Have you ever heard of the Zeigarnik Effect? You Experience It Every Day.

The Ziegarnik Effect happens to each of us every day … and usually more than once. I t creates Psychic Tension that rattles our brain and fights us every step of the way to keep us from getting things done.

Man stepping on thumbtack

Have you ever heard of the Zeigarnik Effect?

It’s named after a Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik, who stumbled across the notion in the 1920s that waiters remembered orders that were still unpaid better than those that were already completed.

She returned to her lab, ran several experiments and further discovered that people remembered tasks better if they’d been interrupted doing them than if they’d completed them.

“Psychic Tension” drives us to closure

What she concluded has a lot to do with our short-term memory’s propensity to forget completely.

The more we try to hold things in our short-term memory, the harder we have to work to remember them. It takes a lot of cognitive energy but with few results.

We also seem to have a better memory for those things we have not yet finished.

The “psychic tension” it creates remains a stimulus for us to keep moving forward, wrestling with that idea and continually straining to bring it to closure.

What’s the significance for Personal Productivity?

So, what does this mean for personal productivity? Several things.

First, we overburden our short-term memory trying to remember stuff we’ll forget anyway.

The fix is easy but, sadly, we’re our own worst enemy on this one.

Write it down.

Get it out of your head and write it down.

Anywhere works as long as it’s part of your trusted system so that it so it will show up at the appointed time and place.

We’re Masters of Procrastination!

Secondly, the Ziegnarik Effect is linked to our remarkable capability for procrastination as some, like Jeremy Dean on his great PsyBlog, explain.

He concludes that we’re more likely to cogitate about something that’s unfinished so that not starting something is less productive than getting it started any way you can.

[pullquote]How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’. ~ Martin Luther[/pullquote]

So, instead of gasping at the size of the mountain in front of you, get started by aiming for a base camp.

Believe it. Momentum Drives Success

In summary, at least two things are apparent.

One is that we need to get things out of our head. Write it on paper. Stick it in your digital memory bank, but don’t try to remember it.

Second, get started. If you want your memory to jog you into action, you need to start. We too easily forget what we have started at all.

The Zeigarnik Effect also validates another force I have witnessed over and over … often for good, too often for bad.

Stay tuned because on Friday, we’ll address this stealthy but powerful force whose presence can make a incredible difference between winning and losing.

Once you learn how create it, you’ll be amazed at how that wave of energy will lift your spirits and help you drive something to the next level that would otherwise languish.

What do you think?

What are you doing to defeat the Zeigarnik Effect … to overcome procrastination … to generate progress toward your objectives? What’s working and what isn’t?

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