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The Zeigarnik Effect - Completing Your TO DO List Is Good For You

Have you got a project that’s forever lingering on your to-do list?


With so much on our plates it can be hard to find the time to make a start on something we know is going to be a bit of a stretch to complete, and thus it gets pushed further and further down the list.

As brokers, you live in a constant cycle of tasks that require completing, If only there was a foolproof way of getting started, and getting it done!

The Zeigarnik Effect.

One of the simplest methods for beating procrastination, the phenomenon was discovered by a Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik, while sitting in a restaurant in Vienna.

She noticed that the busy waiters appeared to only remember orders that were in the process of being served, but once they were completed, the order disappeared from their memory. 

To study this further, Zeigarnik asked a series of participants to do a series of simple tasks in the lab, like solving puzzles and stringing beads.

Some of the time participants were interrupted half way through and afterwards she asked them which activities they remembered doing. 

Interestingly, she found that people were twice as likely to remember the tasks during which they’d been interrupted than those they completed.

So, what does this have to do with procrastination?

The Zeigarnik Effect suggests that not finishing a task creates mental tension, which keeps it at the forefront of our memory.

The only thing that will relieve this tension? Closure brought on by completion of the task.

As such, the phenomenon proposes that making a start on something – no matter how big or small – keeps it ticking way at the back of your mind until you reach the end.

A simple technique, it’s something that’s commonly adopted in TV. Cliffhanger endings ensure viewers will return back to the programme because they want to find out what happened, as they want closure.

And the same goes for your seemingly impossible task. Just make that first step and the rest will follow. 

The Zeigarnik Effect also plays an important role in mental health.

Incomplete tasks and procrastinating often lead to frequent and unhelpful thought patterns. These thoughts can impact on sleep, trigger anxiety symptoms and further impact on a person’s mental and emotional resources.

Long Story Short.

Completing tasks successfully can provide a sense of accomplishment whilst increasing one’s self esteem and confidence.

Additionally, a person who can find closure for stressful events or tasks will likely experience a long-term positive impact on their psychological well-being.

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