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What you will get: The Zeigarnik Effect

At least 1 in 3 people do it…


And as a result they never get what they want.
They never achieve what they wish they could achieve.
They fail to make their dreams a reality.


And what is this common enemy of success?




According to one study, at least 1 in 3 people describe themselves as procrastinators (I am sure it is more than this!)



Always putting off what matters most.
Avoiding doing the really important tasks.
Finding excuses to focus on the trivial, not the challenging.


And you and I know…


Procrastination can cause serious problems in your life.
Problems like…


Not paying bills on time.
Failing to get projects completed.
Not meeting promises.
Missing important deadlines.
Failing to make those big changes that will really improve your life quality.


And why do people procrastinate?


Lots of reasons actually. Here’s just a few:


⦁ Fear of failure
⦁ Fear of success
⦁ Perfectionism
⦁ Low levels of self-control and will power
⦁ Lack of focus
⦁ Being overwhelmed by the size of a project rather than breaking it into achievable small steps
⦁ Unrealistic confidence or time keeping
⦁ Lack of self belief
⦁ Peer pressure and social norms to behave a certain way


Problem is…


If you continue to procrastinate, you continue to underachieve.
You continue to miss out on releasing your true potential.
You fail to give yourself your best shot and being the best version of you


Which leads me on to a rather clever young Russian lady called Bluma Zeigarnik.


A bright and conscientious psycology student in the 1920’s, Zeigarnik discovered something very important about overcoming procrastination.


How did she do this?


By observing waiters in a Viennese café.


So when customers asked for the bill, the waiters could easily remember who had ordered what.


But with continued observation Zeigarnik noticed that not all was a smooth as it seemed.


If the customer then went back to the waiter and queried the bill, the waiter was at this stage unable to remember the original order.




Because the sharing of the bill created a closure in the waiter’s minds – so at that moment they erased the customer’s order from their short term memory moved their attention to current, open orders.


Now you may be wondering…


How can this help me with procrastination?


Well, Zeigarnik realised that something similar happens with procrastinators.
Procrastinators often fail to get an important task started because it just feels overwhelming.


But once persuaded to get started on the first small step, your mind is wired to complete the task you have started.


Just like the waiters were unconsciously focusing on the task of memorising customers orders until the bill was issued….you and I will strive to complete a task once we have actually started it.


In fact…


Research shows that this “just do a coupe of minutes and get started” rule is a highly effective way of beating procrastination.


In Zeigarnik’s explanation of this, she concluded that those few minutes of initial activity and “opening up” a new task in the brain, creates a slight level of anxiety and attention in the brain until the task is completed.



So ask yourself….


…is it really that huge obstacle you need to overcome, or can you just get started on the first few minutes of the task?


Do you really need to focus on climbing the mountain, or would it be better to walk the first foothill and complete the first 200 steps?


I’m off to banish procrastination from my life by getting started on a few simple steps.


How about you?


To your happiness and fulfillment.


Steve Neale
“Europe’s Leading Expert on Personal and Professional Growth”


Psychologist, Executive Coach, EI Practitioner, Award Winning Trainer, International Author, Psychodynamic Therapist, Hypnotherapist, Mindfulness Instructor, International Speaker, Creator of the LPS, Creator of the Accredited Masters in High Performance Leadership

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