What is agile? Part 2 – Context switching and switching costs

Here’s the second thing I learned from my recent Agile Fundamentals course at the University of Auckland with Steven Briggs.

This is about what they call context switching and switching costs. Here’s a couple of questions:

  • Is it better to be doing one project versus doing a whole lot of projects?
  • In other words, are you more productive when you do three or five projects or possibly more?

Not everyone agrees, but it turns out that the research suggests that we can really only focus on one thing at a time.

Multitasking, it turns out, is largely a myth. I would say it is a myth for me. I know I struggle with just mono-tasking at times.

So here’s the rule: Just do one project at a time. And here are some numbers that prove why:

  • You lose 15% of your attention every time you switch from one project to another project.
  • So if you are trying to juggle, say five projects, then that is a 75% loss.
  • This leaves you about 5% attention per project.

So the bottom line here is that you can be 20% more productive if you don’t switch.


Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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