Open Loops

In Getting Things Done, David Allen introduces the concept of "open loops."

These are commitments or agreements you made with yourself that are stuck in your mind. They're the things that constantly pop into your head and bother you when you haven't done them yet.

I'm the king of open loops.

There are so many things that I tell myself to do, they pile up, and as a result I become stressed and unproductive.

Even if it was just a couple, I'm realizing that those commitments don't have to stay in my mind, that they use up my valuable decision-making energy that could find better use on actual work. Our brains are just not optimized for juggling commitments - that's what note-taking tools are for!

Between the time you woke up today and now, did you think of anything you needed to do that you still haven’t done? Have you had that thought more than once? Why? It’s a waste of time and energy to keep thinking about something that you make no progress on. And it only adds to your anxiety about what you should be doing and aren’t. (pg. 18)

This has been such a big part of my waking life. Thinking about the things I haven't done and being anxious about it has been as normal as breathing. It also has done nothing but paralyze me. 

Some of these open loops for me include reading a certain book, starting a podcast, writing an article on a certain topic, contacting a potential mentor or someone to collaborate with etc. 

Sometimes I start the task but never finish it, leaving that loop forever open and as a result forever a source of stress. 

I'm becoming aware of just how much this mismanagement of commitments has been taxing me. I'm getting exhausted just thinking about it. 

It's such a relief to find out that it doesn't have to be that way.

“Thinking in a concentrated manner to define desired outcomes and requisite next actions is something few people feel they have to do (until they have to). But in truth, it is the most effective means available for making wishes a reality.” (pg 16)

I need clear definitions of the outcomes I desire and the next action required. As David Allen wrote, I need to "transform all the 'stuff' I've  attracted and accumulated into a clear inventory of meaningful actions, projects, and usable information." I need to "gather everything that requires thinking about and then do that thinking" if my organizational efforts are to be successful. 

My plan for the next couple of days is to write down what my commitments are, clarify their meaning and required steps to achieve them, and have them in a system where I can regularly check up on them. Just as David Allen suggested. 

I plan to do this on because I hear it's one of the best apps for notes and tasks.

It's about time I close some damn loops. 


Hello, I'm Erick. I like to write about philosophy, self-development, running, unschooling, podcasts, software tools and digital marketing.