An Open Loop is anything pulling at your attention that doesn't belong where it is, the way it is.
– Getting Things Done
Open loops have been a thorn in my side since I restarted using GTD last year. I have two main issues right now:
- There are things I want to do that aren't in my system
- There are things in my system that I don't do in time (or at all)
Every one of these open loops nibbles away at my attention. For example, instead of concentrating on writing this post, I'm thinking about how I need to send some emails, submit an invoice, and whether or not I'm due for an eye test, amongst a sea of other things. It's not conducive to being productive.
Let's start with #1 first.
1. Things that aren't in my system
This is probably the easiest one to solve: I need to get better at capturing ideas and then processing them.
Right now there are a dozen different ideas floating around my head. Some of those things I need to do somewhat urgently, others will go straight into my someday/maybe list.
The big issue here is that they're not stored anywhere. I'm usually pretty good at capturing things throughout the day, but I'm not so diligent about performing full mind dumps on a regular basis. I should be doing these at the start of my weekly review, but I tend to skip them as my mind is in "process" mode instead of "create" mode.
Solution - schedule time to perform a full mind dump, separate from my weekly review.
2. Things that are in my system, but don't get done
Most of my day is taken up with work-related activities: writing emails, fixing bugs, and working on existing projects. Concentrating entirely on work projects doesn't give me much time to go through my next actions list, and by the time the evening rolls around I'd rather not be staring at the computer screen for another 4 hours.
All of this results in my list getting longer as the week goes on, which in turn makes me reluctant to add new things to it. Not everything on my next actions list is important or urgent, but it still irks me to see the same tasks there week after week.
In the past I've taken a day off work to run through my next actions list instead. This always feels a little icky to me; it means I'm not balancing things as well as I want to, and I always feel guilty about not working (which is absolutely unhealthy and something I need to work on). A better solution would be to work on non-work tasks every day instead of waiting for my list to reach breaking point.
Solution - revert to using a daily schedule, and make time during each day to work on things from my "next actions" list.
I'll be testing both of these solutions out for the next month or so. We'll see how it goes.