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If ever there is an intersection of two things that I love, it's productivity and programming. So when I saw the study by Microsoft - I was hooked. Think of this as the tl;dr; of that paper. I read it so that you can get to Fear the Walking Dead faster.

we found that developers perceive their days as productive when they complete many or big tasks without significant interruptions or context switches. Yet, the observational data we collected shows our participants performed significant task and activity switching while still feeling productive

Early on in the paper, the authors lay out the fact that what we preceive makes us productive (significant interruptions or context switches) we actually do plenty of while still reportingly feeling productive.

The number of task switches we observed,13.3 (±8.5) per hour on average

The average number of task switches that actually occured were a lot higher than I would have expected. I'd estimate my number of task switches around 7-8 on average - but that's not an accurate way to measure anything.

Participants did describe formal meetings as more productive when only a few people are involved, there is a concrete outcome and the participant feels useful in the meeting.

This one doesn't surprise me at all. It's not that meetings bother me at all. It's meetings without a clear purpose! You know, the ones that have you asking "What did we do for the last hour?"

they stated that the goals provide an overview of their tasks, allow them to prioritize work and to better react in cases of unplanned tasks, which were mentioned to be a major detriment to being and feeling productive

That's an excellent point. Unplanned tasks seem to disrupt my idea of how a day will go more than anything else. When those come up - it's quite easy to feel jarred.

The point of the paper wasn't to define productivity but to look at what is perceived as productive and if that really happens when you feel productive. The key take away for me is that what we think we're doing is not the same as what actions we're actually taking throughout the day.

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Jon Dowdle

Jon Dowdle currently works on the internet at a lovely place called InVision.


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