The High Cost Of Interruption


Ninlabs Research has a fantastic post outlining the high cost of interruption for programmers. It’s worth a read and provides data which supports the concept of the maker’s vs. manager’s schedule.

Some interesting findings from the research include:

Based on a analysis of 10,000 programming sessions recorded from 86 programmers using Eclipse and Visual Studio and a survey of 414 programmers (Parnin:10), we found:

  • A programmer takes between 10-15 minutes to start editing code after resuming work from an interruption.
  • When interrupted during an edit of a method, only 10% of times did a programmer resume work in less than a minute.
  • A programmer is likely to get just one uninterrupted 2-hour session in a day

We also looked at some of the ways programmers coped with interruption:

  • Most sessions programmers navigated to several locations to rebuild context before resuming an edit.
  • Programmers insert intentional compile errors to force a “roadblock” reminder.
  • A source diff is seen as a last resort way to recover state but can be cumbersome to review

This high cost of interruption and the scarce amount of uninterrupted time in the day doesn’t just apply to programmers of course. It applies to everyone involved in a creative field. The trick, as productive people understand, is to minimize interruption and ensure you’re spending your uninterrupted time on the highest value activities.

Common sense, sure, but it’s sad how frequently it is forgotten by those who give in to the high cost of now or let others interrupt their workflow.

image credit: Shutterstock