Why Your Brain Dwells on Unfinished Tasks
When we have unfinished tasks, we think about them continuously. But the moment they are completed, we forget about them. If we have unread email, we constantly wonder what it says. But once it has been dealt with, we often cannot recall the details of it.
The name for this phenomena is called the Zeigarnik effect and named after Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik.
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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 ...
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.
Economists used to believe that people will always choose the option that maximizes their well-being. But people act against their rational self-interest all the time.
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:
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:
The To-Do list is almost a sacred technique of organizing your day and eventually your life. They lessen the day’s anxiety, provide a structure to power-through and are written proof of our product...
Studies show that our mind performs better when we use written to-do lists. Here are some ways to make them more effective: