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Ignite the Zeigarnik Effect

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

It’s fun sometimes to get distracted: a book, a movie or a quirky web animation… We can get really creative with our distractions when we have something important to do. In such cases procrastination becomes a form of self-sabotage.

We procrastinate for a variety of reasons— anxiety, perfectionism, lack of motivation and guilt, to name a few. But, procrastination is not always a bad thing, especially if you work well under pressure and use stress as a form of motivation. However, if you fancy a change there is a trick called the five-minute rule, and it may just be the right answer to even the most effective procrastinator!

Next time you find yourself working hard not to start a task, set a time limit of five minutes to work on it, and then... stop! You might ask, “What can I possibly get done in five minutes?” which is fair enough, but the truth is that often, starting is the hardest part of all. If that is so, then why stop? Well, the brain has a powerful need to finish what it starts. When it can’t complete something, it gets stuck on it.

Think about trying to finish a sentence, but that all important word just won’t come out! Suddenly, we are motivated to find that allusive word and will quickly resort to dragging friends in to our strangely necessary mission, or even enlist the use of google!

This effect has a name, and it goes by Zeigarnik Effect. The five minutes rule acts as an ignition to that effect, so once you get started on something and you stop, you will definitely want to go back to it, or even continue until it is fully finished.

So whatever it is, just give it five minutes and let the Zeigarnik effect take it from there.

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