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If you struggle to stay focused on tasks, here’s a tip from psychology that might help.

When you find it difficult to maintain focus and motivation, part of the problem might be that you have lots of incomplete tasks which are creating distractions from the important things you want to get done. In psychology we call uncompleted tasks ‘open loops’.

We have a tendency to remember and focus more on incomplete tasks and unresolved issues because our brains are programmed to draw our attention to ‘open loops’. That’s why our mind will often wander back to unresolved issues from our past, which isn’t always helpful. As an example, my mind occasionally wanders back to an inconsequential but unresolved issue from about 30 years ago. Be prepared for the most non-event, event ever! When I was 16, I was working as a waitress and my manager pointed out a cake that had been dropped with the suggestion that I’d dropped it. The real culprit never stepped forward and so the issue was never resolved. This is obviously a ridiculous thing to still think about 30 years later – I mean there are many, many, much more important things that my brain has unhelpfully forgotten, but it’s an open loop and my brain insists on reminding me of it every now and then. My friends refer to it as ‘cake-gate’ to give the story a bit more of an edge 😉.


The point is that ‘open loops’, are distracting – and not just the big, unresolved issues in our life, but the small stuff too – that annoying admin task we’ve been delaying, or the email I haven’t replied to that I know needs a response (sorry about that!). These open loops will take up lots of our conscious thought and distract us from achieving the things that are actually important.


The solution is simple. Close the loops. Get stuff done to remove the noise and distractions so that you can focus on the things that matter.

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