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Context switching is killing your productivity (here's what to do about it)

https://blog.rescuetime.com/context-switching/

blog.rescuetime.com

Context switching is killing your productivity (here's what to do about it)
Most people wear a lot of hats every day. Your title might be "senior developer" but you're also "pseudo-project manager," "part-time designer" and "chief of inbox relations." In our own research, we found that software developers spend just 41% of their time each day doing... well, software development.

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Switching between tasks

Switching between tasks

Most of us spend our days jumping between tasks and tools.

In fact, most people average only 3 minutes on any given task before switching to something else (and only 2 minutes on a digital tool before moving on).

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Task switching and focus

Taking on additional tasks simultaneously can destroy up to 80% of your productive time:

  • Focusing on one task at a time = 100% of your productive time available.
  • Juggling two tasks at a time = 40% of your productive time for each and 20% lost to context switching.
  • Juggling three tasks at a time = 20% of your productive time for each and 40% lost to context switching.

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A schedule for sustained attention

It includes:
  • Large chunks of focused “flow” time for more demanding projects.
  • “Themed” days to reduce the need to recalibrate between different tasks.
  • Advanced planning so you can prioritize meaningful work.
  • Realistic time set aside for admin, communication, and meetings.
  • Clear expectations for your teammates so they know when not to interrupt you.

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Sustained focus and rest

Sustained focus and rest

You can’t expect to focus non-stop on a project for days on end. But at the same time, you won’t see any real progress if you mindlessly jump from one task to another.

You need a work schedule that pairs periods of sustained focus with rest in a way that’s purposeful and powerful.

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Use an A/B Schedule

... to reduce FOMO and productivity guilt. This will also help you to stay in the same mental space without worrying about what needs to be done:

  • Go through your main tasks and divide them by either project, task, client, or topic. 
  • Divide those tasks into two categories based on their connection, an A and a B schedule.

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Theme your days

Theme your days

... and use office hours to keep your focus throughout the week. One example is the  Free, Focus, Buffer system popularized by business coach Dan Sullivan:

  • Free days are completely separated from business activities.
  • Focus days are spent on your most important work.
  • Buffer days are for planning, admin, and busywork.

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Maker and Manager schedules

Maker and Manager schedules

Split your day between Maker and Manager time:

  • Managers cut up their day into one-hour intervals (or less) and bounce between tasks.
  • Makers need long stretches of uninterrupted time (usually at least half a day at a time).

To protect your focus, try to schedule at least a bit of Maker time into each day.

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Effectively switching your work schedule

  • Examine your current schedule (if you have one). Get real with where your time goes each day. 
  • Communicate with everyone about how your schedule is going to change and why it’s important.
  • Experiment to find what works for you. There’s no one perfect scheduling or time management strategy.
  • Focus on your health. 

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Fighting For Our Focus

Fighting For Our Focus

Scheduling of work falls into two broad categories: Makers and Managers. Most of us are either managing people and projects or making something, like documents, apps or other creat...

Different Jobs See Time Differently

  • Managers can work in time blocks of 30 or 60 minutes, scheduling meetings or sending emails.
  • Makers need almost half a day to get down and create something, requiring an uninterrupted focus mode that is nearly impossible.

What complicates matters is that many managers who are managing the makers think of time as short blocks and try to break the focused time of the makers, requesting them to juggle work or multitask, which kills any productivity or quality with the unending context switching.

Schedules And Productivity

None of us can get creative in short 15-minute bursts of work sandwiched between a mandatory meeting and a sales team call. It is also a myth that people work for 8 to 10 hours a day.

Most people are productive in sporadic periods of time, like 15 minutes, followed by an interruption, then for 20 minutes, followed by a commitment/obligation/meeting and so on.

We need to align our schedules with our goals and create a strategy that helps us focus on deep work.

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Productivity Shame

Productivity Shame

Work is never finished, and we are unable to disconnect from it, causing us to experience productivity shame, impacting our happiness and creativity.

The modern working pro...

The Busyness Paradox: Addicted To Being Busy

  • Personal productivity is not about all-round efficiency, and it is wrong to think about your input as that of a machine in a factory unit.
  • This is further complicated by our mistaken assumption that being in demand means that we are doing a splendid job.
  • We blur our all boundaries between our work and personal life and every minute of the day is to be kept busy as we rush to attend every meeting, cross out every task from the to-do list or to answer every email that we get.

Completion Bias

Our brain starts to favour small tasks that give a false impression of productivity (woohoo! I just sent out fifty emails!) while we neglect the large, complex but meaningful tasks.

This is known as the completion bias.

Time Debt

Time Debt

The choices we make to ‘borrow’ our personal time to get work done works against us in the long run, just like the money borrowed from a credit card has to be paid back with interest in the future....

Track Your Time

You need to find out just where your time is going currently. You can use a pen and paper, a spreadsheet, or an app to visualize where you spend most of the hours in your day.

Create A Time-Blocking Template

  • Block your time for specific types of work, not individual tasks.
  • Block your time for core work like coding, designing or writing, for shallow work like daily tasks and maintenance, for meetings and emails, and fill it with frequent breaks to replenish yourself.
  • Give yourself space between blocks so that you can decompress and keep your energy levels high.