Open loops and the ‘second brain’

Getting Things Done defines ‘Open Loops’ as those things that are nagging away at you because you haven’t got them out of your head and into your ‘Second Brain’. The knock on effect is that you are thinking about work at home, or home at work. Having a trusted way of getting that our of your brain has two advantages

Never lose an idea

If you have a way of dispatching ideas to your trusted system as soon a they appear, you can take advantage of ‘diffused thinking’ where you brain processes things you’ve previously focused on. The classic ‘aha’ moment when you walk away from a problem for 20 minutes and an idea presents itself in a context completely different to the one you’re in.

Similarly, when I’ve seen that my train or tram is going to be 15 minutes late, reviewing some of my tasks whilst I’m waiting usually gives me clarity on new ideas, and I capture them.

Never have the same idea twice

The other advantage to this second brain is that if you have one place to go for all your next steps, then you can ‘let go’ knowing that when you decide to devote your time to moving something forward, all the steps you have currently identified are in one place. This is very powerful when tackling the day job – having a go to task list means minimal overhead getting your thread back the next day.

Also, once you’ve finished a particularly intensive task, you can review what is now outstanding. Maybe you’ve solved two problems at once and can tick something off the list for free. Either way, you’re not expending energy wondering if you’ve missed something.

Workflow and reference ‘buckets’

Whatever your set of tools (pen and paper is fine), you need a way of storing both your workflow and support materials. At work I use OmniFocus and Freemind but there are a heap of tools that you could use. Do you have a favoured set of tools? Mention it below if so!

One thought on “Open Loops”
  1. […] I wouldn’t blame you for thinking this is really over-engineered and hard work. Can’t we just put things on a list and do them?  Well yes, but the whole point of this is so that you are in control all the time, not just when you realise things are needing to be organised. Wouldn’t it be better if you could map out what you needed to do for your sprint with just enough effort to keep things moving? What about being the guy who reminded the team ahead of time about a migration that’s happening next week before your sprint demo? Most importantly, wouldn’t it be great to be able to leave things in the office and not have them swirling around your brain? […]

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