A client ditched me and it drove me wild!

Last week, I spent about an hour on a writing task for a client that I’d been putting off for days. There was still a day before it was due, and I was set to make the deadline, but it had been a real effort to get motivated.

Then, unexpectedly, the client sent an email asking me to hold off on the work. Something else had come up and she needed me to set it aside and wait…

What? How annoying! I’d started it now!

There’s some pain in having to stop something you’re part of the way through. I knew it made no sense to finish the work because she might change her focus, but it was painful to have to abandon the task, semi-accomplished.

The ‘Zeigarnik Effect’ has been observed by psychologists in numerous studies on ‘suspense’. People are given a puzzle to complete, but not enough time to finish it. Researchers noticed that over 90% of people went back to complete the puzzle even though the experiment was ‘over’. More than that, they were able to discuss in more detail the incomplete puzzles than the completed ones. Incomplete tasks stay on our minds…

You might have experienced the sensation of getting part of the way through reading a novel or watching a movie, and not enjoying it, but finding yourself sticking through until the end, anyway. Putting the book down, half-finished, feels wrong and uncomfortable. We have an overwhelming desire to ‘complete’.

Is procrastination a problem? Read on!

Let go of the need to get something ‘right’ or ‘perfect’. Start before you’re ready, start imperfectly, start anywhere along the process… just begin.

You’ll open the suspense in your mind. The project will now be ‘active’. You’ll have done something towards it. It’s going to be harder to leave it alone now, because your brain worries about things that have not achieved ‘closure’.

The Zeigarnik Effect is one of the theories we’ve used to back up a task in My 15 Minutes @ Work. The program helps people become more productive in their professional lives and reduces overwhelm at work.

You can download a print-friendly overview of the program here. The investment is only $97+gst, so it’s an economical way to increase your productivity at work, without leaving your desk.

Enquiries about delivering this productivity training to your team are welcome. Please get in touch.

Emma & Audrey

About The Author

Emma Grey & Audrey Thomas

Emma Grey is the author of Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum and Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band (a novel that she wrote because her teen daughter hated reading but loved Harry Styles). She writes regularly for Australian and international media and offers practical, realistic solutions to the modern challenge of ‘having it all’. She lives near Canberra, with her teen daughters and little boy. Audrey Thomas is an experienced coach and facilitator, whose corporate career spanned the UK, Europe and North America. She works with people to discover and develop their potential and improve effectiveness and lives in Adelaide with her Welsh husband, Dafydd and their two young sons.

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