The notion of ‘open loops’ is analogous to an internet browser with too many tabs open all together. Forcing a computer to do too much at the same time will overburden the computer’s CPU and memory. That causes lower processing speeds, even causing the browser to crash.
The same thing can happen to your employees in the workplace. Open loops add up to ongoing and unfinished mental processes—from a report that’s past due to a creative idea that has lingered on without being put into practice.
Having too many open loops restrains the time and attention employees give to specific responsibilities, stagnates performance, and breaks the team’s momentum.
Here are three ways you can help your employees handle their workload.
- Encourage your employees to work through these open loops and close them one by one. Evoke the two-minute rule: a task shouldn’t be added to a to-do list if it can be done within two minutes.
- Sit down with your employees, encourage them to make a list of their open loops, and prioritize the more significant open loops over the less important ones. Suggest the so-called Eisenhower Decision Matrix, named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who famously said, “The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
- Buy them a copy of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (2001.) This best-selling time-management guidebook can show your employees how to examine all their open loops and “stuff” in the office—information, ideas, emails, projects, expectations, and even people—into a sensible, meaningful system. Once organized, your employees can relentlessly “process” and sort out all open loops to conclusion. The resulting streamlined information flow can keep employees free from persistent worrying.