Is your team distracted? Use task shedding to get back on track

Is your Team Distracted? Use Task Shedding to Get Back on Track

Being able to stay focused has become increasingly difficult in a world of constant live connection! It is imperative that your team stays on task and focused, in order to succeed in the mission at hand! Enter: task shedding. A few years back we worked with a terrific sales team. Being millennials, they used live messaging for everything, sharing new information and giving each other encouragement – a constant flow of shared information. Yet when they sat back and looked at what was happening, they realized the cost of that interaction may have outweighed the positives. Yes, the new information was coming live, but it was distracting them from their immediate task, they were responding to each other and changing their course of focus in real time.


There are times for chewing the fat, and teams love them, but not when everyone’s under pressure to perform! When there’s a lot going on, a lot of it uncertain, you can’t afford long rambles and you can’t afford short statements that are unclear. Clear, concise statements also help you and those around you to keep focus. Ramble on, and people switch off. No matter how important your message is, it won’t be heard -and you may be taking up the time or phone line for more critical stuff.

Everything has to be clear, concise, and certain! That’s especially the case when people are tired or under stress. The other challenge is that as much as 80 per cent of human communication is nonverbal: tone, gestures, body position, and facial expressions. That’s the value of a face-to-face meeting or being in each other’s line of sight when you’re on an operation. So, if you don’t have those visual clues, you really need to get the tone and words right, over the phone or on the page.

There are some clear rules that can help keep your communication and mind on the mission. The first is to work with hard data and not assumptions! Another handy rule is to use standardised jargon is okay, but only if everyone is on the same page. When the heat is high and the pressure is on, the last thing anyone needs is someone using jargon that no one understands. Another that is important for fighter pilots, but can be taken into any business sector, is cutting the chatter! When we are flying the mission, we are communicating critical information across multiple channels, and it is critical that the channels are open and clear to get the message across.


Task shed to escape task saturation

It has always taken self-discipline to stay focused through our daily cacophony of personal and work plans, meetings, calls, and emails. That’s even harder now that we have a smartphone in our pocket 24/7 with its world of alerts, distraction, and temptation. So, it’s become ever more critical to be able to cut through that task list and shed whatever you don’t really have to do, now.

Most time-management approaches follow similar themes. The real difference with Flex is that you have wings, there to help keep you focused and shed tasks. If you need to, work with your wingman to problem-solve how to shed tasks and tap into other resources. Each day or more often as needed, sift out what you have to do, and what you can shed! This will help you and your team stay focused.

Task shedding is a continual process and here is the way that Flex continually prioritises to stay on top of task saturation. The first step in task shedding is to work out the tasks that must be done, things that must be done by the law, your boss, your standards, or an emergency requirement. You may not like completing these tasks, but they have to be done. Once you have a list of all the things that you must do – the non-negotiables – we then work out the things that we should do. What we should do is our core job! What responsibilities do you have in your role? Do those! And then finally, a list of all the things that would be nice to do but aren’t top priorities currently. Shed the unnecessary tasks and prioritise the tasks that will take you the furthest!


For some, pressure, especially in work environments can be really scary. And for others, it is a thrill they need to get stuff done. In both cases, the best thing to do is to keep it simple. As fighter pilots, we keep it simple by having a planning and briefing process that ensures that when we get into the air, we aren’t trying to come up with a plan so that we have mental space for other more critical cues. You can and should do the same.

Come up with a plan that covers all the tasks needed to complete a successful mission, and then brief everybody on the plan. You have to brief everybody, otherwise, you’ll have people who are left behind, and when lives are on the line, we can’t afford that! Once everybody is briefed on the same mission, go out and do what you have to according to the set-in-place plan. This is how we keep it simple, when it matters and when it doesn’t – it is one of our most sacred practices we never step out of!

Keeping it simple can sound like a scary task, but with the Flex methodology, I've made it super simple for you!

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