When I had my office in the old building, I really enjoyed having a window to the outside. The flow of the day shifted with the sunlight and clouds, the rustle of the trees, and the movement of people and animals outside while I was tied to a monitor with reading echocardiograms.
That all changed with the construction of a shiny new office tower and my relocation to a new, spacious office, which was very nice except for the absence of windows. I missed the “brain breaks” that glancing outside gave me. Reading echos depends on constant data processing, actively forgetting and making room for new incoming so managing mental fatigue is very important.
I looked to my hobbies to put breathers into my workflow. This included an aquarium with live plants, sandstone, and peaceful fish, like guppies and mollies. The chaotic activity of my fish helps release the knots in my mind. A hydroponic system called AeroGarden ® was placed beside the aquarium. The system generates a mood-lifting natural light and grows stunning flowers that prompt happy comments from people walking by my open door. I teach the beauty of life can be found in the structure of plants and hearts.
Fatigue management also consists of a stunning 4K monitor on the wall in front of my desk that was generously provided to me by my employer. The large monitor mirrors my desktop so that cardiology fellows can follow and learn from my interpretations as I point to difficult structures with my mouse. Sometimes, there will be a group of fellows, residents, and medical students learning from me. At times, I raise my sit-stand desk so we can stretch and re-frame.
I can play nature videos on the 4K monitor like the ones from Nature Relaxation™ and revel from vistas of Norwegian fjords, Patagonians landscapes, and the underwater dances of whales. The monitor is my virtual window. It helps me focus and lighten my mood. When I use the 4K monitor for teaching, I position my laptop beside my desktop monitor and glance at nature images on a smaller screen. My students enjoy this very much because it inspires pleasant banter and intermingles thoughts of nature with the learning of cardiology concepts.
Wherever I go, I see people glued to their screens, together and separated at the same time. Unexpectedly, I found a use for screens that helps me do my work, stay focused and connect with my students. I found a simulation of the ideal of the outdoor classroom. Research pioneered by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan shows that seeing nature manages mental fatigue and stress and improves memory and attention. This helps keep me in flow.
Many people work in rooms and cubicles without windows and have similar needs. The good news is that we can benefit from screens to access nature and work in a room with a virtual view.
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A Room with a View is a book by E.M. Forster that was published in 1908.