Proven Drag on Productivity- What is Context Switching?

Context Switching and what usually happens:

What is context-switching?

"The concept of context-switching is often applied to software, but it also pertains to human productivity.

”From a human workforce perspective, context switching is the process of stopping work in one project and picking it back up after performing a different task on a different project,” explains Todd Waits on the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute blog. “Just like computing systems, human team members often incur overhead when context switching between multiple projects.”

  • Research shows it can take up to 9.5 minutes to get back into a workflow after switching between digital apps.
  • Nearly half of workers report that context switching is a drain on their productivity.
  • Context switching may have the biggest impact when you’re switching between tasks and topics multiple times over a single day.


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Also called “multitasking,” research demonstrated over and over it is a myth.

“Think you’re good at doing several things at once? Reading and listening to music? Driving and talking on the phone (hands-free, of course), or texting while sitting in a meeting? Think again…”
The Myth of Multitasking
Psychology Today, May 2014

“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time…This steady and undissipated attention to one object, is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind.” – Lord Chesterfield, ~1740
The Myth of Multitasking: How intentional Self-Distraction Hurts Us
The New Atlantis, Spring 2008