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Why is it so hard to do my work? The challenge of attention residue when switching between work tasks

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  • Leroy, Sophie
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    Abstract

    In many jobs, employees must manage multiple projects or tasks at the same time. A typical workday often entails switching between several work activities, including projects, tasks, and meetings. This paper explores how such work design affects individual performance by focusing on the challenge of switching attention from one task to another. As revealed by two experiments, people need to stop thinking about one task in order to fully transition their attention and perform well on another. Yet, results indicate it is difficult for people to transition their attention away from an unfinished task and their subsequent task performance suffers. Being able to finish one task before switching to another is, however, not enough to enable effective task transitions. Time pressure while finishing a prior task is needed to disengage from the first task and thus move to the next task and it contributes to higher performance on the next task.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6WP2-4WBY52C-1/2/f35658c69d1d9eb8db1dcba671a51280
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

    Volume (Year): 109 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 2 (July)
    Pages: 168-181

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:109:y:2009:i:2:p:168-181

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/obhdp

    Related research

    Keywords: Task transitions Attention Time Task performance;

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    1. Chakravarti, Amitav & Janiszewski, Chris, 2003. " The Influence of Macro-level Motives on Consideration Set Composition in Novel Purchase Situations," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(2), pages 244-58, September.
    2. Lim, Stephen Ghee-Soon & Murnighan, J. Keith, 1994. "Phases, Deadlines, and the Bargaining Process," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 153-171, May.
    3. De Dreu, Carsten K. W., 2003. "Time pressure and closing of the mind in negotiation," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 280-295, July.
    4. Mayseless, Ofra & Kruglanski, Arie W., 1987. "What makes you so sure? Effects of epistemic motivations on judgmental confidence," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 162-183, April.
    5. Weenig, Mieneke W. H. & Maarleveld, Marleen, 2002. "The impact of time constraint on information search strategies in complex choice tasks," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 23(6), pages 689-702, December.
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