I had two friends come over recently to help me assemble a project. It was a job I could not do alone. It was a job that was easier and therefore safer to do with three people.
I wasn’t sure how doing this job with three of us would go. I know that working alone is cognitively less demanding and therefore helps minimize neural fatigue.
The last time I had done a project with two other people neural fatigue had totally exhausted me after about two and a half hours. That was including the coffee break.
Necessity made me move ahead and invite two friends over. From a cost benefit stance I was okay with needing time to recover from the work party. They didn’t arrive very early so I had time to have everything prepared. I had set out the necessary tools. I had also thought through the process so I was clear that with the three of us the job would be very manageable. There were several things I had overlooked, but that is no surprise.
When the job was done, we stopped for lunch. One friend commented that he was surprised how well I was doing. In truth I was pleasantly surprised as well. We had been working for three hours without a break. Even when I sat down to relax the neural fatigue did not catch up to me. A second pleasant surprise.
So, what made the difference? I have some thoughts on the matter. I should because that’s one of the goals of working with an OT (Occupational Therapist). She is training me to be my own ‘detective’ in figuring out what factors work for me and what factors push me to my limit.
There is one key difference between my experience helping my friend at the outdoor education centre and this recent experience. Helping at the centre meant I had to get myself up to speed on the nature and scope of the job when I arrived on the site. This recent job was my project. I had gradually developed an overview of how I would use my volunteer help. I had several days to get the whole process figured out and was ready for it. My brain was on track and barring any unexpected changes, my lack of mental flexibility was a non-factor.
The Day After
The next day I went to check that the walls were level and squared up with each other. To my dismay the front wall was about an inch over from the back wall. Eventually I managed to get the wall moved after dealing with the steel pins that ran through the bottom plate and into the concrete. Two hours of problem solving left me totally exhausted. Enough for one day.
The next day I realized that even though the bottoms of the walls were squared up with each other I could not assume that the top of the walls were squared up. When I check I was out more than I want to admit. Some more problem solving. The challenge was to figure out why the tops of the walls didn’t line up. After about two hours of attempting different things I succeeded in getting everything squared, and level. Once again I was totally exhausted. Two days in a row of reaching my limit. I did not want to experience that for a third day.
Assembling the walls and making sure a measurements are accurate takes some attentiveness. Though not as cognitively demanding as problem solving how to get things squared and level. I was reminded to be prepared for dealing with certain parts of a project to be neurologically fatiguing.
The challenge is to minimize the need to correct errors. While that is the ideal, the reality is usually different. With some of the deficiencies that come with ABI errors are very likely to happen.
Despite some push back on my part I have been convinced to request the help of a rehab assistant to help me develop strategies and organization skills to reduce errors and other disruptions while working through more complex projects.
Being the boss is helpful for some aspects of a project, but it does bring it’s own challenges.