When I started this blog I mentioned a certain childish glee I’d felt as a young man reading Getting Things Done and ultimately not “Getting It Done”. My main issues at the time were:
- A lack of understanding of what poor time management under pressure feels like
- A lack of understanding of what it feels like to have multiple goals/projects in flight at once
- A lack of experience of what it feels like to be on top of these things and “in the zone”.
Something that has always resonated with me though, since the first time I started reading Getting Things Done, is David Allen’s notion of ‘Open Loops’.
“You perform best when you haven’t got lots of fermenting ideas/thoughts (open loops) clogging up your brain.”
My interpretation of an open loop is that it’s a bit like a process running on your computer that takes up some of the system memory (RAM). The more things you have running, the more sluggishly your system performs. David Allen says the same thing of open loops; only this time it’s not a process that’s running but an incomplete, uncaptured task or action.
GTD states that a brain is designed for coming up with ideas, not storing them. Its basic premise is that you perform best when you haven’t got lots of fermenting ideas/thoughts (open loops) clogging up your brain and the only way to achieve this is to have a robust system for getting stuff out of your brain (by writing things down). Your system also needs to be robust enough that you have embedded routines for reviewing and actioning what you have written down; otherwise you start subconsciously creating open loops for worrying about when you’re going to review what you’ve captured…
“I lacked the wisdom and experience to put a robust system into place.”
When I first got my head around this concept and the notion of a ‘capture’ process that would get the open loops out of my head and into a task management system it was like a little flash bulb going off in my head. Could this be the answer to become more organised and spending fewer night lying awake trying to process the day’s events and tomorrow’s tasks?
Ultimately my quest for productivity at a younger age failed because I lacked the wisdom and experience to put a robust system into place to support the fundamental notion of managing my open loops; This time around I believe I have the right skills – and an era where helpful tools abound – to keep me on the course to improved productivity.
How do you manage your open loops?
I’m experimenting with Sketchnotes as a productivity tool – you can find my sketchnote for this post here
Image © Tund | Dreamstime.com