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context switching penalty

13 Nov 20
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Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Switch off social notifications and messaging services and focus on the meetings. Let’s also imagine that I have back to back meetings for the rest of that day. I’ve found that reducing context switching penalties improves decision making quality, and I hope you find the same. In the email notification example, the reader might be able to recover their concentration after receiving one notification. Then, immediately after this meeting concludes, I walk into a 90-minute science meeting to discuss a particular type of genetic testing. But if you’re thinking, like I have in the past, that there doesn’t seem like you have enough time to think and reflect, there is a good chance context switch penalties are playing a significant role in your day. I typically focus on writing for a few uninterrupted hours in the morning, then batch my calls and meetings in the afternoon. But is there a hidden cost that we're not aware of when we switch from project to project? While you're paying attention to Task A, you're ignoring Task B until you switch back to it. I finish a 30-minute meeting about customer acquisition. Task switching, not multi-tasking. In addition to removing notification distractions that will inflate content switching penalties, I use these tactics: To help with the topic comfort level, mainly if I’m not familiar with it, I ask for links or documents that I can read beforehand to come up the curve. For the Multi-taskers out there, here's a great post that describes a game you can try at home to measure the effect of context-switching on productivity: Here's a quick exercise to show you the cognitive penalties for you, personally, to context. You will need a pen, a pad of paper, and a timer. A major tasks is any activity that requires more than 20 minutes of focused concentration; all other tasks are minor. According to several recent neurological studies , the more things you try to pay attention to at any given time, the more your performance at all of them suffers. Task switching, or set-shifting, is an executive function that involves the ability to unconsciously shift attention between one task and another. https://personalmba.com/cognitive-switching-penalty/. If I’m interrupted in the middle of a major task, that task won’t be done that day, or another major task will have to slip. I think two factors make context switching penalties very problematic for founders. The Cognitive Switching Penalty is a Friction cost: the less you switch, the lower the cost. THE MENTAL PENALTIES OF CONTEXT SWITCHING Understanding penalties. The tactics to reduce compound switching penalties have helped a lot, as has regular exercise and maintaining a proper diet. We've helped Internet entrepreneurs build the "backstage" of their businesses. The most extreme version of this algorithm are days filled with: I’ve found that the volume of meetings can ebb and flow depending on the stage of the company. I spoke with my good friend Melissa Rosenthal about this earlier during the week. "The Personal MBA" is a trademark of Worldly Wisdom Ventures LLC. That's why it's never a good idea to talk on a cell phone while driving-by trying to focus on two things at once, your reaction times decrease to the same level as someone who's driving while intoxicated . I use a similar strategy when doing chores, updating financial reports, or running errands: I'll dedicate a few hours solely to those tasks. Can you rearrange your schedule to batch similar tasks together. This time is off-limits to everyone. This has been a big issue for me in the past. Paul Graham, a venture capitalist, programmer, and essayist, calls this batching strategy "Maker's Schedule / Manager's Schedule." I think two factors make context switching penalties very problematic for founders. That's why Monoidealism is so efficient-by focusing your attention on only one thing at a time, you're allowing your brain to load the context into working memory once, allowing you to focus your energy on actually accomplishing the task at hand. But if this happens, say ten times in ten minutes of reading, there is a good chance you won’t remember much and will have to start again. In other words, the higher the penalty, the lower a person’s decision-making quality. Neurologically, it's impossible for your brain to multitask. To help with the need to make decisions, I ask what the question is we’re trying to answer in each meeting. Together, these two functions are subcategories of the broader cognitive flexibility concept. All rights reserved. The tactics to resolve the compounding effect of the penalties might seem straightforward. The "Maker's Schedule" consists of large blocks of uninterrupted time; the "Manager's Schedule" is broken up into many small chunks for meetings. Eliminate unproductive context switching, and you'll get more done with less effort. Productive multitasking is a myth. You are not really doing two things, you're switching your attention from one thing to the other. These are given as follows: 1. The term multi-tasking is actually a misnomer. I also find it helpful to come armed with two or three questions that I can ask during that conversation (instead of just being a passive participant in the meeting). That's why it's possible to spend an entire day multitasking, get nothing done, and feel exhausted at the end-you've burned all of your energy context-switching instead of making progress. Sharing this with them goes a long way. And not having enough time to reflect is usually a good indicator that context switching penalties are starting to take their toll. I spoke with my good friend Melissa Rosenthal about this earlier during the week. To avoid unproductive switching, it's best to group similar tasks together. While context switching is a form of multitasking, consider it the evil sibling of the traditional form of multitasking you’re used to. Of course, there are some basic rules to lessen this load. Many people rely on multitasking: trying to do more than one thing at the same time. On any given day, I have scheduled meetings to talk about science, technology, marketing, hiring and financing. Instead of attempting to juggle both responsibilities at the same time, I batch them together. To avoid unproductive context switching, a batching strategy is best. This may seem like a minor distraction. The punchline is that context switching penalties and decision-making quality are inversely proportionate. The state of the old process is saved and the state of the new process is loaded. That could mean working from home one day a month or using work travel as a way to clear your head. Recent estimates are that you can lose up to 40% of your productivityif you multi-task. Interrupt Handling:The hardware switches a part of the context when an interrupt occurs. This is known as context switching, or more commonly referred to as multi-tasking. Copyright/DMCA. While many people assume this makes them more efficient, Monoidealism and multitasking are complete opposites. All different durations. Keeping in mind that there’s a limit to what I can accomplish in a single day makes it easier to keep Stress and Recovery in balance. Every time you switch the focus of your attention from one subject to another, you incur the Cognitive Switching Penalty. To help with meeting duration, I limit one-hour sessions to 45 minutes. As founders, our rate of learning is limited by our decision making quality. Between these major tasks, I might make a short phone call, process and answer incoming email, read a few articles, do the dishes, and clean my office. While I have a good understanding of genetic testing, it’s not as complete as my knowledge of customer acquisition. When you're trying to do more than one thing at a time, you're not really parallel processing-you're rapidly switching your attention from one thing to another. As a result, I can focus on both responsibilities with my full attention. We concluded that context switching penalties are the byproduct of an interesting algorithm of which there are five inputs: The weighting of each of these factors can change each day. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work. 2. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Second, not all penalties are created equal. Both schedules serve different purposes-just don't try to combine them if your goal is to get useful work done.

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