Open Loops and how to close them

Insights Open Loops and how to close them

If I told you that your brain has “Open Loops” would you know what I mean?
It sounds weird I know and it was a confusing subject for me when I first heard of them.
I first came across them in “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. When David first described the open-loop idea I didn’t quite get it. But after a few examples and relating them to my own experiences I finally understood the concept.

If you would like to know more about open loops and how to close them then you are in the right place. This blog will be on the shorter side as it is purely focused on this open-loop concept. A concept that goes hand in hand with my previous blog “How I use Trello to organise my life”. So if you haven’t read that I’d recommend pausing and reading that blog and coming back.

In the previous blog I wrote about my External Brain Trello board and how I write down everything I need to do on that board. The board included notes on painting, parking tickets and everything in between. I create a card on this board every time I start and new “Open Loop”. A new task that requires a bit more planning than a regular to-do list item.

If you haven’t gone through and created your own version of the External Brain board either within Trello or with simple notes I would recommend it. Initially seeing all of those tasks yet to be completed can be a daunting task and if you want you can break it down into a more manageable week-by-week time frame.

So how do you “close the loop”? Well simply checking it off the list will close the loop. This may sound simple and that’s because it is. The trick is making continual movements to close as many loops as you can and one of the best ways to do this is by simply writing down the next task you need to complete in order to close the loop.

You see, this is what confused me.
I have to add more things to my list just to complete other things off my list! How the hell does that work?
Well, you see the majority of tasks on your list can probably be broken down into sub-tasks making the original task actually more of a project than a individual task.

For example, painting the hallway. I can’t just immediately paint the hallway from the word "GO". It has to be broken down into sub-tasks.

  1. Decide on a colour.
  2. Buy the paint
  3. Mask the outlines
  4. Actually, start painting.
By having broken your loops down into sub-tasks you can focus the next task on your list. You could consolidate some tasks into one For example when you go to buy the paint for the hallway, buy the paint for the bedroom aswell.

But what is the point? Why go through all this work?
Well, have you ever noticed that you write all these to-do lists but never really get round to checking things off the list? I have and I am very guilty of this. My main problem is that my tasks are more like projects and lack initial direction. These subtasks give me somewhere to focus my energy to work towards a greater goal of smartening up the house and closing the open loops.

The same logic is applied to my 52 weeks of the baking project. Each week is a new mini-project. Each mini-project consists of the same tasks.

  1. Research and find something I want to bake that week.
  2. Find a UK recipe for that bake. I don’t want to deal with cups as a measurement so UK recipes only.
  3. Buy the ingredients.
  4. Bake.

I am currently 30+ weeks in and this formula has failed me yet.

The general idea of breaking open loops down into sub-tasks gives you more direction and relieves your brain of stress. Giving you more memory space for the newest 6 million new Pokemon.

Sorry If I got a bit rambly during this post, it turns out the concepts in my head are a lot harder to put into words than I thought. Turns out blogging is hard!

If you have any questions I would recommend reading “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.
If you want to chat about any concepts in this blog, please feel free to DM me on linked in or twitter.

That's it for this week. I hope you have a positive and productive week.
Cya next week.


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