This Silent Productivity Killer is Draining 4 Hours From Your Week. Here’s How To Fix It

This Silent Productivity Killer is Draining 4 Hours From Your Week. Here’s How To Fix It

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The phrase “there’s an application for that” has become so ubiquitous it’s almost meme-worthy. In our personal lives, apps can scream for us, call for us and tell us when to sit, drink, or even use the restroom.

In our professional lives, app-mania is equally prevalent, with Productiv’s 2021 report finding the average SaaS company uses 254 apps.

Even looking through my own files, I found logins for five video conferencing apps, six task management tools, and at least five cloud storage options.

How do we get to this level of app abundance? Tools offer unique capabilities and levels familiarity. Sometimes, they are also carried with us from other companies. Regardless, the goal has always been to leverage technology to make us more productive and effective in our roles.

Unfortunately, what we’re experiencing is quite the opposite.

Related: The 10 Biggest Productivity Killers and How to Overcome Them

A tale of 1200 toggles

The more tools we rely on to get work done, the more we bounce between those tools throughout the day. Context-switching is when we switch between apps. “

Have you ever been interrupted while counting and had to start over again? That’s context-switching. This is called context-switching. You might find yourself creating a contract in your CRM and forgetting how to complete it. This could happen in the workplace.

According to a report by Qatalog and Cornell University’s Idea Lab: On average, people take nine and a half minutes to get back into a productive workflow after switching between digital apps.

How often do you think this happens?

A recent study of 20 teams across three Fortune 500 companies found “that workers toggled roughly 1,200 times each day.” This adds up to four hours per week, or four weeks of reorientation.

Context-switching is the silent killer secretly draining your team’s productivity, focus and mental health.

Forget Zoom fatigue. The problem is tool fatigue. To answer a colleague’s query, I have to switch between Slack and ClickUp, Salesforce to Gmail, then back to Slack. Every toggle presents me with new layouts, styles and font types, which forces my brain to adjust momentarily. While we’re trying to solve productivity problems with the latest collaboration or messaging tool we have, context-switching lurks behind us, compounding as our systems and networks become more complex.

Related: How to Focus, Be Productive and Maintain Balance During a Crisis


In sports, we’re familiar with getting in the zone (or the flow state). Basketball players can be thrown off their game by a bad foul call or golfers can miss a shot if someone shouts. The “zone” mental state is when you are completely focused and immersed in the activity. This flow state is conducive to creativity and productivity. Positive psychologists Jeanne Nakamura and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term. According to them, the flow state can bring clarity, lack of obstacles, intense positivity, and a strong sense of concentration.

This state of mind isn’t reserved for professional athletes. Imagine the benefits to your employees’ mental health and productivity if they were able to work in an environment that allows for a flow state all day.

When we’re entirely focused on the task, 100% of our mental energy is devoted to solving that task. But, with every toggle, a piece of that energy is drained, and our cognitive load increases, slowing down our ability to process information.

Imagine your brain as a computer with many tabs and files open. You’ll eventually reach storage capacity. The spinning wheel will alert you that your computer is slowing down and unresponsive.

Your brain functions in the same way. Your working memory can only store so many pieces of information at once. Switching between apps can increase your cognitive load to the point where you can’t process more information.

How can we get into the zone if our brain is exhausted from context-switching and other distractions? Here are some ways to preserve your mental energy and lower the tax.

Related: 10 Tips to Boost Employee Productivity and Skyrocket Performance

1. Enable employees within their existing workflows

How can you eliminate or reduce the need for employees to context-switch? Let’s say your sales team works predominately in Salesforce, but they often toggle to their PowerPoint for answers to questions. Just-in-time learning solutions will automatically surface the training, resources or guidance employees need to succeed directly within Salesforce or other tools they’re already working in. Employees can stay focused on the task without needing to hop around apps for help.

2. Eliminate tool redundancy

As we navigate this impending recession, many companies like ourselves are shifting from a grow-at-all-costs mentality to a long-term, sustainable growth mindset. We can’t justify having two calendar scheduling solutions when we have enough in our marketing automation platform. While these times are challenging, they’ve also helped us reduce context-switching by ensuring only necessary tools remain in our tech stack.

3. Designate work blocks (and stick with them)

On Mondays, our sales team turns off all notifications, blocks all meetings, and focuses entirely on prospecting. Our marketing team blocks out afternoons so they can concentrate on their projects. Whatever this looks like for your organization, ensure every team dedicates time throughout the week to complete work without distractions.

4. Remove distractions as much as possible

You’ve had years of practice multitasking. It’s not unusual to have 30 tabs open, news headlines in the background, and notifications buzzing during work. But multitasking is the enemy of productivity. Instead, focus on single-tasking throughout the day. You can break down your work into blocks and focus on one task at a time. You will be amazed at the productivity you get when your environment is free of distractions.

Above all, listen, observe, and speak with your employees. You can see how many apps they need to open in order to find a resource. Also, you can watch them navigate complex processes, listen and understand their problems. This will help you to reduce their toggle fatigue and make it easier to find the right app for them. “

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