In this episode, JJ and Paul talk about context switching, which Paul explains is when you juggle very different tasks at the same time. He experienced a moment of self-awareness and realized how much context switching drains his energy. It’s a common experience but many people don’t know what context switching is.
Paul describes how he became aware of context switching. While at work, he noticed how exhausted he was from zoning in and out of the small tasks he had to complete within his larger projects. This prompted him to research working styles that are more energizing. J.J. takes the opportunity to comment on how distracting our technology-driven world is.
A simple thing you can do to minimize context switching and use your energy more efficiently is to block off larger sections of time on your calendar rather than slice it into small tasks that only take 15 to 30 minutes to complete. J.J. points out that everyone tries so hard to get everything done but that humans aren’t meant to multitask.
So, schedule simple tasks, such as checking your email, into a time block and stick to that schedule so that you’re not checking out several times a day while you switch to and from your inbox, exhausting yourself, and working on all of your tasks less efficiently. There are different ways you can block your time, and tools that can help you, so you can play with it and find out what works best for you.
JJ Parker: Paul, you posted something super interesting on slack the other day, that I kind of like jumped on right away. you posted an article about context switching.
Paul Guenther: yeah.
JJ Parker: So, so my first question for you is like what led you to this idea of actually just tell us what context
Paul Guenther: I might not be the best definition, but context switching is when you're jumping between different kinds of work, different type kinds of tasks, especially like a different, you know, Headspace or mindset. And. Kind of the gist is if you, you know, take some awareness of that, of the context switching, you probably start to realize that it it's very draining.
It's very tiring to try and jump back and forth rather than sticking to one.
JJ Parker: So what, like what kind of like led to you? To sort of like the discovery of this idea of context switching. Cause like a lot of people, if you ask them what context switching is, they don't really know. They're like, is that the thing my computer does when I switched back and forth between tabs are like, what is that?
Right. So like, how did you discover like this idea of context switching
Paul Guenther: Well, I think I was in the same camp as the vast majority of people. In not knowing what context switching was. I, I guess I found it because I was experiencing it, but I didn't know how to explain it. for, for what I do for work. It's a very like focus for several hours on this one thing. And then, then I have some other smaller tasks associated with it that I can bounce in and out of.
But when I. What I found was like emails and slack messages were just completely exhausting me when I tried to jump back and forth. And at some point I went searching and said like, there's gotta be a better way to do this without completely wearing myself.
JJ Parker: Yeah, it doesn't interest me. Like actually what you said I love, because you kind of had like the self-awareness to understand that that something you were doing was like draining your energy or, Hey, it was like taking a toll on you, which I think like is impressive in of itself.
Paul Guenther: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, at a certain point you just realized you can't focus anymore. Right? You're just mentally wiped.
JJ Parker: I know like between me checking Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, it's exhausting.
Paul Guenther: that's the triple.
JJ Parker: right. I just got a joke, but like we do live in this like highly distractable. Environment, right. Where like all of this stuff is like pulling at our attention all the time. and like technology is like the worst, right.
It's just constantly like trying to get you to pay attention to it. Right. the other thing you said that I think is, amazing and, completely remarkable is like, Like you started researching this topic, figuring out what sort of work style gives you energy. But also like what I heard was like makes you more productive, which by the way, I love, because that's pretty helpful to our organization.
So thank you. but this idea. Like you want to be more productive, right? You want to be better at what you're doing and the distractions we're taking away from, from that
Paul Guenther: yeah, for sure. And, to give some credit, I was sort of pushed into it. Right? my, my, my role at work kind of changed to where I was taking on new things and. I think for me that really necessitated, the other aspects here that we're talking about, like the awareness and, the, the desire for productivity and efficiency, because I was very quickly feeling overloaded and couldn't keep up.
JJ Parker: Yeah. So then you, so you decided to do something about it, which is which again is awesome. I spiked it on your calendar. Unbeknownst to you. I don't know if everyone can look at, I don't know if everyone in the company can look at Paul's calendar, but I certainly can. and I'm going to tell you what I saw. Don't be nervous. I don't know.
Paul Guenther: it's a very busy place. These.
JJ Parker: and I'm going to contrast that with what I saw on my calendar. Cause like when you add it in Google, it put some books. So calendar must start with me. My calendar has like 15, 30 minute little slice of slices in it. Right. It's got tons of These.
like 30 minute appointments. Sometimes I've got a 60 minute block in there, but like it's remarkably sliced up.
Like this is like ting. Next thing. Next thing. Next thing. Right. but your, by contrast to your calendar has big chunks of it that are blocked out. Like I noticed, like you had like the, the client, like the customer name and like the thing you were working on three hour block chunk, like, and it was just like two of those a day.
And then there was like some, a spot for doing email. but it was very like, to me, I was like, whoa, you could work like that. No. I mean, I'm not saying like, I'm not like that accusatory, like, well, Paul, you can work like that, but it was more like enlightened, like a human in our company could work like that.
Paul Guenther: Yeah, it's, it's pretty wild. And Timmy. You're you're looking at kind of the best of right now.
JJ Parker: okay.
Paul Guenther: even a couple of months ago, my calendar didn't look quite that good. I've started using this other app that helps with some of that, but, yeah, I, I, I work on these projects that just in total require multiple hours and like a lot of types of projects.
it really helps to stay. If you can, instead of having to like, remember where you were and come back to it,
JJ Parker: Right. Like not getting all this like super neuroscience on it, but like, it is a scientific, proven fact. Humans are terrible at multitasking. Like we like to tell ourselves, like, we're super good at it and we can juggle all this stuff. And it's like, that's just a lie. Like we're just lying to ourselves all the time.
well, so like, so the tactical thing that you do to eliminate. Context wishing and become more productive and more efficient is time-blocking on your calendar. It's like a super easy thing everyone could do. Like during this time I'm chunking it out. No one puts time on my calendar and I'm going to focus on this one thing.
Paul Guenther: Yeah. It's, one of those easy to say and hard to do in practice, kind of things like you were talking about.
JJ Parker: impact in practice?
Paul Guenther: Well, I think you were hitting the nail on the head earlier with, you know, our connected world with social media as the easy example, but we just have lots and lots of distraction. No matter what the situation, right?
So you have to kind of fight for it, especially at first, like trying to make it a new habit, to say like, Nope, I'm not gonna touch my inbox while I have this time blocked, or I'm not gonna look at slack or, you know, whatever, whatever your exterior thing.
JJ Parker: that was the other remarkable thing about your calendar. There's literally an event on it. Does this do email, right? Like so many of us like in the company are like drought, just kind of like drowning. That sounds dramatic.
Paul Guenther: I mean, I've used that word
JJ Parker: yeah, we're in our emails all the time. and it just feels like you can almost never catch up like. I certainly do. Like if I can ever get to inbox zero, it's like, like I eat a cake because it's such a remarkable, like occasion, even more rare than my birthday.
Paul Guenther: Right. Maybe, maybe two kids.
JJ Parker: right. but yeah, it's just it, this idea that I, I PR I promote it. Like, I love it. Like, this is a lesson that we should all. Take from you is Hey, time blocking helps us become more efficient and no, you do not have to do your email eight hours a day, or even worse, 12 or 16 hours a day.
Like probably most of us do. you, you can actually schedule when you do your emails. And then, so let me ask you this. Like, when you're working with your team, how does that go over? Like how, how does the rest of your team. Like, did they have to adapt to your email schedule?
Paul Guenther: so for me, most of my emails are actually external.
JJ Parker: Oh, so like our customers. Oh, so that's really interesting. Okay. Most of us think if a customer emails us, we better email them back right away. Right.
Paul Guenther: And I've had that same mindset too, for sure.
JJ Parker: but you're actually saying. Yup. I will respond to the customers, but I'm only going to respond to them in the time block that I say,
Paul Guenther: Yup. That's that's like the goal, right? That's the ideal scenario.
JJ Parker: Yeah.
That's beautiful. I love it. I mean, again, like, I think it's like an ex cultural norm. I call it like that. Maybe some of our things like email and slack need to be responded to in a particular time period. Slack's even worse, right? Slack is like respond immediately.
Paul Guenther: absolutely. And I'm, I'm fully guilty of that one. Slack gets me more often than email.
JJ Parker: we're going to have a whole separate conversation about how, how we should operate slack within our company, but, well, cool. this is awesome. so this is Paul. This is like our first. Carousel culture. I don't know if we're going to call it podcast four. We're going to call it. This is our first carousel culture nugget.
And I think this was great because, like your, what you're doing with your work style, I think is unique in our company, but also has such great lessons in it. And everyone can do bits of it. Right. They maybe don't go all in. which I what'd, I do think is amazing, but I think we can all learn something about how you do your work.
Paul Guenther: Yeah. And you said something to me the first time we, we kinda connected about this, which was that you kind of wanted to try the opposite instead of like, oh, I'm only going to touch my inbox. This one chunk of time. At the end of the day, it was more like I'm going to block out this one chunk of time where I don't touch anything.
JJ Parker: touch it. Yeah, they inverse, right? Yeah.
Paul Guenther: So like you're saying, I think people can really play with it and you know, there's, there's lots of different ways to block your time.
JJ Parker: Yeah. And there's tools to help, right? There's like, there's do not disturb stuff on your phone. It's in Macko us. Right? Like you can use it straight up quick, just straight up, quit slack and, and your web browser that'll do that too. but, very cool. And I did take a page out of your book and I do have a giant block of time. Blocked out tomorrow on my schedule.
Paul Guenther: nice. Is that the first one?
JJ Parker: That's not the first one?
but it's longer than normal. It's a, it's a longer time span than normal. So we'll see how it goes. We'll see if I get twitchy towards the end.
Paul Guenther: yeah, it's kind of like a trust fall, right? You kind of have. Acknowledge that you're, you're blocking off this big chunk and say, it's going to be okay.
JJ Parker: Absolutely. Cool. Well, thanks Paul. This is an awesome, an awesome first step.
Paul Guenther: Happy to help, happy to share what I've stumbled across so far.