Some years ago I worked with a friend who had a routine he called Start, Stop, Continue…and we would go through our projects and decide. I believe it came from some software team practice. At times I would take everything I would be doing or thinking of doing and run it through these filters.
Now at one point just with my work alone at HolacracyOne, my old company, I had like 3 dozen roles or so, and had more projects than I could manage. I used every tool I had and then some to chunk it down, focus, prioritize, outsource, manage expectations, protect my sanity, and more. Getting Things Done (GTD) has been a lifesaver for many reasons.
Most people, myself included have around 100 or so outcomes we are working toward at any given time. Only some of them are really clear and known to us. So we are often subconsciously working on all our stuff. By writing down our outcomes, our things to talk about with each other, and essentially tracking all the commitments we have made (to ourselves, since that is first and foremost what I commitment is) we can have headspace to be creative, be more reliable in our commitments, and even think more…about more projects, which are really anything from something like finally going on that trip with that special someone to publishing an article to starting a new career. It is just our life’s work, these projects. Work is simply a subset of our life.
Yet something happens when we then agree to get back to someone. Or have a conversation with someone and we both think we should again. Or we have a proposal out to a client and they aren’t responding. Or we have some challenges in our relationship or our work. We start seeing and feeling these open loops. These open loops are needing something. They need attention. They need a parking lot, a place holder. Or they keep wanting.
What happens when you can’t close an open loop? Sometimes a relationship has run its course. Sometimes our personal needs take us on a different path from our colleagues. Sometimes we simply don’t want to keep engaging in something that may not be worthy of our attention and effort, or worse, even harmful. Do we have to finish?
No more than we would be expected to clear our plate even if we are full should we need to finish something. Completing has become important. And that doesn’t always mean finishing. Sometimes it means pausing. Sometimes it is letting go. And sometimes it is leaving. If we can we can communicate something about this. I am not saying it is easy nor socially acceptable nor without cost to complete things in this way and not feel pressure to finish it in a prescribed way, within someone else’s terms, or at all. We find a way to complete or close these open loops for ourselves even if it is solely within ourselves and the rest of our lives. We needn’t actually ever go near the person, place, or thing that is an open-loop to complete it for ourselves.