Interruptions and task transitions: Understanding their characteristics, processes, and consequences

Sophie Leroy, Aaron M. Schmidt, Nora Madjar

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Frequent interruptions and task transitions are an inescapable reality of modern organizational life, yet the relevant research spans across numerous seemingly discon-nected domains that paint an incomplete and often inconsistent picture regarding the detrimental and/or beneficial consequences of such transitions, thus undermining the potential for this body of research to inform theory and practice. In this study, we review research relevant to interruptions such as intrusions, breaks, distractions, and dis-crepancies, as well as relevant work on multitasking and multiple goal self-regulation. In so doing, we identify ambiguities in the existing literature, and shed light on shared and unshared features across studies and fields to bring some coherence and start reconciling existing knowledge. At a theoretical level, our review reveals that behaviors on a task and the related interruptions and task transitions cannot be fully understood without taking into account the system of goals, within which they are embedded. We highlight that how people decide what to pay attention to and when to stop a goal pursuit to engage in another; have important emotional, cognitive, and performance implica-tions; and provide directions for advancing knowledge on interruptions and task transitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)661-694
Number of pages34
JournalAcademy of Management Annals
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2020

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