Have you ever wondered why you get so much done in office but when you started working from home, what would take two days at the office takes more than a week? Well, one huge problem is we multitask, and the cost of context switching is measured in time.
Let's talk about context switching and its penalty. Assume you wish to complete a new project assigned to you by your management. You take up the assignment and divide it into research and project coding. You believe you can conduct research and code the project at the same time.
Assume that the entire research takes 1 hour and the programming of the project takes 1 hour. Now you have five min to do research and coding.
5m Research | 5m Code || 5m Research | 5m code ||..... x9... || 5m Research | 5m code
You may reason that it will take at least two hours to complete the task. So the research that was meant to be performed one hour ago will be completed in one hour and 55 minutes later, and your code would be completed in two hours. Things still get done by the conclusion of the second hour, right? No
The devil is now in the details. What about the penalty for switching tasks?
If the time taken to move from research to code is 1min, you are already 24 mins late to finshing things up. As opposed to one time task switching which will be a delay of only 1 min. This keeps adding on as the project grows.
a) sequential processing gets you results faster on average, and
b) the longer it takes to task switch, the bigger the penalty you pay for multitasking.
– Joel Spolsky
Now with freedom to explore whatever you want at home, the time to get back to work is sometimes 15 mins or higher. What was supposed to 2 hrs now takes up an entire day to finish. What would take a day will end up taking an entire week so on and so forth.
Work from home sucks ain't it.
Well you can still be disciplined. Avoid multi tasking and context switching as much as possible, reduce distraction and finish one thing at a time and you will see the difference.