Zeigarnik Effect: Your Brain’s Built-in Reminder System


Have you ever experienced nagging thoughts reminding you of a task you haven’t completed?

Of course you have. You’re human.

These nagging thoughts are called the Zeigarnik Effect. And yes, it’s an actual thing.

Bluma Zeigarnik, a social scientist in the early 20th century discovered that our minds “let go” of tasks that are completed and “hang on” to those that aren’t.

Researchers have concluded that it is human nature to want to complete activities once we have started them.

Sounds fairly obvious – and even handy – but there are a few of side effects worth noting so that you can get the most out of your built-in reminder system.

How to Use The Zeigarnik Effect

1. Don’t count on it. Yes our brains remind us of things we need to complete but if you didn’t have a high motivation to do the task in the first place it will float away without a second thought. Also if you don’t have a strong memory the Zeigarnik Effect is even more unreliable.

Solution: Make sure you have a system outside of your memory to capture and track your tasks. Watch this 2 minute video on how to start.

2. Minimize interruptions. Your brain works best protected from distractions and interruptions. As it turns out when leave a task unfinished due to an interruption the Zeigarnik Effect will shift into overdrive and leave you with even more stress and anxiety over that unfinished task.

Solution: Learn how to protect your time.

3. Celebrate what you have finished. According to this research we are hard wired to forget all of the amazing tasks we completed today leaving us focused on all we didn’t do. Sound familiar? Cut yourself some slack and remind yourself that the Zeigarnik Effect is at play.

Solution: Use those nagging reminders as a cue to remember just how much you have gotten done. This can go a long way toward increasing your motivation and energy to get back to your uncompleted tasks.

What is your take? How much do you trust your brain’s reminder (nagging) system? Be sure to share your thoughts below.


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