There is an interesting article written by Joel Spolsky titled Human Task Switches Considered Harmful. It compares which way of working is better: sequential processing or multitasking. Suppose we have two tasks at hand: A and B. Sequential processing means we work on the task A until it’s finished before moving to task B. On the other side, multitasking means we work on both tasks together. Since we can only work on one task at any given time, it means that we spend the first time slot on task A, then move to task B on the second time slot, move back to task A on the third time slot, and so on.
Joel shows that even without switching time, the average completion time for sequential processing is better than that of multitasking. Since in reality switching time is not zero (in some cases it could be significant), then the average completion time of sequential processing will far outdo that of multitasking.
The article actually takes software development setting. Joel argues that given this calculation, programmers should not be asked to do more than one thing at any given time. They will be far more productive if they can concentrate fully on one task until it completes before moving to the next task.
Then I think about it: does this condition also apply to our daily life ? Is it always better to do one thing until it completes before moving to the next thing ?
Well, I guess the answer is very probably yes. Steve Pavlina has also written a piece about it. But to be honest, this is one thing I lack of. Reading Joel’s article makes me realize that I often do the opposite: doing multitasking instead of sequential processing. I’m now thinking about how to change this habit.