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The Zeigarnik Effect Is Why You Keep Thinking of Unfinished Work

https://www.verywellmind.com/zeigarnik-effect-memory-overview-4175150

verywellmind.com

The Zeigarnik Effect Is Why You Keep Thinking of Unfinished Work
Have you ever found yourself interrupted by intrusive thoughts about unfinished work? Perhaps they were about a partially finished work project keeping you up at night or the plot of a half-read novel that keeps circling your thoughts. There is a reason why it's so hard to stop thinking about uncompleted and interrupted tasks.

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The Zeigarnik Effect

The Zeigarnik Effect

Unfinished work continues to exert an influence, even when we try to move on to other things.

When you start working on something but do not finish it, thoughts of the unfinished work continue to pop into your mind even when you've moved on to other things. Such thoughts urge you to go back and finish it.

Books, video games and tv-series all take advantage of this effect.

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The Zeigarnik effect and memory

It reveals a great deal about how memory works. Zeigarnik suggested that failing to complete a task creates underlying cognitive tension. This results in greater mental effort and rehearsal in order to keep the task at the forefront of awareness. Once completed, the mind is then able to let go of these efforts.

You can even use this psychological phenomenon to your advantage.

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Get More Out of Your Study Sessions

  • Break up your study sessions rather than try to cram it all in the night before the test. By studying information in increments, you will be more likely to remember it until test day.
  • If you are struggling to memorize something important, momentary interruptions might actually work to your advantage. While you are focusing on other things, you will find yourself mentally returning to the information you were studying.

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Overcome Procrastination

Take the first step, no matter how small. Once you've begun—but not finished—your work, you will find yourself thinking of the task until, at last, you finish it. 

This approach can not only help motivate you to finish, but it can also lead to a sense of accomplishment once you finally finish a job and are able to apply your mental energies elsewhere.

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Once our brain receives information, it temporarily stores sensory memory (sight, hearing, smells, taste, and touch). If we pay attention to the information, it moves to our short-term memories.

If the task is incomplete, our brains can't let it go until it's done. That is why TV dramas use cliffhangers to end episodes.

How to capitalize on the Zeigarnik effect

  • Reduce your tendency to procrastinate. If you have a task you've been avoiding, begin with the smallest thing to be done. The desire to close the loop will help you take small steps to get it done.
  • Get people to take note of what you're saying. Try using ellipses instead of a full stop in your headline so that your reader will feel like "there's more to this."
  • Memorize more information. Break your information up into parts. Or spread your learning over several days.
  • Remember difficult names. Learn one part of the name, then come back to the second part when your done memorizing the first.

The Zeigarnik Effect

It 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 is the closure brought ...

The Zeigarnik Effect for beating procrastination

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.

Thus, getting the ball rolling might be a good antidote to procrastination.

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The Mere Urgency Effect

This bias addresses why we do unimportant tasks we think are time-sensitive over tasks that are not time-sensitive, even if the non-time-sensitive tasks provide greater rewards.

How to overcome this bias:

  • Use the Eisenhower Matrix. It will reveal the urgent/not urgent and important/not important tasks.
  • Block off on your calendar the most productive 2-4 hours each day for your most important work.
  • Only answer emails at specific times. Don't allow email to bleed into other time.
  • Give your important tasks a deadline and find a way to commit to it.

The Zeigarnik Effect

This effect describes our tendency to remember incomplete or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. Each unfinished task takes up some of your attention, splitting your focus. It also interferes with your sleep.

What you can do about it:

  • Write your tasks down as soon as they come to you.
  • Have a system in place for organizing and regularly reviewing your tasks.
  • Have an end of work shutdown ritual, so your unfinished tasks don't stay in your mind after-hours.
  • Take a small step to help you get started. The act of starting can help you keep going to the end.
  • Don't forget to review your completed tasks and celebrate what you've already accomplished.

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