Joel Spolsky wrote a famous blog post "Human Task Switches considered harmful".

While I agree with the premise and it seems like common sense, I'm wondering if there are any studies or white papers on this to calculate the overhead on task switches, or is the evidence merely anecdotal?

  • 2
    Great question!
    – Damovisa
    Sep 2, 2010 at 7:10
  • 1
    Is this actually subjective enough?
    – Casebash
    Sep 2, 2010 at 13:25
  • @Casebah - good point. I wonder if I asked this on Stackoverflow itself whether it would be answered or closed as "not programming related"? I'll push the discussion up to "meta" Sep 2, 2010 at 14:24

1 Answer 1


The abstract of a study that says 'maybe'

Another study [PDF] that says interruptions make things seem like they took longer.

A study[PDF] that says interruptions increase resumption lag time, but that cues seen in the task before the interruption can speed recovery time.

Task switching[PDF] takes a significant portion of our work week.

More reading on the psychology of interruptions than you can shake a stick at.


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