What Is An Open Loop?
We all have open loops in our head, an open loop is any thought about a task, idea or action be it miniscule or major, that you haven't taken action on.
An open loop may be deciding which flavour protein you're going to order or it may be rebuilding the engine in you Corvette... there's no limit to how big or small a thought must be to fit into the category of an 'open loop'. Whatever it is, if you haven't made a decision and proceeded with it it's going to be popping up in your head intermittently and is thus, an open loop.
A few uncompleted projects, a though here or there... what's the big deal? Open loops can be extremely taxing and exhausting to your mental well-being, not to mention an immense waste of time as you run the same questions and thoughts through your head over and over again without taking any action.
There's an easy solution to these open loops... and the first step begins with collecting your open loops - identifying everything that's happening that we need to dismiss, take action on or postpone.
If we can't identify your open loops we can't manage them, which is where the majority of people go wrong, we need to get ALL your open loops out of your head (you've probably got a lot!).
Recording Your Own Loops
Before we start searching and listing your open loops we need to get an organization system happening, making one huge assorted list of the problems is going to be ridiculously inefficient to manage and will more than likely result in us falling victim to paralysis by analysis as we see the sheer number of thoughts we have to deal with. This is why we'll create a series of 'collection bins' or 'inboxes'.
The key is to make as few, relevant collection bins as necessary.
Brainstorm the necessary collection bins, examples I've seen and used include:
There's no right or wrong place to record these loops, whether you want to use an old school, physical journal or a modern pre-organized application is up to you, whichever you're going to stick to and find more accessible will be the best option.
Unsure where to record your open loops? Why not try a....
- Moleskin or FieldNotes notebook
- Modern application (such as _____ or ______)
- Voice recorder
- Paper tray
Once you've decided which method best suits you it's time to adhere to the three key rules:
- You must capture every single loop
- Keep your collection bins to an absolute minimum
- You must keep a regular schedule to empty or take action on the items listed in the collection bins
How To Identify Your Open Loops (Where To Find Them)
Where should you be looking for your open loops to enter into your collection bins? I'd recommend starting with your....
- desktop – physical and computer
- bulletin boards
- documents/downloads/home folders
- sticky notes
- text messages
Moving Forward With Your Open Loops & Collection Bins
You've got your collection bins and you've listed all of your open loops, be them big, small or otherwise.
The key is to make and stick to a regular schedule and empty and take action on your collection bins. You don't have to obliterate every single object in your collection bins every single day.
Set a schedule that works for you and decide and proceed accordingly.
Do you take action? do you finish the thought or idea? Does it need to be postponed?