This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Attention residue, task switching and multitasking

Just checking

How many times a day do I find myself "just checking" messages or the coffee?  It turns out those little interruptions can be just as bad as those imposed by others.

I found yet another term connected to the challenges we find when switching from one activity to another - "attention residue." Yet more ammunition in the battle against multitasking. This was described by Cal Newport in A Productivity Lesson from a Classic Arcade Game:

When you turn your attention from one target to another, the original target leaves a “residue” that reduces cognitive performance for a non-trivial amount of time to follow.

I particularly like the example and the discussion around it.  Even when my  attention is drawn away for a moment - someone calls out my name, my mobile vibrates - even if I get back to the main activity right away, there is a loss.  Some of my attention is diverted to that interruption, however brief.  And this causes me to slow down in that primary activity.

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