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Context Switching – How it’s diminishing your productivity

In today’s world of digital and remote work, our written to-do lists have transferred to “open tabs” on our laptops. New notifications, emails, and alerts are constantly flowing in. Priorities have to quickly pivot in order to address the next immediate need. And before you’ve solved the first issue, you’ve got another in your inbox. As each new notification comes in, your attention is drawn away from your immediate task, forced to acknowledge the incoming information, and discern whether or not the request is a priority. If it is – it must be addressed immediately. If not, it must be dismissed, filed somewhere in your brain to address at a later time, and you must reorient yourself to the task at hand.

This act of shifting your attention between different tasks, apps, or projects is a phenomenon called context switching, and it may be the root cause of you feeling unproductive, stressed, and burnt out at work. 

Context switching is the act of switching between different tasks or activities, often within a short period of time. It can be caused by interruptions, multitasking, or simply changing focus from one task to another. Research has shown that context switching can lead to significant productivity loss and can have negative effects on cognitive performance.

One study conducted by the University of California, Irvine, found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task after an interruption. The study also found that people who are frequently interrupted at work reported higher levels of stress, frustration, and pressure, and lower levels of job satisfaction.

Another study conducted by the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who multitasked experienced a 40% drop in productivity compared to those who focused on one task at a time. The study also found that the time it took for people to complete a task increased by 50% when they were interrupted by an instant message or email.

Other studies have shown that context switching can have negative effects on memory and cognitive performance. For example, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that switching between tasks can lead to a 20-40% reduction in cognitive performance.

Overall, the research suggests that context switching can have significant negative effects on productivity, cognitive performance, and overall well-being. To minimize the negative effects of context switching, it is important to limit interruptions, minimize multitasking, and create a work environment that allows for focused, uninterrupted work time

And it makes sense – you can’t do your best work, or get into any sort of “flow” with deep thought work that is required to make progress on long-term strategic projects when you’re constantly bombarded with new notifications, alerts, and emails. 

At H3, we’re dedicated to solutions that reduce the notifications and noise from your inbox and to helping you offload infrequent / inconsistent tasks that take a long time to complete, like credentialing of medical professionals. Inquire using the link below! 

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