Context Shifting Hurts Your Workflow
Have you ever had a moment in your business when you think, “k, I haven’t stopped ALL day but, I don’t feel like I actually accomplished anything?”
You likely have been the victim of context shifting.
Context shifting is the time lost when you shift your focus between projects. This is especially true of interruptions that cause you to break your focus from the task at hand.
You might think you’re working smartly. Multitasking. Commenting feedback on a proposal as you listen to a Zoom call about the latest marketing strategy. With one eye on email notifications, so you don’t miss that fundraising update that you’re expecting.
But researchers found that we lose 20% of our time to shifting between projects.
So when you juggle five projects, you spend about 5% of your time on each one and 80% of your time shifting between them.
That’s a lot of wasted time!
Read on to discover why context shifting matters and what you can do to reduce it.
“Are you telling me that I should be flexible, but not when it comes to working?”
I’m saying that you must be clear about your goals and what you want to accomplish. This increases clarity about which tasks push the needle forward, and you can adapt your behavior to focus on those tasks.
As women, we’re socialized to put others’ needs before our own. Often, our needs are not even part of the equation. Context shifting is another way the patriarchy pops up in our day-to-day life.
- You’re in the middle of a business meeting when you get a call to pick up your son from school.
- You call a prospect from your home office when your spouse walks in to ask where their car keys are.
- A client interrupts your presentation to remark on your makeup.
We have to adapt and calibrate when things don’t work for us. Of course! But we also need to set boundaries that mark our time and our goals as a priority.
Think of it like this: Context shifting means you never have a pause to reflect and learn. There isn’t time to discover which strategies or tactics work best when they collide into One Big Task.
In the end, any data you collect about your time (see my previous blog about this step!) will be inaccurate, and decisions about your business will skew off-course from your ultimate goals.
Here are a few ways to set time boundaries:
For your daily schedule:
- Silence notifications, close your office door and turn off your phone during deep work.
- Give each weekday a “theme” by scheduling similar jobs for each day (e.g. “Zoom Thursdays” or “Marketing Mondays”). This helps you stay in a similar frame of mind all day.
- Use the Pomodoro technique to focus deeply for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break to reward yourself.
- Create a simple routine that signals a firm END to the task you were just working on. This preps your brain for the next project, so you’re less tempted to jump back and forth. (e.g. Get out of your chair and stretch your back after you complete a session of payroll.)
For your big picture plan:
Only work on one or two projects per quarter that drive business growth. Fewer projects = more time and attention dedicated to each one.
One joy of being a small business owner is our ability to be quick and light as circumstances change. But, many business owners run into problems managing their own time because they don’t know what to prioritize!
Eventually, weak boundaries and context shifting cause mental exhaustion. And that sparks a negative association with the business you want to grow.
I hope these ideas help you design a workflow that doesn’t fight for your attention. One that keeps the joy of entrepreneurship alive for you.
Let me know which tip worked best.
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