Unfinished Work Tasks
(This information applies to unfinished tasks at work and unfinished tasks at home.)
As with any to-do list, it is important to actually DO what you’ve set out to accomplish. However, for a variety of reasons some tasks just don’t get done. In David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, he calls unfinished tasks “open loops.” As the name suggests, these open loops circle continually in your unconscious mind, popping up periodically in your consciousness. As soon as you remember that you have not completed a task, your brain focuses on it and prompts you to do it—immediately. You might be able to bat it away like a pest from your consciousness, but it will fester and send out distress signals in your unconscious, making you miserable. The cycle continues until the job is done.
Now, consider this: On any given workday you may have anywhere from 30 to 50 unfinished tasks. Regardless of the size or scope of the tasks to be completed, they are stressing you. These incomplete loops perpetually interrupt concentration, pull focus, and induce anxiety. That’s why it’s so important to put unfinished tasks onto a master to-do list. By placing them in a single, safe place you stop the open loop process and put your mind at ease. It is tantamount to your conscious mind reassuring your unconscious that it need not worry; the task will be done in a timely manner.
As you work toward starting and completing all the items on your list, make sure you keep track of everything you accomplish by marking off with a checkmark each item one at a time. The simple power of the checkmark is in itself a mysterious motivating power. In a sense, these lists create a written contract you make with yourself. By creating these lists, you are making an emotional commitment to complete these daily activities. As straightforward as it may seem, there is an incredible power of emotional accomplishment each time a task is finished completely and marked off your list.