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The real cost of task switching

HumanergyTime ManagementThe real cost of task switching

May

15

2019

The real cost of task switching

I’m a closet multi-tasker.

I secretly pride myself on being able to nimbly switch from one task to the next. In fact, I find it very unnerving to start a task and stick with it for a long period of time (more than 45 minutes) without checking email, staging a blog post on an idea that pops into my head or taking a short break from the intensive work.

Research is not on my side. In fact, a recent study shows that all interruptions take some toll.  Even interruptions in the same context as the current task (e.g. you read an email containing data for report you are drafting) come at a cost. The interruption itself claims time, and then additional time is expended to refocus.

When people get distracted by something else, they feel pressure to work faster. They then experience higher stress, frustration and time pressure.

When the interruption has nothing to do with the work at hand – you spontaneously decide to check today’s flight prices to Aruba – the toll is higher. It takes longer to get back to the original task, and this compounds the stress and strain.

Put simply, task switching is always costly, and results in some increase in stress.

Some stress is actually motivational. However, multi-taskers need to monitor their frustration and stress response to ensure that they bring their best selves to the work at hand.

Have a sure-fire method that keeps you focused? Comment below or message us.

 

Photo by Lilly Rum on Unsplash

 

 

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