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How to Close Loops to Make Your Life Easier

Keeping things on the back burner, well, burns.

By
Stever Robbins,
December 26, 2016
Episode #436

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Usually we open up our year with lots of "kicking things off." But today’s episode is about the opposite: finishing things up.

Research tells us that when we don’t complete something, our brain remembers it, so we can finish it later. But our storage isn’t endless. We fill up with incomplete things, and eventually our minds crack under the strain. We’ve all had it happen—trying to keep track of one more thing and we just lose it. We go off the deep end and start wearing nothing but body paint to business meetings. It’s not just me, right? Right? We’d like to ditch this mental clutter, and return to a bliss-like state of Zen. We want to be an ascended master, levitating above the fray of it all, as our millions followers donate their life savings for our fleet of pink Rolls Royces. Fortunately, we’re unattached to it all, but we have to accept the donations. For their sake. 

We can clear our minds and our lives simply by closing loops of unfinished work.

Close Communication Loops

Awkward phone calls are the worst. So we put them off for days, and weeks, and months, and years. Whether it’s letting a loved one know about a lost relative, or telling your shmoopie the cat got sucked into the gutter, ate a radioactive mouse, and turned into a gigantic flesh-eating feline tower of terror (again), there are always going to be phone calls that we’d rather not make. But we think about them all the time. 

So the solution is simple: act now. That phone call won’t place itself, but it does need to happen. At some point you’ll be making it, and that might as well be now, rather than after you’ve imbibed a fifth of gin trying to work up the courage.

There’s never a “perfect” way to share bad news. But once you’ve picked up the phone, you will relax. The stress is as much about ignoring something that won’t go away, as it is about the emotional arc of the call itself. Once things are resolved, you can go on with your life. 

So call mom right now and tell her you and your therapist have finally resolved your conflicted feelings about the "meat hook punishment.” Do it today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. The “meat hook punishment” isn’t actually a traditional child-rearing technique, and time isn’t going to change that—so why wait? It’s best she finds out now, before she offers to babysit the kids.

Close Planning Loops

The best laid plans of mice and men sometimes never get done. One big reason is that we rely on other people, and they are flaky and impossible to reach. If you’re going back and forth with someone through text or email, and you’re not making any planning progress, close that loop by picking up the phone and calling them.

Consider this: if someone checks their e-mail once a day, it could take a few weeks to have a full back-and-forth about finding the right time for a meeting. That same conversation takes about ten minutes over the phone. The phone wins!

If you’re a millennial and have an irrational fear of the phone, get over it. Seriously. Teenagers for the entire 20th century would beat their parents unconscious and sit atop their broken, bruised bodies just to spend five minutes on the phone with their best friend, talking about the latest episode of the Brady Bunch. All teenagers did this. The phone is not scary. If you are actually scared of conversation, that’s probably considered a clinical condition. Get help. And no, I’m not joking about this one.

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