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23 Aug

Ms Zeigarnik and the loose ends

Datum: 2021-08-23 14:24

When we are speak­ing of hav­ing too much going on right now”, we are most often actu­al­ly refer­ring to all the loose ends we still have to tie up. These are half-fin­ished projects, half-done improve­ment ini­tia­tives and ideas we have not yet ful­ly imple­ment­ed or realized.

We have the feel­ing of hav­ing the unfin­ished busi­ness hang­ing over us and it both­ers us when­ev­er we come to think of what­ev­er it may be, espe­cial­ly when it comes to mind as we are in the mid­dle of anoth­er task.

We end up feel­ing more stressed than we should need to and find it more dif­fi­cult to focus on the tasks we are pri­or­i­tiz­ing at the moment.

Hard to let go of what we haven’t finished
In the mid 1920s, the Russ­ian psy­chol­o­gist Bluma Zeigar­nik dis­cov­ered that peo­ple gen­er­al­ly find it dif­fi­cult to let go of unful­filled goals (which in our con­text refers to the goal of com­plet­ing the project, fol­low through on our improve­ment ini­tia­tive, and real­iz­ing the idea).

We remain con­scious of the unfin­ished tasks or goals, and they stay with us as loose ends. The phe­nom­e­non has since first dis­cov­ered been referred to as the Zeigar­nik Effect.

A plan can be enough
If we want our lives to be some­what more qui­et and com­fort­able, then we can make sure to take care of any loose ends, fin­ish­ing and com­plet­ing what­ev­er is still not done, to at least get these tasks and goals off our con­science. For­tu­nate­ly we do not have to fin­ish them com­plete­ly in order to be free of them, but exper­i­ments per­formed by E J Masi­cam­po and Roy F Baumeis­ter at Flori­da State Uni­ver­si­ty showed that if we make a plan of how to reach the set goal ahead of us (mean­ing, at least deter­mine what our next step should be), then it becomes much eas­i­er to let go of it men­tal­ly and we will hence be less dis­tract­ed when work­ing on oth­er things.

Let us there­fore strive to come to a close, to fin­ish off, to emp­ty out and com­plete what has been left undone in as many areas of our lives as possible.

Do this

  1. Decide on one area, one loose end, which you want to in some way tie togeth­er and com­plete. This could for instance be:
    • An unfin­ished task, which you have start­ed work­ing on but nev­er completed.
    • A pile of papers on your desk which you have been mean­ing to deal with.
    • A larg­er task, for exam­ple a project or a change you have intend­ed to imple­ment, but which has been left hanging.
    • Some­thing you have been wait­ing for some­one else to com­plete for a long time, and which you have remind­ed them of repeatedly.
    • Today’s to-do-list, which you nev­er seem to get to the bot­tom of and on which there always seems to be tasks left from yesterday.
    • Some­thing com­plete­ly different.

  2. Now deter­mine what you want to do with the loose end, if all options except for leav­ing it hang­ing are avail­able to you.
    • Could you remove it com­plete­ly? If not hav­ing com­plet­ed it has­n’t proven to be an issue thus far, per­haps it does­n’t need to be ful­ly com­plet­ed. If this is the case, then remove, erase, delete, wrin­kle it up and throw it away. Get it out of your sight.
    • Could you make a plan? Define the first step as a to-do-task, and fol­low the same pro­ce­dure as you usu­al­ly do when get­ting rid of sourdough”-tasks.
    • Could you set aside time in your cal­en­dar when you com­plete it?
    • Could you fin­ish it now? Per­haps you actu­al­ly do not have that much left to do, and are able to do this last bit right away, hence rid­ding your­self of anoth­er loose end.

  3. If you want to, start deal­ing with the next loose end. 

Ease your burden
If you tie up your loose ends and make a deci­sion on each and every one of them, your per­cep­tion of your work­load will change and you will per­ceive it as being lighter. It will become eas­i­er to con­cen­trate on the task ahead of you instead of con­tin­u­ous­ly being dis­tract­ed by things you have not yet fin­ished and which you keep being remind­ed of.

What is your way?
How, when and with what have you expe­ri­enced the pure delight of fin­ish­ing and com­plet­ing some­thing? Tell me!