You’ve arranged the order for accomplishing the day’s activities, and you begin to work your plan. But you know, however (because you’ve done a reality check), that your day will not go exactly as you planned it.
On a typical day, you can expect to get caught in the crossfire of interruptions, the unexpected will bubble up, and demands will fall out of the sky at inconvenient times. Flexicuting will be required.
Events are so fluid in today’s work environment that we have to change, adapt, and shift our focus all day long. Flexicuting involves the ability to:
- Be as willing to leave your activity list when priorities shift, just as you are willing to stick with it.
- Be able to turn on a dime in the middle of the day when an opportunity presents itself.
- Have the wisdom to modify your work style on the spot, and be willing to walk the path of another person’s style to collaborate and get things done.
- Developing the habit of reserving some time every day to deal with the unexpected.
- Being wired 24/7 without letting it be a source of frustration.
Would you like to become better at flexicuting? Here’s how.
First, recognize it’s a survival skill by changing your mindset and practice flexicuting skills daily It can be quite fun.
In today’s modern life, flexicuting involves the skills of both multi-tasking activities and alternate-tasking activities. It also requires the wisdom to know when to use and when to avoid either of these approaches.
Let’s talk about multi-tasking first. In our society, the term multi-tasking is overused. Even worse, the skill has been elevated to the pinnacle of desirable abilities, and we often find ourselves abused—and sometimes abusing—in the execution of multi-tasking because there are some guidelines to multi-tasking that most people aren’t aware of.
The best advice I can give people is to beware of multi-tasking!
Here’s why. When you are executing multiple activities at the same time, none of these activities has your complete focus. If you must multitask, it should only be done when you combine simple, mindless tasks.
Beware of multi-tasking while engaging with another person; for example, replying to a text message, or reading your email while carrying on a business conversation. Not only is this disrespectful and a put-down of the other person, but it’s also easy to miss the point or to misinterpret the communication.
My rule of thumb is never, never, never multi-task while carrying on a conversation with another person.
Multi-tasking, when abused, leads to time contamination. An example of time contamination would be taking your child out for pizza so you can have some quality one-on-one time together and then taking a cell phone call for five minutes while your child stares into space. Time contamination is also working on your laptop or phone while supposedly watching your child’s soccer game. That goal you missed because you were looking at your phone won’t be as fond as the memory of your child’s first goal.
Alternate-tasking is the natural result of being wired 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Living under these conditions, it makes sense to alternate our work and personal life activities in a way that we can fully experience both. While multi-tasking can contaminate time, alternate-tasking does not.
Alternate-tasking is being 100 percent where you are. So be 100 percent in the pizza shop with your child and then place the call, or reply to the text message after the pizza outing. Alternate- tasking permits us to fully engage all activities without dilution or contamination of the experience.
Alternate-tasking can help you get more done in less time than multi-tasking because, when you are fully engaged, you are more efficient and productive.
Flexicuting also involves the oscillation of our daily activities.
This, too, is part of the flexicuting skill. In other words, we alternate activities that require an intense concentration of effort with activities that are easier and much less stressful. The easier activities give you a chance to recover your energy and then re-engage again.
One of the foremost experts in the country on this subject is Dr. James Loehr, who co-wrote, among other books, The Power of Full Engagement.
His advice is to manage our day as a series of sprints, each followed by adequate recovery time.
If you are executing activities all day long as a marathon, it’s likely you won’t be as effective and will possibly burn yourself out by the end of the day.
Flexicuting and making waves during the day is not only ridiculously easy—it can be ridiculously fun as well.
Flexicuting involves understanding both execution styles, then using the one that works for you to get things done.
For example. You probably know somebody who eats one type of food at a time. In other words, they might first eat their chicken, then the potatoes, and then the broccoli. They finish one type of food before proceeding to the next.
Some people clear their activity plate the same way. They execute activities in linear order, starting with what they consider to be the highest priority to the lowest priority. Others might alternate. They alternate eating pieces of all portions on their plate, moving from one to another. These are what I call simultaneous activity managers.
Many are effective with this approach if they have good activity management skills. At the end of the day, they too will have finished most of what is on their plate.
In our society, simultaneous activity managers are often made to feel guilty because they operate with less structure. Don’t feel guilty because you don’t precisely follow the rules and laws of some guru. I encourage people to use their own style but understand both.
Whether you are a singular or simultaneous activity manger, it’s not the style that will determine your effectiveness but whether or not you have the right activities on your plate in the first place.
Times have changed
The way we work and live is for us to see our work and personal life as one life, with work and personal activities integrated throughout the 24-hour day.
The new way of thinking about balance is to realize it means maintaining equilibrium in a sea of change. It requires the ability to flexicute.
Flexicuting activities, means the ability to adapt to changes during the day without letting it throw you. It is executing activities by way of being flexible. As author James Ballard said, “We need to learn to dance while the carpet is being pulled from underneath us.”
(This is an excerpt from the book Attack Your Day! Before It Attacks You, co-authored by Mark Woods The AYD method builds the idea that the path to a happy, productive, and balanced life is applying five soft skills.)