What's new

Context switching: Why jumping between multiple tasks is killing your productivity?

Context switching is the act of shifting your attention and focus from one task to another. This is something that most people do on a regular basis, often without realizing the negative impact it can have on their productivity.
When you switch between tasks, your brain has to adjust to the new information and goals associated with each task. 
This process takes time and effort and can lead to mental fatigue and a decrease in overall productivity. In fact, studies have shown that context switching can reduce productivity by as much as 40%. Most people today have to balance different tasks during the day. 
Nowadays, the usual day consists of:
scheduling chores in the calendar,
answering emails, 
checking communication apps (e.g. slack messages), 
responding to colleagues' questions, 
reading industry news and firing up our operating system. 
When you never complete the task at hand before moving on to the next one - it's called context switching. It's necessary to switch context sometimes. But too much context switching can hurt your productivity. 
Take small steps to lessen the impact of context switching. It can increase your productivity and well-being. You can increase the quality of your work: reduce distractions and focus on one project.

What is context switching, and what are some of its causes?

The term "context switching" is most often used in relation to software. But it's also relevant to human productivity. Why do we do context switch? 

What is the meaning of context switching?

The changeover from one task to another is context switching.
Some scientists call it our "working memory" - when we switch contexts. 
We often ask our brains to remember different pieces of information. This process, it uses up some of the capacity in our working memory.
Context switching involves moving from one item to the next one. Switching refers to a change that occurs in our brains when we go from focusing on one thing to another. This can be a useful way of getting many assignments done in a day. But context switching can also have an adverse effect on productivity. 
Context switching is a productivity killer. Every time you switch tasks or apps, it takes you longer to get back into the flow of work.

Switching tasks is natural for the human brain.

Something wired in our brains allows us to focus on more than one thing at a time. This comes in handy when we need to juggle multitasking.
Task switching allows us to adapt to changing environments and situations.

How much context switching is too much?

Context switching can be beneficial in small doses, but too much of it can have a negative impact on own work. 
If you're swapping tasks or apps, research suggests that your brain has to readjust each time. This can lead to decreased productivity and quality of work.

What causes context switching?

The main cause of context switching is multitasking. Multitasking is trying to do multiple processes at once. While this may seem like an efficient way to get work done, it can lead to negative consequences. 
Other causes of context switching include distractions such as:
social media notifications
alerts from messaging apps
Catherine Price explains that our brains aren't able to keep up with how much we're using them. Jumping between many screens and apps can give us a boost of adrenaline and stress hormones. But we crash soon and our energy levels drop.
Meetings can also cause context switching. Especially if you're attending many meetings at once! It can be difficult to stay focused and remember what happened in the previous meeting. Don't put several meetings on your calendar.
These things can break our focus and force us to switch contexts. Unfortunately, it makes it harder to finish the current task.

The cost of context switching. How multitasking destroys your daily productivity.

The "cost of context switching" is the amount of free time and energy it takes to switch between chores.
Changing tasks makes you lose focus and spend more time getting back on track.

The “tax” we pay for each context switching

Context switch confuses priorities

When we're rushing through our responsibilities, we can't see the big picture. We often prefer answering low-priority questions that come through communication apps. But we forget about completing more important tasks.
Another example:
Meetings and conference calls can pull us away from our work and force us to lose sight of what we were working on.

Context switching impedes cognitive function that is needed for a deep work

When different assignments interrupt each other, our brains can't focus on work for long. This reduces the quality of work.
We can't dive deep into the work. Thus, it is impossible to achieve high results without it.

Task switching diminishes attention and lowers decision-making abilities

The more we switch assignments, the less mentally sharp we are.
Our attention is diverted constantly. Our brains can't make good decisions. As a result, our productivity decreases and bad results can follow. 
We should make sure that context switching doesn’t interfere with concentration.

Task switching kills productive time for your most important work

We spend most of our time switching between exercises. And only attention residue remains on solving them.
The process takes 23 minutes to return to the work. We spend this time to reduce distractions and focus back. Changing jobs may affect up to 40% of the productive time a man can experience.

Context switch depletes energy and decreases attention span.

When we toggle between chores, our brain consumes power for the new work. Our attention span decreases and our productivity goes down.
We need to reserve enough time and energy to tackle each assignment properly. If we don't have it, context switching can lead to exhaustion and frustration.
Context switching has a great impact on both productivity and creativity.

How can you cut the amount of context switching you do each day?

The first step to combat context switching is understanding where it’s coming from. Track your activities for a few days and note how often you’re switching between tasks. Find out what triggers the change. 
Once you have an idea of what situations cause you to switch, it’s easier to figure out how to avoid it. 
Break large work into smaller chunks in 2 steps:
You can also install strategies like the Pomodoro Technique. It allows you to focus on new tasks for a short period of time before taking a break.
Use the calendar to order your daily and weekly exercises.
Finally, limit distractions that can pull you away from the task at hand. 
Recognize when context switching is happening and take steps to reduce it. Soon you’ll be able to concentrate on more important assignments and get more done in less time.

How to reduce the cost and negative impact of context switching on your productivity?

To avoid the negative effects of context switching, it's important to minimize the number of tasks you switch between. 
This means focusing on one task at a time and giving it your full attention, rather than constantly jumping from one thing to another.
Reducing the cost of context switching can help increase your productivity.

Check your context switches

Evaluating your context switches. It can help you understand the reasons and time of their appearance. Then you can develop strategies to reduce them. 
Start by tracking your activities for a few days to identify them. You'll understand when, how often, and what type of context switching is occurring. 
If you swap tasks during the day, try collecting similar types of exercises together. This will help reduce the amount of times you have to switch apps or contexts. It also allows making it easier for your brain to stay concentrated on a certain task. 
Also, set aside specific blocks of time for certain activities and limit distractions. Finally, consider performing the Pomodoro Technique. It involves focusing on one task for a short period of time before taking a break. 
Reducing context switching can help you be more productive with your time.

Create slots for technology use in your daily calendar.

Creating slots for technology use in your daily calendar. It can help reduce the amount of time you spend context switching between tasks. 
Begin by observing your activities to see their reasons. From there, create an action plan in your calendar. It limits the use of technology at certain times throughout the day.
For example:
You often get distracted by notifications or emails during the day.
Set specific times for technology use and limit your access to it at other times.

Build buffers and microbreaks into your workday

Building buffers and microbreaks can help reduce the negative effects of context switching. 
Buffers are short blocks of time that you use to transition between tasks. This gives your brain time to adjust to the new task and allows you to shift your focus more easily. 

Use time blocking method to batch similar tasks by function

The time blocking method is a great way to lessen context switching. It involves batching similar types of tasks together. And scheduling them into specific blocks of time during the day. 
You could block off two hours each morning for email and administrative tasks. It allows you to focus on one type of assignment without having to switch contexts every few minutes. Try to batch different tasks by function to reduce the amount of time spent on context switching. 
Create specific blocks of time and batch similar tasks together. Stay more focused on your projects and reduce the amount of context switching. 

What are some tips to stay focused when you're working on important tasks?

Staying focused on important assignments can help you get more done in less time. You'll be able to concentrate on one exercise and finish it more quickly.

Make a list of different tasks you need to complete and organize them by priority to project

This can help you focus on the most important work first. It will also give you a better sense of how to break up long-term projects. Business meetings timed to the time are in the first place, what can wait is at the end of the list.
Set specific blocks of time for each issue. This will help keep you from switching contexts too often and will make it easier for your brain to stay into. 

Set a focus timer for a specific amount of time and work on a single task until the timer goes off

Try to concentrate and complete work while time is running out.
Take short breaks during the day. Taking short breaks will help you mentally re-energize. Allow your brain to take a break from focusing on work for an extended period of time. 

Take regular breaks every hour or so to move your body and get some fresh air

After difficult work, meetings or calls, take a break and get fresh air to help reset your brain. Taking a walk outside, even if it's for five minutes or so, will give your mind the chance to relax.
This will help you stay productive and focused during the day. Finally, reward yourself for completing chores. Setting up small rewards can be a great way to motivate yourself. Besides, you keep you on track with important issues. 

Put away as many distractions as you can: no slack messages, no notifications. Focus on present moment.

Don't let anything stand in the way of your success. Limit distractions like notifications, emails, or social media. Then you can easily focus on the current moment. Put distractions away and make sure they don't interfere with your work. 
Create a positive environment that is conducive to focus and concentration. Make sure you have the right tools, like noise-cancelling headphones if necessary. Use the "do not disturb" feature on your phone or other devices to help cut distractions. Remind yourself why you're doing this project and focus on the outcome of completing it.

Combat context switching with music or white noise to help you focused work

Listening to music or white noise can help you focus and stay in the right mental headspace. It helps block out distractions. You can remain productive and complete work. Music with no words is best to keep your thoughts concentrated while working. 

Practice mindfulness or meditation to clear your mind might be a big deal to reduce context switching.

Allowing yourself to relax and reset. It can help reduce stress, increase productivity and focus. When you've taken a few moments to clear your mind, it will be easier to refocus on the task at hand. 
So, try mindfulness and meditation as an effective way to reduce context switching. Take some time for yourself to clear your head before getting back to work. This will help you stay productive and focused on the task at hand. You'll be able to get more done in less time with fewer distractions. 

How to manage your tasks and avoid context switching with Brite Daily Planner

You will no longer need to swap apps throughout the day, Brite is combining everything you need in one app.

Create to do list and multiple projects. Rank specific tasks using built-in tools in Brite. 

Organize your day with Brite's drag & drop calendar and color coded projects. Instantly shift from task list view to a daily or weekly calendar overview.
With Brite, you can measure your productivity progress over time. Compare the amount of time spent on each project and draw conclusions!

Use Pomodoro focus timer to stay focused on most important work

Pomodoro is a built-in feature of Brite! It allows you to set specific blocks of time for each task and take breaks during the day. 
Pomodoro can help you concentrate during long, complex assignments or meetings. It gives you a sense of accomplishment when the timer goes off. 
When you're feeling overwhelmed or stressed at work, take a few minutes to step away from your desk and relax. You'll come back feeling fresh and better equipped to handle whatever comes your way.

Use the time blocking feature in the daily scheduler to plan your daily work activity. 

Time blocking allows you to set specific time slots for each task and break up your day into chunks. 
Create reminders for upcoming business and projects. Easily move them around to fit your needs.
Try Brite Daily Planner app today and see your great progress in the future! With its comprehensive features, including:
to do list
project tool 
calendar overviews 
analytics and time blocking
you can easily focus on the most important issues.
In conclusion, context switching is a common problem that can have a significant impact on your productivity. By minimizing the number of tasks you switch between, and focusing on one task at a time, you can avoid the negative effects of context switching and improve your overall productivity.


What are the disadvantages of context switching? 
The disadvantages of context switching include: 
reduced productivity;
wasted time;
missed deadlines;
fatigue and confusion; 
frustration at business meetings;
lack of focus;
an inability to stay motivated for an extended period of time.
Is task switching sometimes good?
Yes, it can be beneficial when it comes to creativity and breaking up monotony. But you should avoid context switching when possible. It allows maximizing productivity and efficiency in the future. Multitasking is not naturell for our brain.
What is an example of context switching to? 
Tell us if it sounds familiar: 
You're blogger and everybody says that it is so easy to write and post longreads, photos and videos.
But blog post writing is a great example of task switching. Maintaining a social network also involves context shift between many activities. It includes copywriting, formatting and proofreading. You also swap different apps for photo and video retouching. It's important not to go to the next task but maintain focus and productivity. 
Are there any ways to stay focused?
Nowadays, modern workplace makes it harder to focus on current work. 
There are a few habits to stay concentrated and reduce multitasking:
Practice mindfulness or meditation to clear your mind
Use time blocking, microbreaks and organizing work by priority
Take permanent breaks during the day
Use tools that stimulate asynchronous communication
Cut distractions by using specialized apps like Brite Daily Planner
Use Pomodoro focus timer for more
Blocking out time in your calendar
Don't attend many meetings at the same time 
These tips will help you be calm and organized, so that you can get more done in less time.