We’ve all got “stuff” to do. Whether that’s home stuff, work stuff, life stuff or just… stuff. And that stuff can be stressful if we let it get out of control. If we don’t get on with things, then our brain usually will remind us about it at the most inconvenient time. Like 4am in the morning, just as you’re sitting down for dinner or in the middle of your favourite TV programme. This stuff swirls around your head and is that nagging feeling that just won’t subside.

And we’ve all done it. We know we’re doing it. We’ll do anything other than the thing we’re supposed to be doing. We’re procrastinating and putting off a big task because it feels overwhelming.

If you’ve ever thought about a project or proposal that you need to complete for your small business whilst doing other tasks inside or outside of work (perhaps cooking dinner or watching TV), then you’ve already experienced the Zeigarnik effect. This effect allows us to remember unfinished tasks better than we can finished tasks.

The Zeigarnik Effect

In the 1920s, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, sat in a busy Viennese restaurant and noticed waiters could remember the details of their orders for tables that had not received or paid for their food. Once customers had paid for their food, the waiters could barely recall anything about the customers or what had been ordered. They had completed the task; they didn’t need to remember. The Zeigarnik Effect (click here to find out how to pronounce it) theory was born.

The basis of the Zeigarnik effect is simple, it’s just to get started. Sound a little too simple to be true? The first step could be something really small and simple, a nominal nod to the bigger task. So, we recommend starting by writing a list. Take all that stuff swirling around in your head and get it down on paper (maybe in your favourite notebook).

This act will in itself have a calming effect because it’s the start of a plan. Your brain will like that. It’ll release endorphins to make you feel good as it will believe you’ve taken control. You’ll feel less stressed (whether you actually implement that plan is another matter altogether). You have at least articulated what you need to do to gain back control of the tasks in hand.

Hang on, you’re not finished…

The Zeigarnik Effect is remarkably useful for helping stop procrastination and, if the primary task is started and not completed, you’ll remember it and make steps to complete it. But it’s not enough just to write tasks in your notebook and forget about them. That nagging feeling will return.

As David Allen, author of the bestselling book “Getting Things Done” says, “It is better to know what you are not doing than not knowing what you are not doing”. The list you’ve made is great but unless you add to it, review it regularly and actually complete (even some of) the tasks it’s not enough. You need a system.

Okay, so we’re biased (obviously) but we know that Daylite will enable you to store and manage all of this stuff. It’s a practical solution for dealing with your next actions (tasks). You capture everything that needs to be done, decide on the appropriate next action(s) needed to complete it using a task in Daylite. If there is more than one next action required, put them in a Daylite project. To make things easier you can give your tasks appropriate categories to give context such as @waiting for, @calls, @look into etc. Daylite automatically files emails that you send and receive enabling you to keep track of your progress.

Imagine having all your tasks, projects, emails, notes and calendar in one place, all pulled together to give you that comforting sense of what you need to do next. That’s the power of Daylite.

Actions speak louder than words

It’s clear that there are ways in which the Zeigarnik Effect plays out in real life. You only have to look at popular culture to find it. Movie trailers tease us into remembering a film being promoted and cliff-hangers on TV get us to tune into the next episode (think of all the duff, duff, duff moments from EastEnders). If you understand the Zeigarnik effect and combine that understanding with the right tools (Daylite perhaps?) to finish your jobs, you’ll increase productivity, get stuff done and keep your business moving forward. How’s that for effect?