Six Ways to Fight Task Saturation

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Jim "Murph" Murphy

Task Saturation Drains Your Tank

Task Saturation is nothing new. Overflowing inboxes, full schedules, and mounting priorities have become a way of life for many professionals today–and there lies the problem. Today’s businesses have become entirely too accustomed to operating at full capacity without the resources needed to Flawlessly Execute. So how do you identify & mitigate Task Saturation? Start incorporating these six tips into your routine and you’ll see the difference immediately.

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1. Start Fighting Before the Fight

Planning plays a significant role in the overall mission. Establishing a team-wide understanding of priorities and evaluating the points where Task Saturation is likely to occur will drive plan development to prohibit common obstacles. Between Execution Gaps and contingency planning, the Six Steps of Mission Planning can help you prevent Task Saturation even before you begin executing your plan.

2. Provide and Accept Mutual Support

Known as the “Wingman Concept” in Flawless Execution, mutual support is a collection of teamwork principles that establish a shared “mindfulness” among team members that helps to focus on the Mission Objective at hand. Mutual Support is the foundation of high-performing teams. Without the ability for team members to recognize Task Saturation and support the mission critical areas that it will affect, success becomes significantly harder to achieve. We’ll discuss Mutual Support more next month.

3. Task Shedding

It sounds simple but task shedding can be very difficult to actually do. It requires you to maintain focus on the most important initiatives, peeling away peripheral tasking at the individual level. Because it’s very difficult to recognize your own Task Saturation, this is another reason why Mutual Support is integral to maintaining pace during the execution phase. Once you or another identify Task Saturation has set in, shed your tasks sequentially from bottom to top. If an item is not strategically aligned with your Mission Objective, cross it off. If an item is tactically important and still must be done, shed this task to a less Task Saturated team member.

4. Crosschecks

In aviation, the instrument panel is displayed with one central gauge surrounded by smaller gauges. While all of the gauges are vital, the center gauge displays the aircraft’s orientation to the ground, thus it must remain front-of-mind for the pilot. Similarly, each of your team members should have an “instrument panel” of his or her top priorities and should prominently display this so as to remind that team member of the need for regular priority crosschecks. At Afterburner, we call this the Attitude Indicator. Whenever Task Saturation sets in, team members can simply crosscheck their task list with their Attitude Indicator to determine what tasks stay, what tasks are shed, and what tasks should be eliminated entirely.

5. Checklists

In the 30-year flying career of one pilot, he only flew without his checklist on two occasions. Though he didn’t have an event that required a checklist during those two flights and, in fact, knew nearly the entire checklist by memory, the pilot was Task Saturated throughout both missions and failed to accomplish the operational priorities of those missions. So what could have caused this seasoned pilot’s performance to suffer when nothing was actually out of place except the checklist? It was his perception that things were not in order. Transferring this circumstance from the cockpit to the office, this would be like forgetting your notes on the way to present a project you know inside and out. Checklists allow you to psychologically alleviate worry or fear and also ensure mindful execution is performed.

6. Execution Gap Meetings (X-Gaps)

Ask a military combat veteran what motivates them in battle, and you will likely be surprised to find that it isn’t national objectives, flags, or rallying cries. It’s the Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine fighting beside them. Flawless Execution requires individual accountability to ourselves and each other. It is the discipline and rigor X-Gaps deliver that maintains that sense of camaraderie and responsibility. The X-Gap format is designed to rapidly and simply drive accountability, cohesion and a reliance on team interdependence and mutual support.

These simple adjustments will have you and your team on the track to fighting Task Saturation and executing flawlessly in no time. Next month, we take a deeper dive into the foundational concepts of Mutual Support. Until then, keep fighting the good fight!

 

James D. “Murph” Murphy, the Founder & CEO of Afterburner, Inc., has a unique and powerful mix of leadership skills in both the military and business worlds. Murph joined the U.S. Air Force where he learned to fly the F-15. He logged over 1,200 hours as an instructor pilot in the F-15 and accumulated over 3,200 hours of flight time in other high-performance aircraft.Through his leadership, Afterburner landed on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 500/5000 List four times. Murph has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Inc. Magazine, Newsweek, Meetings & Conventions Magazine and has appeared on CNN, Fox News, CNBC and Bloomberg News. Murph is the author of five bestselling books including, Flawless Execution, and has also been invited to speak at many of the world’s most notable business schools, including Harvard, Wharton, Cornell, Emory, Duke, MIT and Fudan University in Shanghai, China.

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