Before reading this, try to recall all the tasks you accomplished in the last five days. There’s a great chance you won’t remember all.
Now, think of all the things that you left undone. But maybe you don’t have to because these keep popping in your head. And these might be causing stress right now.
It’s not just tasks. How often have you stopped reading a book or watching a movie before the end? Yes, people love stories. But, they want to get to the conclusion as not knowing can drive them crazy.
What can explain this behavior?
Well, have you ever heard of the Zeigarnik Effect? a psychologist, postulated that incomplete tasks were easier to remember than completed ones. These remain in people’s conscious minds because they cause mental tension.
It’s no wonder you recall unfinished business repeatedly.
Not all experts agree on the effect, as more research has to be done. One of the questions is whether this is good or bad. But, everyone can agree that when you experience it, there are ways to deal with it. Here are three:
Accomplish your tasks promptly.
It’s relative for each person. Many jobs cannot be done by the end of a day. But, by completing small chunks daily, you finish the whole sooner.
People put off working on tasks until the last minute. In short, they procrastinate. Everyone does. If you want to ease stress, begin working on your tasks ASAP. And, why not reward yourself when you accomplish something. It could be a glass of that expensive wine you’ve been saving.
Use the Effect for your Benefit.
If the Zeigarnik Effect is real, use it to help you. For instance, if you’re preparing for a presentation, forget cramming all that information in one sitting. Instead, divide these into smaller portions. Focus on each and take breaks. Then move on to the next one. You’ll realize you retain more data because your brain tells you that your presentation isn’t complete.
Maybe you could use it in your job? Ads and movie trailers are good examples. Marketers use story-telling to get customers to stay tuned.
Use it as Motivation.
Maybe you have an alarm clock or use your smartphone to wake you up. You won’t believe it, but these regularize your sleeping behavior.
Treat the Zeigarnik Effect as an alarm to attend to unfinished business. If you want that internal reminder to go silent, finish whatever you started. Instead of bugging your mind, treat the effect as motivation.