High Speed Mono Tasking

This should come to no surprise: humans can’t multi task. Women can do it better but overall we still suck at this. Furthermore doing things in parallel is much slower than doing things in series. With this in mind we should be focusing on a single task at a time and try to achieve high-speed mono-tasking.

Lets take a simple example to proof this theory. Let us assume that you have 2 tasks each of which take 10 mins to complete. If you do one task after the other you will get the following performance:

Time Task 1 (time left) Task 2 (time left)
0 min 10 min 10 min
2 min 8 min 10 min
4 min 6 min 10 min
6 min 4 min 10 min
8 min 2 min 10 min
10 min 0 min 10 min
12 min 0 min 8 min
14 min 0 min 6 min
16 min 0 min 4 min
18 min 0 min 2 min
20 min 0 min 0 min

If you work on one task after the other, task 1 will be finished after 10 mins, while task 2 will be finished after 20 mins. Let us assume that you will alternate between the 2 tasks every 2 minutes:

Time Task 1 (time left) Task 2 (time left)
0 min 10 min 10 min
2 min 8 min 10 min
4 min 8 min 8 min
6 min 6 min 8 min
8 min 6 min 6 min
10 min 4 min 6 min
12 min 4 min 4 min
14 min 2 min 4 min
16 min 2 min 2 min
18 min 0 min 2 min
20 min 0 min 0 min

In this case task 1 will be finished after 18 minutes – 8 minutes later when compared with the sequential method. On the other hand task 2 will still be finished after 20 minutes. 

But wait… the above working is wrong. Humans, much like CPUs, need time for context switching so we should be adding a constant every time we switch tasks. Doing tasks in series also gives us another advantage. After doing the same task for a while you will become immersed in the task and get into “the zone”, which will increase the level of productivity even more. 

A method to keep you focused on a single task at a time is to use a task list, ordered in priority order. This is exactly what the backlog in agile methodologies is designed to do.

In this case our responsibility, as scrum masters, is to make sure that everyone is getting as few interruptions as possible to keep on focusing on his task. To conclude, your quality and productivity should increase much further if you and other team members use the technique of high-speed mono tasking.

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