One of the interesting points made in the Stanford study is that switching tasks has a ‘startup cost.’ This is the amount of time it takes your brain to stop thinking about those TPS reports, and start focusing on reading the ‘LOL’ reply to your super-witty ‘Dear inanimate object…’ tweet you posted earlier. By turning off the notifications, I went from checking Twitter as soon as there was a new update, to checking it when I wasn’t already thinking about something else.
One other thing I discovered about myself that I thought was interesting was that I intentionally interrupt myself when working, simply because I don’t like the work I am doing. The more I disliked what I had to do, the easier it was for me to hop into the Google Reader tab I keep open, in order to check RSS feeds, so that they can keep me from whatever unpleasant task I had in store. I found that this happened almost exclusively when I was switching from one task to another. For example, if I resolved a case, I would update the ticket system, then dispite knowing the other task I had was time sensitive, I would still hop from the ticket system tab to the Google Reader tab.
I also noticed that my behaviour towards reading websites has changed dramatically. Before, I would read something until something else distracted me, and then I would move on to something else, and never look back. If it was something I found genuinley interesting, I found that I would go back and try to pick up where I left off, but abandon the page quickly. Now that all those alerts are turned off, I have instead continued reading the article; either to completion or until I was no longer genuinley interested, at which point I would move on to something else. One interesting side note: I think this has as much to do with the fact that I hate my job as it does with my concentration. Before I stopped caring, I would often click away from what I was reading because someone I work with would walk behind my cube, and I was worried about someone seeing me wasting time. Now that I care much less about losing my job, I am more willing to put my full attention into what I am doing. Both because I don’t stop in the middle of what I am doing, and because I am not spending energy trying to detect incoming coworkers who can see me wasting time.
There were two tests on the article the New York Times posted with their article. Test Your Focus & Test How Fast You Juggle Tasks I took them both and have posted my results below. I hope to take them again in a few weeks, to see if my results improve.
Also, I mentioned AJ Jacob’s book The Year of Living Biblically in the podcast, but I didn’t remember the name. Since I don’t expect it to be in the shownotes, here is a link.