The simplest of simple games to demonstrate context switching…

Steve Wells
2 min readSep 26, 2021


As part of an agile refresher course I was giving a while back, I created this really simple game to demonstrate context switching, so thought I’d share it. It’s a simple way to demonstrate the cost of context-switching.

Context-switching is where someone stops one task half way through to do something else, then comes back to the task; it’s a big problem — research has shown that a 5 minute interruption for a developer can result in 45 minutes or more of lost productivity as they are taken out of “the zone” and struggle to get back in afterwards.

The game is played in 2 rounds, in each round, players are given three random categories, and they have to come with as many items in each category as possible. The categories should be as “different” as possible. Difficult to explain, but an example set categories could be:

  • Red
  • Insect
  • Cold

In the first round — no context switching — players get 20 seconds on each category.

In the second round — context switching — players must think of one item in a category, then one in the next, then one in the third, then back to the first, and so on.

Players should find round one much easier, and will (hopefully) come up with more items. This demonstrates that it is easier to come up with things in a single category rather than switching categories; it is more efficient to not context switch.

You can also play this game online — feel free to have a go and give feedback; I haven’t managed to play with a team of people yet, so would like to know how that works. Here’s how it looks…




Steve Wells

Building online versions of agile workshops such as the No Estimates game, to see how close we can get to the face-to-face experience for remote or hybrid teams