A Diary Study of Task Switching and Interruptions

Mary Czerwinski, Eric Horvitz, and Susan Wilhite

Adaptive Systems and Interaction
Microsoft Research
Redmond, Washington 98052

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We report on a diary study of the activities of information workers aimed at characterizing how people interleave multiple tasks amidst interruptions. The week-long study revealed the type and complexity of activities performed, the nature of the interruptions experienced, and the difficulty of shifting among numerous tasks. We present key findings from the diary study and discuss implications of the findings. Finally, we describe promising directions in the design of software tools for task management, motivated by the findings.

Keywords: Multitasking, diary study, task switching, interruptions, task recovery

In: M. Czerwinski, E. Horvitz, and S. Wilhite. A Diary Study of Task Switching and Interruptions, Proceedings of CHI 2004, ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , April 2004, Vienna.

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