Following up from my last post on focus, I wanted to write about the price we pay when switching context.

Context switching is a computing term, and often applies to the workload of handling many threads at a same time by an operating system:

In computing, a context switch is the process of storing the state of a process or of a thread, so that it can be restored and execution resumed from the same point later. This allows multiple processes to share a single CPU, and is an essential feature of a multitasking operating system.

In human terms, context switching is the process and time to moving from one task to another. This act requires shutting off your mind to the old task, and completing the attention switch to the new one. Let’s say you have n to-do’s in a day. With context switching considered - you actually have n + (n-1), or 2n - 1 in total. So for 5 tasks, there are actually 9 with context switching considered. This is pronounced if they are very disparate tasks.

Context switching quickly becomes expensive - it’s the invisible friction that’s brings productivity to a halt.