Humans, Multitasking, and Context Switching

The modern age demands from all of us to deliver more in shorter time. The easy solution to this problem is to multitask. However, as an article by Roger Brown points out: “Multitasking Gets You There Later.” At the bottom of the article he provides a good list of references as well.

Even if you manage to keep yourself and your team focused on one project at a time, you still have to ensure that you keep your day “defragmented.” Let’s suppose that you intend to do 6 hours of work today on your project. You can achieve the 6 hours total if you work:

  1. 40 blocks of time, 9 minutes each, or
  2. 4 blocks of time, 90 minutes each.

You will get way more done working the 4 blocks of 90 minutes. The simple reason is that you have minimized your context switches. Therefore you could focus on the task and finish it. Don’t take my word for it: try it out yourself today.

One thought on “Humans, Multitasking, and Context Switching

  1. I’ve found this especially true for software developers. As you are working on a task, you are adding items to your active memory. A context switch tends to clear this active memory. So when you get back to the original task, you have to build that active memory up again. Even if only five minutes are spent rebuilding the active memory, that small amount of time adds up as you do more context switches.

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