3 Ways to Minimize Context Switching

Do you believe that you can multi-task (context switching) in your day-to-day activities? At your office?

  1. (of a person) deal with more than one task at the same time. “I managed my time efficiently and multitasked”
  2. (of a computer) execute more than one program or task simultaneously. “its interface and ability to multitask feels a lot better than the devices powered by the single core processor”


Perhaps you successfully fold laundry while listening to an audiobook or rake leaves while talking on the phone to a family member. These are combinations of tasks that can be successfully addressed by multi-tasking as they do not require deep thought. 

Unlike multitasking, if you look for a definition of context switching, what comes up in your search results are articles about context switching in computing. Context switching is a phrase used in project management and Agile fields as individuals move between unrelated tasks. Context switching is describing the amount of effort for our brain to move from one deep work task to another. Examples of context switching include switching from one grant application to another, switching from creating a budget spreadsheet to creating a board report, or switching from designing a logic model to a grant report.

Every time that an individual switches from one project to another, there is loss in impact or  “waste,” due to the time it takes for your brain to get settled into the new project/task. This loss  was researched by Gerald Weinberg and the amount of waste per number of projects an individual is switching between is outlined in the table below.


Weinberg Table of Project Switching Waste - Scrum Inc


I can imagine your concerns and questions. Nonprofit professionals *always* have multiple projects in process at one time. It would be excellent if nonprofit teams were not always addressing more than one project at the same time. It is important to be aware of the negative implications of context switching and to minimize its impact on your work by reducing how often you are context switching in your work.


Three ways to minimize context switching:


1 – Batch you work together

Writing team example of grouping client work versus changing across clients


2 – Create blocks on your calendar for similar types of tasks

Example of all grant research every Tuesday morning or every Friday afternoon using your email inbox filter as a way to keep it all in one place until you are ready to do the work


3 – Create habits for deep work

Create habits and routines related to times when you do deep work so that not only are you minimizing your interruptions but also that you are focused on a single project and not bouncing like a pinball between projects.




What do you do to minimize context switching?