In my last post, Don’t Read This. Unless …, I suggested that attention is a valuable, but limited resource. Over time, regardless of what we are doing, our concentration wanes and performance declines.
Fortunately, however, attention is renewable.
Kate Lee and her colleagues from the University of Melbourne asked research subjects to concentrate on a boring and menial task that involved hitting certain keys when specific numbers flashed on the computer screen. (I bet you are glad you weren’t a participant in this experiment.) After engaging in this task for five minutes, the subjects were given a 40-second break. During the break, an image of a rooftop surrounded by buildings appeared on each subject’s screen. Half of the subjects saw a plain concrete roof; while the other half viewed a roof covered with a green, flowering meadow.
After this brief interlude, the subjects went back to their keyboards. During this second trial, concentration levels fell by 8 percent among individuals who saw the concrete roof; while the concentration level of the group members who saw the green roof rose by 6 percent. Lee observes: “Our findings suggest that engaging in these green micro-breaks—taking time to look at nature through the window, on a walk outside, or even on a screen saver—can be really helpful for improving attention and performance in the workplace.”,
Nature has a natural restorative effect that contributes to our well-being and, importantly, renews our capacity to focus our attention leading to better performance.
So the next time you feel your concentration and performance beginning to fade, take a break—open pictures of your last trip to the beach, look out a window at the green space below, or take a walk in the nearest park. Then, return to what you were doing and see if you aren’t more focused, efficient, and productive.
Give yourself a break—your well-being and performance depend on it.
Now back to enjoying the beach.
 Torres, N. (2015). Gazing at nature makes you more productive: An interview with Kate Lee. Harvard Business Review, 93(9), 32-33.
 Lee, K.E., et al. (2015). 40-second green roof views sustain attention: The role of micro-breaks in attention restoration. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 42, 182-189.
 Gillis, K., & Gatersleben, B. (2015). A review of psychological literature on the health and wellbeing benefits of biophilic design. Buildings, 5, 948-963.