Open Loop Effect


The open loop effect is the process of chasing your tail in a never ending game of catch-up.

I come in from an overnight stay. I need a shower and my bag is full of yesterdays clothes. The hot water has been off and I need to wait before I can shower so I’ll take my bag upstairs. I make it up one flight of stairs then leave my bag at the bottom of the second flight. I’ll take it up later. Loop Open.

I take my journal out of my bag and go back down to the study. Todays page is open and the thoughts are flowing. My new sketchbook is next to me on the desk and I really want to practice perspective drawing. I push the journal aside and load Pinterest for some tutorials. Loop Open.

Pinterest is revealing some really interesting drawings of eyes too so I turn the page and have a go at those – Ill come back to the perspective drawing later. Loop Open.

I’m called out of the study for lunch with everyone, so I close the lid of my laptop and flip the sketchbook into neutral. I’ll come back to the eyes. Loop open.

After lunch is cleaned up I notice my washing is hanging ready to be folded. I put them on the arm of the sofa ready to be taken up then go and put the clothes horse away. Next time I go upstairs I must remember to take the pile up with me. Loop open.

“Stop It!” I hear you say, “I can’t take it anymore! So much unfinished business related anxiety!”

I have been home less than three hours and there are five open loops spiralling helplessly in my mind. These are taking up valuable processing power which would be better spent on focussed creation. Not to mention, I am going to spend more time at the end of the day trying to close the loops, if I manage it at all!

The Problem of an Open Loop

Time and brain power. Each day we are blessed with a finite amount of these precious gems. We must guard them ferociously. Anything that sets about to wrestle the minutes from our grasp must be stamped out IMMEDIATELY.

Take a moment to think about your day so far.

How much time have you spent doing productive work? Loads? Good, glad to hear it.

Now how much time has been spent ‘transitioning’ between this good work? If you day has been anything like mine then the ration is looking like 50/50.



“Can’t be done!”

“He’s mad!”

“And he’s talking to himself!”


Well I’m here to say that it can. You just have to close the loop.

Quit the game of catch up and finish jobs when you start them.

How to Close the Loop

Looking at my day again, heres what I would do differently if I was closing the loops:

  1. When I come in, fold my clothes and put the clothes horse away.
  2. Take the pile upstairs with me as I take my bag up.
  3. Immediately put my clean clothes away then empty my bag into the wash bin.
  4. Forget about clothes because its sorted.
  5. Go downstairs and work out how much time to draw I have before lunch.
  6. Write my goals for the day in the journal then close it.
  7. Draw for the remaining time, then put the sketchbook away to go have lunch.
  8. Forget about the perspective and eye drawings because its done.

All the loops have been closed and I now only have to focus on the thing that has my immediate attention.

The benefit of hindsight is that I can tell you what I would have done.

The trick to this is being proactive rather than reactive.