Context Switching: What Is It & How to Reduce It While Building Your Presentation

Jun 20, 2022

A major culprit for reducing productivity is context switching. When switching between tasks, tools, or even projects, efficiency and focus can be lost, leaving you with less time than you started with. 

As Jory MacKay puts it, “You can’t do your best work when your attention is scattered across 12 open apps, 34 ongoing conversations, and a to-do list a mile long.” (1) While it is seemingly impossible to simplify this congested workflow, there are tools and tips that can help you achieve longer periods of focus and productivity. 

In this article, we will discuss the negative impacts of context switching, and how it impacts productivity. In particular, we’ll examine a solution for marketers and PowerPoint presentation builders.

What is context switching?

Context switching is shifting your attention from one unrelated task to another. This shift could be between software, business tools, or from one task or assignment to another.

While this shift is sometimes necessary like when driving a car, a context switch cost is incurred. Similar to the concept of opportunity cost, a context switch cost is a potential loss. (2) Every time a task is switched there is some kind of overhead cost such as a loss of productivity, decreased cognitive function, or even confused priorities. 

Context switching is even more prevalent in this age of smartphones and constant connectedness. With few boundaries in the digital age, there is a constant pull to multitask all the time. Neuroscientist Dan Levitan studied multitasking and found that “multitasking is stressful, as indicated by increased secretion of cortisol and adrenaline” and that “IQ points can temporarily drop 10 points during multitasking” (3). You don’t need to lose IQ points while working on a big presentation! 

When creating slides for PowerPoint presentations, context switching to hunt for data and assets across content systems hurts productivity.  Alt-tabbing may cut 40% of your productivity and increase the time for content creation. For example, searching for a template to incorporate into your Powerpoint presentation can be time-consuming and lead to poor outcomes. 

What Contributes to Context Switching?  

There are many reasons for context switching — you probably wear more than one hat at work, use a lot of tools, or work on multiple projects at the same time. Possible reasons for context switching can be grouped into two main categories: self-generated and within the task.


GoLinks describes self-generated context switching as “Distractions, addictions, or bad habits around constantly checking communication apps, lack of discipline around staying focused, procrastination disguised as constant context switching.” (4) Almost anyone with a smartphone has been challenged by this type of context switching as notifications are continually asking for our attention. 

Self-generated context switching could be replying to emails while working on project design or replying to LinkedIn comments while writing an ad copy. Or perhaps you’re switching to your social media comments, a hit trending discussion, or your WhatsApp group chats while working on a task. These bad habits can be costly distractions over time, costing you productivity and impeding cognitive function.

Within the Task

Alternatively, within the task context switching may be necessary. For instance, you might need to look for content, a media, or a file from third-party storage apps like Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and more to complete a task. While it may be necessary at times, all of this alt-tabbing leads to reduced productivity and creativity.

How PowerPoint Designers can Reduce ‘within the task’ Content Switching

When designing PowerPoint decks, marketers or designers likely need to access images, videos, templates, and more. So, what can be done to reduce context switching and increase productivity when creating a PowerPoint presentation for your organization?

TeamSlide is a tool that limits context switching by enabling PowerPoint users to find the assets they need inside PowerPoint. It allows you to create PowerPoint presentations with all your custom templates, best slides, images, and videos in one place without switching any tabs or searching through other platforms. 

Here’s how TeamSlide reduces the alt-tabbing and context switching in your workflow:

1. Search and Insert Slides, Images, and Videos

Reducing context switching, TeamSlide allows users to search, insert and preview slides all without ever leaving PowerPoint. This is achieved by seamlessly integrating with your current content management systems, such as Box, SharePoint, or OneDrive, and making your content easily searchable.

As a central repository for all your templates, diagrams and icons, and visual graphs, this slide library can boost productivity.

2. Connect to approved assets

Sometimes, you might need access to your organization’s content repositories. Switching to your organization’s content repository and importing content to your presentation can be tedious and time-consuming.

TeamSlide enables employees to use assets from across all your company’s content repositories through one simple interface within PowerPoint. This effectively eliminates the tedious task of switching to your content management system and searching for assets.

3. Intuitive design to reduce overhead

Besides context switching, you might be reducing your team’s productivity by training them on the tasks that can be eased out. For instance, employees might need training on accessing the CMS or on how to use other standalone tools. 

TeamSlide brings all the tools and features to a single place with a simple interface integrated into PowerPoint. This allows you to find the assets you need, where you need them. 

Context switching impacts productivity and potentially cognitive function (Remember the 10 IQ points?). Every time a task is switched there is some kind of overhead cost such as a loss of productivity, decreased cognitive function, or even confused priorities. 

Self-generated context switching takes discipline to overcome, however, within the task context switching can be minimized with the right tools and processes. 

TeamSlide minimizes context switching and increases workflow efficiency. It imports your content assets from your content systems and keeps them in PowerPoint with a easy-to-use interface. No longer need alt-tab/context switch. Helps users find the best assets/control

From marketing, sales, or any other department in the organization, everybody can leverage the power of slide libraries in Powerpoint.

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