Open-ended tasks waste time and cause procrastination. Such tasks don’t have a clear end point. Unclearly defined, they don’t have a stopping point and a criteria for being “done”. For example, what you mean by “studying”? Completing a to-do list in order to learn is a concrete and specified task. Rereading notes and textbooks randomly is not.
Close Open Ends.
Any task could be an open-ended task if you leave it like this. Missing requirements for the amount of work and the expected end result causes that. There should be criteria of what is “enough” to be done.
If you are running an open-end task, you could never finish it. There could be always more to do until you get exhausted. The result is nothing but feeling guilty that you could have worked more. Such a state of mind disrupts the time you need to relax and recover yourself.
The solution: set your goals per task more clearly. Each week set up a to-do list outlining the amount of work and the particular tasks you will be working on. Revise and adjust your to-do list on a daily basis if necessary. Finally, when your to-do list is finished, just stop.
Relax Without Feeling Guilty.
Having lots of open tasks in your life will impair your ability to relax. Having open-ended tasks is a sure way that a task remains open and is never finished. You will be overwhelmed by matters to be solved. Procrastinating tasks would be inevitable – you are buried in stuff waiting to be done.
Closing open-ended tasks is a straightforward process:
- Define Precisely What Needs to be Done. Delimit what your end result should look like. Start with a general goal and break tasks down. For studying the desired result might be: Getting an A grade.
- Define Exactly What You Will Commit to. There could be always more you can do on a certain task. Close the end by defining precisely the amount of work necessary. It requires an analysis of the minimum results you must meet and the resources available for a task.
- Define the Tasks that Need to be Accomplished. A breakdown of a task to smaller steps is essential. How do you get to the point A (for example, getting an A grade on an exam)? Blocking out time without a clear to-do list is probably a waste of time.
- Stop When You are Finished. Enjoy the work done. When you are finished with what you’ve committed to, it is time to relax.
Don’t forget the step four. You might be tempted to add more work when the to-do list is finished. Taking time off is important for your ability to carry further on. The result should be celebrated, not underestimated. Working faster results in raised expectations. Be honest with yourself and assess properly if you can keep up with the tempo in the long term. Pursuing goals and being productive is not a one hit success, so keep it steady. You have to be able to carry on. Time off and relaxation are essential.
Identify Open Loops. Sources of open loops to consider:
- Studying. Do you have a list of learning activities?
- Exercise. Do you follow a workout plan?
- Work. Do you have a to-do list, or just working from 8 to 5?
- Writing. Do you produce a certain amount of text, articles for a given time?
- Communication. Do you speak when it is important?