Using GTD Radar to Spot Open Loops

Open loops drive me crazy.  There, I said it.

often goes like this:  I'm in a meeting and someone, not writing
anything down, will say something like, "we should really think about
doing that" or "I'll take care of that".  MyGTD radar kicks in and I
start placing mental bets on whether Person X will really do what he
said.  Or, I wonder why we don't just decide then and there what the
absolute next action is on the project in question.  Ah, the frustrated life of a GTD practitioner...

As a refresher, an open loop is some aspect of a project that is left undecided, un-taken-care-of or just neglected.  Sadly, these open loops can wreak havoc on productivity.  They are the reason why the office building down the street is not quite finished
Open loops are the cause of the ABD (all but dissertation) professor. 
An open loop is a fancy expression for "unfinished business".  We put
up with them all the time, but why?

suspect that our too-often habit of not looking for next actions may
have something to do with it.  Or, it might be due to the frenetic pace
of work.  A third option might be due to a lack of a weekly review to
see what details were missed in the course of a week.  Whatever the
cause, the open loops hang around and like a boomerang, come back again
and again. 

Here are some simple steps towards banishing these little buggers so that your productivity can soar:

  1. Keep a capture tool with you at all times.  A PDA,
    small notebook (my favorite- a $.99 notebook from Staples!) or pad of
    paper will do the trick.  If you need to remember it, write it down. 
    Don't trust your memory- write it down.

  2. When around those who have a habit of putting up with open loops, move them towards next action steps.  Ask, "What's the next action on that?"  You could also ask, "What can we do today to keep that project moving forward?"

  3. Set a good example. 
    You don't have to be perfect but consistency is a must.  Practice your
    weekly review.  Get things out of your head and be a person of action.

GTDMike StPierre