One of my favorite take-aways from the brilliant Gettings Thing Done is the idea of open loops.
Modern life is cursed with the fact that our brains are unable to handle the complexity we inhabit. This is why your brain reminds you to write an email while you’re in line at the grocery store, or to schedule a meeting while you’re driving home from work. Your brain wants to sit in front of a fire on the savannah and think about the best place to go for tomorrow’s hunt, not handle a ton of different projects and obligations.
Which is why the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology works so well: You write things down and then you look at the list of things you’ve written down and your brain can stop worrying about it.
It’s genius in its simplicity.
But there’s still the issue of open loops. How many projects do you have in various stages of completion? How much data do you have to load to get into the groove of each different project? How much overhead do you have in keeping up with the progress of the different projects?
(Note that in GTD parlance, “project” simply means an end state you want to achieve that will require more than one step. Booking a flight is a step toward the project vacation, for example.)
One thing that’s been helping me reduce stress is to actively strive to avoid open projects—anything I can do to end a project takes priority. Even if the project is small or the tasks required to wrap it up are easy, it’s still open and it’s still consuming mind space.
The same amount of work spread over fewer projects feels like less work even though it isn’t. It works for me and I hope it can help somebody else reduce their level of stress.
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