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

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

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

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

blog.rescuetime.com

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Key Ideas

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Flow is the state of mind

... where we are so immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity that we lose sense of space and time.

It is thought to be t...

Why it’s hard to achieve flow in your workplace
  • The processes, policies, and busy work gets in the way.
  • Most jobs don’t have a clear goal.
  • Feedback can be inadequate.
  • The pace of work has increased, and it’s hard for people to spend time thinking deeply.
  • Your skills aren’t well matched to the challenges you are allowed to pursue.
  • There’s a lack of control over interruptions or when and how you work.
  • The job doesn’t push you out of your comfort zone.
Take more risks

... to push your mind beyond its comfort zone. Flow happens when we get a bit out of our comfort zone. Too much, and you get anxious; Too little and you get bored.

You need to know your physical or emotional limitations and consciously push past them.

7 more ideas

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.

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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.

9 more ideas

Habits Are Not Blind Routines

Conventional wisdom states that strong habits improve our productivity. Daily habits done in an autopilot mode are not the only route to peak performance.

While our habits help us stick to g...

Revisit What You Do Daily
  • Some of our daily to-dos should not require a constant daily effort and could be optimized further. Look for such habits and if the daily effort is straining you, look for other innovative solutions.

  • Time and Energy are limited resources, and as we grow, our habits may become obsolete. We could use the same time and energy to explore new and better options.

  • It is a good idea to pay attention to where we spend our time and see if there is something we do daily but have outgrown long ago.

Consistency and Boredom

Being consistent can also lead to burnout and lack of growth, and to be creative and innovative, we sometimes need a break from our daily activity. When we stop and do something new, we start to be part of a creative process, instead of simply repeating the same thing every day.

The key is to not rely on a rigid consistency but to be resilient enough to withstand any breaks. Our resilient habits are usually the old ones and have some psychological rewards while involving some external accountability. 

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The Prioritizer
  • Analytical and competitive.
  • Long-winded explanations set you off.
  • You don't enjoy small talk.
  • Very focused on the outcome or goal.
Productivity boost
The Planner
  • Hyper-organized, detail-driven.
  • You thrive on deadlines. 
  • You have every appointment and reminder possible in your calendar.
  • Your biggest pet peeve is when people are running perpetually late. 

Productivity Boost: Batch tasks. Grouping similar tasks together lets you get into a flow state and not waste any time switching between tasks.

The Arranger
  • A natural-born facilitator.
  • You’re highly intuitive and communicative. 
  • You do your best work with people and on teams, and you understand instinctually what needs to get done to wrap up a project. 

Productivity Boost: You need to intersperse solo work with group work. Spending the entire day holed up in an office will actually backfire.

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Learning how to prioritize...

...means getting more out of the limited time you have each day. It’s one of the cornerstones of productivity and once you know how to properly prioritize, it can help with everything fro...

Master lists

Capture everything on a Master List and then break it down by monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

  1. Start by making a master list—a document, app, or piece of paper where every current and future task will be stored. 
  2. Once you have all your tasks together, break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals.
  3. When setting your priorities, try not to get too “task oriented” - you want to make sure you’re prioritizing the more effective work.
Eisenhower Matrix

The matrix is a simple four-quadrant box that answers that helps you separate “urgent” tasks from “important” ones:

  • Urgent and Important: Do these tasks as soon as possible
  • Important, but not urgent: Decide when you’ll do these and schedule it
  • Urgent, but not important: Delegate these tasks to someone else
  • Neither urgent nor important: Drop these from your schedule as soon as possible.

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Getting Things Done: the basics
  • Capture. Write down everything you need to do.
  • Clarify. Break down each task into an actionable next step. 
  • Organize. Move each of those actionable ta...
The 2-minute rule
If a task takes less than 2 minutes, then do it now.

If the effort to keep remembering a task is more than just getting it out of the way now, then do it.

Fixing small tasks
  • Fixing things is empowering. Our confidence increases or decreases based on our ability to make progress. 
  • Any progress builds momentum (and your mood): No matter how small the task is, crossing it off your to-do list gives you a boost of momentum and enhances your mood.
  • Small steps turn into habits: When a task is easy to do and quickly completed, it’s much easier to turn it into a habit.

4 more ideas

“Work and rest are actually partners. They are like different parts of a wave. You can’t have the high without the lo..."
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Why we don't take time off

  • We think more work should equal more output: we see productivity not as doing more with less. But simply doing more.
  • We’re afraid of being “left behind”:  not only could we miss out on some important conversation, but we worry that we’ll be left behind.
  • Work has become a larger part of our identity: we feel personally connected to the work we do. Taking time away opens up all sorts of questions that can be hard to face. 

Deliberate rest

It is a play on the term “deliberate practice” and it means engaging with restful activities that are often vigorous and mentally engaging.

It is not a continuation of work, but a way to find activities that let you recharge from your workday, while still being mentally productive.

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Statistics about multi-tasking
  • Trying to focus on more than one thing at a time reduces your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s the cognitive equivalent of pulling an all-nighter.
  • The average desk job ...
When you single-task...
  • you tend to work on the right things. Effective single-tasking requires planning. Starting your day without a plan is just asking for distraction and inefficiency.
  • you accomplish more in less time with less stress: Intentionally focusing on one task at a time has been proven the most efficient way to move through your to-do list.
4 essential components of effective single-tasking:
  1. Cutting out distractions.
  2. Make a single-tasking plan you’ll actually stick to.
  3. Dealing with unavoidable distractions.
  4. Getting back on track when you’ve fallen off the single-tasking band wagon.

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Task switching

Many of the multitasking warnings actually refer to the concept of “task switching.” It refers to switching your attention from one thing to another. 

Frequently flipping back and forth...

Multitasking can have some merit

While you’ve likely heard that it’s physically impossible to do two things at once, that rule really only applies to tasks that require the same cognitive resources. If you can find ways to combine two tasks that are different enough - like listening to an educational podcast while making your commute, practicing for a presentation while getting your miles in on the treadmill, or brainstorming article ideas while doing the dishes - multitasking can actually serve to your benefit.