The Different Types Of Open Loops

Posted on July 30, 2012 by
Categories: Productivity
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 3 seconds

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One of the concepts of David Allen’s Getting Things Done is the concept of an open loop. An open loop is an unfulfilled commitment to yourself. But when we think about open loops we most often think about tasks we haven’t completed, but there are other different types of open loops.

Physical Open Loops

These are the typical open loops we think of; something we must accomplish to fulfill a commitment. The next physical action will move these loops toward closure. These are the tasks that we put on our task lists, and require some sort of physical action.

Mental Open Loops

Sometimes, though, there are ideas that we must think through. This is the type of thinking if we want to do something, or if we don’t, or if we’re just working through a problem in our minds. It needs to be considered an open loop simply because it will nag at our attention until we take care of it.

Emotional Open Loops

Far too often we don’t think we have to work at our relationships, but nothing could be further from the truth. With any emotional relationship, even if we think we don’t have anything to “do”, we still need to be present and open to what the relationship brings. Sometimes it’s not a matter of “do”, but just “be” with another person.

Spiritual Open Loops

I don’t often talk about spirituality, because I believe it is a deeply personal matter. But I have never met anyone, including die-hard atheists, who didn’t have some sort of spiritual practice. Even if it was nothing more than taking three deep breaths to calm and center themselves when stressed.

I won’t go into details on my own spiritual path or practices, but I will share this much: if I don’t pay attention and give some effort to them, I grow impatient, cranky and out of sorts. So it’s not a matter of what next action I need to take, but what I need to not do. In other words, I need to take some time, sit with my thoughts, and get a better perspective on my life.


Sometimes open loops are not the things we need to do, but rather in other aspects of our lives: the mental, emotional and spiritual planes.

What do you think? Are they different from physical actions? Or are they truly open loops too? Share below.


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