3 Steps to Close Open Loops

Mar 01, 2020
 

Do you fall asleep pretty easily, or do you find yourself lying awake at night thinking about all the things you didn’t get done that day and all the things you have to do the next day? Yeah, me too. We’ve all been there. It’s like a suspense movie playing on a loop inside your head, but it never gets to the end. Instead, the suspense just keeps growing and growing and it’s utterly exhausting!  

If this sounds familiar, then you, my friend, have too many open loops in your life.

 

What is an Open Loop?

Have you heard of these before?  Open loops are a term coined by international productivity consultant David Allen in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. They are the unresolved tasks that replay themselves over and over again in our minds like:

The laundry needs to be done. The kids need to be picked up. I have a meeting tomorrow. I still have to buy a wedding present. I have to make that phone call…

In essence, an open loop is a commitment that you make to yourself or someone else, that hasn’t been fulfilled yet. It can be a task or a project you started but not yet finished. It can be something really small, anything that you know you have to do or something you may not want to do. Either way, it’s something you haven’t done yet. 

Open loops can also include relationship issues left unresolved, someone you meant to call but haven’t got around to yet, an awkward conversation that has to happen but that you keep putting off, things you need to remember like, ‘must buy milk’… the list is endless.

The tasks don’t have to be big to seem overwhelming either. Because of their ability to constantly repeat themselves as they continually float around our thoughts unresolved, open loops drain our mental energy and leave us exhausted.

 

How do Open Loops Affect Us?

Think of open loops as open tabs in your browser. If you have too many open tabs, your browser starts to slow down and eventually crashes. This is exactly what open loops do to your brain! 

Open loops can wreak havoc on our energy, our confidence, and our health. Anxiety increases, sleep decreases, productivity plummets, procrastination becomes a hiding place, and the loops still dangle before you always going and never ending…

We tend to carry these open loops throughout our days and weeks until they pile up and consume all of our mental and emotional energy and we’re left feeling drained and exhausted. Then when you try to get any work done, you don’t have enough clarity to creatively work on the present task at hand.

Open loops keep our brains active even when we are supposed to be taking a break, thanks to our natural obsession with unfinished business. We just can’t shut off. So, if we can’t shut off our brains, we need to close the loops.

 

How to Close the Loops

It’s time to take control, learn how to recognise the open loops and what action to take to tie those bad boys off once and for all!

Here are 3 easy strategies to close those loops off:

 

Step 1- Brain Dump

Write out all the open loops you currently have going on a piece of paper. Get them all out of your head and stop the torture!

One of the problems with open loops is that they live inside our heads and set up home. Getting them out of that space is the first step to closing the loop. Like a juggler struggling with too many balls, take one away and it starts to get a little easier. Just the act of consciously writing it down, removes a loop from the play reel inside your head. The energy that was used to keep it rolling in there, can now be spent in a more efficient way.

 

Step 2 - Sort the Loops

Generally, you can sort the loops into 3 categories:

  1. Quick but tedious tasks like finally making that doctor’s appointment you’ve been avoiding or booking a flight to visit that friend you’ve not seen in years. Usually, these items account for the greatest number of loops, but they can also be dealt with the most quickly.
  2. Big and time-consuming tasks that typically take a long time to work on and complete, in some cases weeks or months. Want to write a book? Create a digital course? Build a new home? These biggies need to be dealt with separately. Watch this space for a future project planning lesson…
  3. Don’t matter anymore, like that plan you had 5 years ago to learn Chinese. Your energies should now be directed towards more important things. These items can be crossed off the list.

 

Step 3 – Diarise!

Take these categories and put them into an organisational/ productivity system. I use Apple to help me with this, but you can use whatever tools you like. Even pen and paper can do the trick as long as the open loops come out of your head! I am an Apple girl so recommend Notes, Reminders, and Calendar (all free with no need to purchase).

For example, big and time-consuming events go into the Calendar (like a holiday, a launch or a workshop). That way you know your deadlines and can work towards them.

Quick and tedious tasks can go into Reminders by day or week (like paying your tax disk or writing a newsletter) and Notes can be used for the famous to-do list!  This can help you empty all your thoughts and ideas out instead of having them taking away mental energy from what you’re doing in the moment. You can also use Notes for your brain dump if you like.

Breaking down your tasks in this way allows you to transition from mental energy constantly playing the loop over and over to the physical energy of actually getting things done.

 

Top Tip: Two-Minute Rule

Many of the tasks that end up floating in our heads as an open loop are actually quite small. It’s because we don’t do them, that they begin to build up and we allow them more power than they deserve. If a task takes just two minutes to do, don’t write it down on your To-Do list or put it into your reminders. Instead, as Nike say, “Just do it”.

 

Benefits

The act of closing off loops allows you to transfer that energy that was spent fixating on the loop to actually getting things done. 

It allows you proper rest— no more lying awake at night focusing on open loops. A rested mind has more clarity and is able to tackle tasks more efficiently and has more energy and confidence to tackle even the biggest boulders on your task list. 

And as you fly through your To-Do list with ease, you’ll gain an even greater sense of completion and accomplishment.

 

Want to get even more productive? Check out my vlog on 5 Steps to Fast Track Your Productivity and Get You More Time!  

And be sure to get my fantastic FREE guide 

6 steps to Turboboost your Productivity

The “Must Have” Guide to Get You Laser Focused and Save You TIME

Learn how to get clear on the 20% of activities that generate 80% of your results! Your ability to identify and focus on the top 20% of tasks will determine your quality of life, business success and the results you’ll be getting. It will help you reclaim your focus, become more productive and be less stressed and overwhelmed. 

 

Committed to your success,

 

Marina

Want to know more about getting your POWER back? 

I want you to know that Transformation is possible. Progress is possible. I’ve implemented these steps in my own life and coached my clients through the process

 

Maybe now really is your time to make a change? Maybe this is that moment for you. If so, then I would like to invite you to book a FREE Kickstart Your Power Session, where we get on a call for 60 minutes and identify what obstacles are stopping you from reaching your goals and work out a plan for overcoming them.

 

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