The Zeigarnik Effect: Start Somewhere…Anywhere

Did you actually want to watch Lost? By the second season, the show went from plain ridiculous to borderline unwatchable. Yet, an entire generation begrudgingly soldiered through the televised mess simply to see how it all ends. But what does this have to do with productivity & making ideas happen? According to psychologist Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik: everything. Whether it’s an incomplete TV show or a half-written business plan, if you’ve ever felt the regret associated with abandoning a project, then you’ve likely experienced “The Zeigarnik Effect.” In her 1927 doctoral thesis, the titular theorist described the brain’s tendency to fixate on an incomplete task rather than a complete one. That is to say, it’s human nature to want to finish things once you’ve started them. And you can easily make this work in your favour…

Whether it’s building a deck or building your body; whether it’s writing an annual report or writing your magnum opus – if you struggle with procrastination, The Zeigarnik Effect might be just the productivity hack you need in order to overcome your inertia. Staring up at big projects can be paralyzing. So rather than thinking about the most daunting aspects of the undertaking, simply takethree minutes to tackle the most manageable pieces of it. Repeat this method a few times until you’ve developed just enough momentum and mental/emotional investment to go the distance. Start, and let your subconscious take the wheel – the feeling that something is incomplete will slowly (but surely) compel you to work. It’s why to-do lists are so effective. It’s why we’re interested by books, movies and TV shows – we want to see how it ends.

Hamza Khan writes at HamzaKhan.ca, where he shares ideas on productivity, startups, hip hop, marketing, leadership, peak performance and making ideas happen. To get a weekly dose of inspiration, join his free newsletter.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.