studies and mute alarms on your phone and the (computer) devices you use. If necessary, you can take advantage of noise cancelling headphones, for example.
Interruptions refer to situations where work is suddenly interrupted. Shifting the focus from one task to another as a result of interruptions weakens the workflow and increases strain on the brain, because the memory needs to be “updated” to the original task when you can return to it. If you have to interrupt your work for some reason, mark with a cursor, coloured font or a note, for example, where you will continue to work when the situation allows.
Information overflow refers to a situation in which there are so many tasks and things at a time that it is difficult to manage the situation. Information overflow can lead to errors in attention and memory. Managing information overflow requires self-regulation and time management skills, the ability to identify the core of the required information and the ability to withstand uncertainty.
Consider which stress factors you can influence, and what measures are required to do so.
Multitasking is the process of keeping several things in mind at the same time and constantly shifting attention from one thing to another. Multitasking becomes a problem if you simultaneously try to do things that strain the same areas of the brain. Moving from one task to another requires a lot of brain effort, thus straining and tiring the brain. Automated tasks such as vacuuming, folding laundry and knitting, or running at low intensity do not strain working memory in the same way as tasks that require cognitive memory. These automatic tasks can be done simultaneously while listening to a remote lecture, for example.
You can try to avoid brain-straining multitasking by paying attention to jumping from one thing to another and thus calm your mind. Stop brain-straining multitasking and focus on one task that requires cognitive memory at a time. Focus on completing that task before starting a new one. Learn to recognise when your mind is overwhelmed.
Take a moment to think about whether you have been able to concentrate on reading the content of this cognitive ergonomics section so that you have not focused your attention while reading on a message tone and then reading the new message, for example. Think about whether one or more unfinished things popped up in your mind while reading. If you answer “yes”, you may suffer from attention deficit trait.
Attention deficit trait (ADT)
ADT is characterised by self-interruption. When you do one thing, your mind is flooded with other things that are unrelated to what you are working on at the moment. Attention deficit trait is said to be the result of too busy a lifestyle, where many things are going on at the same time, you constantly jump from one thing to another, breaks have not been taken, and there has not been enough sleep. Our ability to concentrate depends largely on how we live our lives and behave. Lack of concentration impairs task completion, performance and recovery.
An old saying goes “good planning is half the work”. The curators of our university have compiled great guidelines to make studying smoother. Check out the instructions at this link:
I AS A STUDENT – Arjen ituja (eoppimispalvelut.fi) (see Time management and Study skills)
ext“Cognitive stress is always individual and not only affected by the amount of work or the environment, but also by needs, emotions, motives and personality, individual attitudes to adversity and stress, age, sleeping problems, mood and health, alcohol use and nutrition, and physical activity.” (Muistiliitto.fi)
Next read more about the factors, that promote cognitive recovery
Eating healthily and regularly provides energy to the brain. You will be able to concentrate better on your studies and work.
A diet that promotes brain health:
- It is versatile and colourful, meaning that the meal includes vegetables, whole grains, berries and fruit. This will ensure that you are getting enough vitamins and fibres.
- It also contains good fats from nuts, vegetable oils, seeds, avocado and fatty fish.
Adequate sleep washes away the brain dust of the day and helps structure the knowledge load gathered during the day. “When we are asleep or idle, that is, we leave our brains alone, the brain is best able to organise and set new information in proportion, compare it with old information, find regularities in the information and store new information in our long-term memory systems” (Minna Huotilainen, Neuroscientist, 2021). A sufficient amount of sleep for adult’s brain health is at least 7 hours per night.
Read more about sleep from content produced by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare:
Music to relax
Listening to music can help you relax and thus help you fall asleep. Ready-made playlists can be used from social media publishing platforms. Below you will find two playlists as examples from the YouTube publishing platform.
The brain needs breaks
The brain needs breaks. Breaks during the study day are of great importance for brain health. Activities during the break can also be active.
Brain Gym is an educational kinesiology method developed in the 1970s by the American, Dr Paul Dennison. With the aid of brain exercises, it is possible to raise the alertness of the body and mind for completing tasks and exams related to studying, or to relax and calm down in a stressful situation, for example.
There are many different types of brain exercises in YouTube. Here is an example:
Working with information also burdens the body
Humans were not created to sit. So get out of your workstation, rotate and bend your body. Take advantage of break exercise!
Take breaks during your day with short exercise sessions.
When you have an active break, you refresh your mind and body. A few break exercises are given below.
Evaluate whether you are exercising enough
An active lifestyle has many health benefits, and exercise promotes brain health in particular. Are you exercising enough for your health? Use the link below to map your situation with the UKK Institute’s test:
At this link, you can get acquainted with the sports services of Lapland University of Applied Sciences
Concentration is the ability to draw attention to things that are essential to the activity in question. Concentration can be increased by reducing distractions in the working environment, avoiding feeling rushed and unnecessary interruptions. On the other hand, consciously taking a break from working helps concentration. .
Music to increase concentration
Some of us need silence to concentrate, some need more sound in the background. There are plenty of ready-made playlists on YouTube to increase your concentration. Here are a few examples: