I know what you’re thinking: how the heck can I get work done if I don’t finish my work? It’s a paradox for sure, but that’s how productivity works sometimes. It doesn’t matter if it’s unintuitive, as long as it works, right?
In this case, you want to use the “Zeigarnik effect” to trick yourself to become more productive.
What’s The “Zeigarnik Effect”?
Ever wonder why you always have this urge to read all of your unread messages even when you’re so sleepy? Or why something’s always nagging you to read that book you never bothered finishing? That’s the Zeigarnik effect.
Your brain always wants to feel “complete” in whatever it does, whether that’s a to-do list or a jigsaw puzzle. So when you leave something unfinished, you’ll feel an “itch” to work on it. This only goes away when you complete the work.
But here’s the productivity kicker: you don’t want to finish your work. You don’t want to give your brain that sense of satisfaction that your work is done. You want it to feel the itch.
Create An “Itch” To Get Work Done
What we’re gunning for here is for the urge to complete your unfinished tasks to be greater than the pull of procrastination. This makes you want to start work immediately, so you can scratch that “itch”.
- Work on your to-do’s, chores, errands, etc. as normal.
- At the end of the day, don’t finish your last task. If you’re writing a report, stop in mid-sentence. When working on a presentation, leave the slide half-done.
- Tomorrow, you’ll find it’s easier to start work because you have that urge to complete yesterday’s unfinished task.
Other Ways To Use The “Itch” to Boost Productivity
Make sure your distractions are “completed”
To make it easier to let go of distractions, you need to “complete” them before starting work. This means reading all unread emails (or marking them as read) or stopping a game when you finish a level.
Tackle big projects by starting with small tasks
Large projects are often daunting. To get them done, you just need to take the first step, no matter how small. It can be as simple as naming the project or making a folder for it in your computer. But that small step will give you the “itch” to take on the next task and then the next one, until you complete the project.
Blocked by something? Write them down to cure the “itch”
For some tasks, you’ll often be blocked from completing them because they need someone or something else to happen first. If you don’t want this unfinished task to nag at you, write it down. This adds a small sense of completion to the task, stopping the “itch” from making you go crazy due to the task being outside your control.
Cure your procrastination by leaving tasks unfinished at the end of the day. Tomorrow, you’ll be “itching” to get working as soon as you get to the office.
Have a big project ahead of you? Here are a few more tips to help you overcome the fear of starting a new project.