Two ideas came together for me in the course of the week that seem quite related: one of my colleagues mentioned how much more difficult it is to close a loop than to open a loop, and David Allen’s recent blog titled Good Riddance which is about letting go of things to create space for new things. I will start with the idea that it is more difficult to close a loop than to open one. My colleague was referring to conversations, pieces of work email threads – anything that starts something. It does seem true to me that there is relatively little effort in generating new ideas of things to do – I have thoughts all day long about new projects, tasks, books to read, movies to watch, all kinds of things where I could place my energy and attention. To actually follow through on these thoughts requires just that – energy and attention. And for me there are clearly more possibilities than I could ever actually make manifest. However, just having an idea, thought or conversation about something is not the same as starting it. Starting something takes energy, just as ending something does. I personally love getting something to “done” – I actually get a lot of energy from closing a loop, whether that be reaching closure with someone in a conversation or finishing a project.
Which brings me to the David Allen blog post. This showed up in my inbox within a couple of days of hearing my colleague’s comment, and it did two things for me: inspired me to close the loop on more things, and gave me insight about why I love getting to “done” so much. In the blog David says: “Your psyche has a certain quota of open loops and incompletions that it can tolerate, and it will unconsciously block the engagement with new material if it has reached its limit.” His hypothesis is that if you clear the decks you create capacity for the new. This is absolutely true for me. I find that when I have too many open loops, I have a strong internal drive to get to closure, both because it is inherently satisfying to complete things and because it frees me up to start something new.
Some people have a hard time starting things. Some people have a hard time finishing things. It strikes me as valuable to grow your capacity for both and to have that be balanced – or to be part of team that has balance.