How to Reduce Task Switching (Motion Waste)

Motion - Road at Night. This image is CC0!

In an earlier post I discussed, that task switching is a kind of motion waste. You could look for the other methods to reduce this kind of waste, but I suggest to chose different approaches in this post.

To reduce task switching you can try the following.

  • First of all, have a look at the Pomodoro Technique®, it could be a great way to manage your time.
  • When working on something, do not allow interruptions by others (phone calls, colleagues wanting to chat, children nagging about something, and so on). If that is impossible  because the task is too big, allow interruptions only after finishing a well-defined sub-task.
  • Alternatively, plan regular times/intervals for interruptions. If you get used to this, you will develop the right instinct to be at a good interruption point naturally when your typical interruption occurs. Best example is lunch break, if you do that at the same time each day you will automatically arrange your work in around that.
  • Do sprints between half an hour and an hour for smaller tasks in which you finish a bulk of them. A typical example for this is processing e-mail. If you do something else between every other e-mail, this will be less efficient.
  • Do not interrupt yourself. Basically, the same as the first two, but often the root cause for the task switching is differently. Observe yourself when you interrupt a task without an external cause. The chances are good that the task is something you do not like.
  • If the tasks you regularly interrupt do not add value, maybe you should get rid of them at all. If a task is adding value not in the short but in the long run, set attractive sub-goals. Alternatively, acknowledge that from time to time deferred gratification is the only option to achieve good value.
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