I just finished a great book on productivity Finish What You Start The Art of Following Through, Taking Action, Executing, & Self-Discipline, by Peter Hollins.
He writes about, among other things, the concept of Attention Residue. The idea is that when we switch from one task to another, without completing the first one, our performance on the second task is greatly diminished because our attention is still partially on the first, unresolved task.
He cites a 2009 study by Sophie Leroy. In the study, she forced subjects to switch tasks in a laboratory setting. In some trials, she would interrupt the group from task A, and then force them to switch to another task without completing the first task. She would then administer a test that would quantify the amount of leftover residue remaining from the first task.
In other trials, she would let the subjects finish task A before moving to the next task. “The results were clear,” she writes. “People experiencing attention residue after switching tasks are likely to demonstrate poor performance on that next task and the more intense the residue, the worse the performance.”
This seems to validate what productivity gurus are preaching about blocking off time to do work and avoiding distractions.
What do you do to prevent attention residue from creeping into your work day?
Other Recommended Readings
Below are some other books I have found helpful in business and in life. What are some of your favorite reads?
- Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman
- Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds
- Speed of Trust, by Stephen Covey
- 365 Thank Yous, by John Kralik