Close open loops

Tasks left undone, observations left unrecorded, replies yet to be written—these swirl about our minds, as if we’re rehearsing them over and over again to make sure they’re not forgotten. To get rid of this nagging and create a “mind like water” (to use the term in Allen, 2015), build systems to reliably close these open loops.

For instance: for operational to-dos, this means (Allen, 2015):

  1. You should be able to record a task anywhere
  2. You regularly drain tasks from this list
  3. You regularly delegate, refactor, or delete tasks which you can’t prioritize

Taken together, these properties ensure that when you record a task, you can stop thinking about it. Ubiquitous capture isn’t enough, as most to-do systems demonstrate. If you don’t regularly review your task list and decide to delete or re-strategize lingering tasks, you won’t be able to trust that you’ll follow up on tasks you record.

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Allen, D. (2015). Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

Last updated 2023-07-13.