Open loops are commitments made to yourself or to another person that haven’t yet been fulfilled. They’re hanging out in limbo (your brain), and they essentially drain your energy without you even realizing it

Mandy Green

Are Your Open Loops Having a Negative Effect On Your Productivity?

For the last few weeks, I couldn’t help but notice that my mind and schedule was a mess.  I have been out at games and tournaments with my club soccer teams, speaking at conferences and on campuses, going to my kids martial arts classes, getting my own workouts in, etc.

After a few busy work weeks and weekends in a row, I was feeling stressed because I had a growing list of things that had been left unfinished.

Today I’m going to bring you into my life and show you how to get out of this frenzied state and totally calm your mind.

This is simply a process of closing the “open loops.”

What’s an open loop?

I first learned about these from David Allen’s best-seller, Getting Things Done. Essentially, open loops are commitments made to yourself or to another person that haven’t yet been fulfilled. They’re hanging out in limbo (your brain), and they essentially drain your energy without you even realizing it (like when you have a bunch of apps open on your phone at the same time).

For example, here are just a few of my current open loops:

  • I have about 40 emails that need my attention. Most of them are quick, but some of them represent bigger challenges I need to resolve.
  • I have to clean out my kids old toys and cloths that they have grown out of.
  • Our garage is a disaster with boxes we still have not unpacked from when we moved over a year ago.
  • Our car has become a dumping ground of hats, gloves, snack wrappers, and school papers and projects. I have been meaning to clean it out for a long time.
  • I have 4 first contact emails to write for Dan Tudor’s TRS clients.
  • I need to get to Target to pick up a few things.
  • I keep trying to book a hotel and car for my sister’s wedding in September but the prices have been really high so I keep putting it off.
  • I am needing to finish up a social media for coaches course that I have been working on for a long time.

There are a lot of other things weighing on me because they are unfinished, but hopefully you get the idea of what an open loop is from the examples I provided.

I’m guessing the open loops I listed above parallel your open loops. Our coaching lives our unique, but most of us have a HUGE list of things on our minds.

How these open loops could be damaging your health

I have been doing some research on the damaging effects that leaving open loops has on your health.  These are the 6 main damaging effects:

Lowering Energy – open loops take time and effort to actually close, so they can eat away at your energy levels, leaving you exhausted, sleepy and apathetic.

Overwhelming You – the more unfinished tasks you have to think about, the more overwhelming the situation seems. And the fact you can’t find the time to clear the backlog can hit your confidence hard.

Promoting Procrastination – the worse the situation becomes the more difficult it is to focus on a solution. And since procrastination means you put off doing things you should be taking care of, the situation only goes further downhill.

Lowering Self-Esteem – with lower energy, falling productivity and a general feeling of being overwhelmed, you start to feel pretty useless. Self-esteem plummets, you become highly self-critical and begin to want to give up.

Causing Depression – because you’re surrounded with unfinished tasks that won’t go away, the situation can seem to be hopeless and depression and set in. These days mental illness awareness is global concern, so the impact here can be hugely damaging.

Lower Life Quality – life has its up and downs anyway, but the damage open loops do can lower your quality of life. Worrying creates stress, which in turn can lead to very real health problems (between 75% and 90% of all doctor’s visits are said to be stress-related ailments).

The Simple Process of Closing Open Loops

When I do a good job of closing open loops, before I begin my work each morning, I spend about 10-15 minutes preparing my work environment. This is a simple process of closing the open loops that could prevent me from focusing completely on my upcoming tasks.

The specific loops that I close each morning vary depending on what distractions are present, but the process is the same no matter what needs to be done.

Here are a few steps you can take to close your open loops:

Adhere to the processes of Equilibrium Zero, which is a comprehensive zero-based perspective on the work you do. This includes inbox zero, desktop or home-base zero, and project management zero. Essentially, these processes create a super clean and simplified method of operating where the only thing you see is what you need for your next most important task. Everything else is put away, organized, and ready for action when it needs to be.

Take stock of which loops are currently open. Once you have implemented the concepts in Equilibrium Zero, discovering your open loops is as simple as glancing around your office, looking at your master to-do list, looking back at last week’s to-do lists, and taking a peek at your email inbox. Within seconds you will be able to see the work that needs to be done. You can also make a comprehensive list of open loops if it appears that you have too many to manage in a short time span.

Close them or schedule them. If you can’t close your open loops in under 20 minutes, schedule a time to close them as soon as possible. I refuse to begin my work each morning until I can really dig in and focus. I put great emphasis on zeroing out everything because anything that is out can (and will) become a distraction. Close every loop that’s in your way, or at least ensure you can do so soon.

Which Open Loops are Slowing You down Right Now?

We all have open loops, but some of them are more obnoxious than others. Share by emailing me, in the comments, on Facebook, or twitter which open loops are holding you back from doing your best work today.

Just by closing these open loops, you will free up your mind and sense of control over your day to day activities.

Have a great week.

Mandy Green

Busy Coach President

To schedule a free 30 minute call with me click here

P.S.  If you have found this article helpful, please share it with your staff or other work colleagues!  Studying time and energy management over these last 8 years and applying it to my coaching and recruiting has been a game changer for me.  I am committed to helping coaches get more important work done in less time so more time can be spent with family and friends.  Thanks!

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