The Super Fantastic Leadership Show: Zeigarnik and Why We Focus on What We Didn't Get Done


092: Zeigarnik and Why We Focus on What We Didn’t Get Done


Each day we look at our list of things to do and each day we tend to pay more attention to all of the things that didn’t get done versus the things that we did. It seems to be an age old phenomenon and the truth is, it is. Welcome to the Zeigarnik effect is our natural tendency to remember the incomplete tasks that we started. That doesn’t sound horrible however, it also creates a circus of invasive thoughts about an objective that was once pursued and left incomplete (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008, pg. 122). It seems to be human nature to finish what we start and, if it is not finished, we experience dissonance. Yep, this is what explains that 3 AM wake up time we can so easily experience. But, can this effect help us?

Well, as it turns out, it just might. Since we’re prone to remember what we didn’t get done, then if we just allow ourselves to get started on that next project, it is highly likely that we might be more likely to finish it. So, if you’re one of the great procrastinator’s in life, it may just be the process of getting started that can help us out. We also have the opportunity to learn and process through those moments when we become naturally stuck on a project. Our minds will naturally come back to the issue and allow us to have one of those “eureka shower moments” that we’ve heard so much about. So, what do you think the real benefit is if the Zeigarnik effect or not? We would love to know what you think.

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