About the Zeigarnik Effect: The Habit of Remembering Unfinished Work

About the Zeigarnik Effect The Habit of Remembering Unfinished Work
About the Zeigarnik Effect The Habit of Remembering Unfinished Work

Have you ever had an unfinished task when you had trouble sleeping or doing other activities? It feels like your life is not calm because you keep thinking about this task.

Or maybe you always remember the same series you watched? Every episode ends, maybe you will automatically regret your decision because you watched it before the series ended.

Well, if you experience one of the two examples above, then you have experienced what is called the Zeigarnik Effect. This is a condition in which a person finds it difficult to ignore unfinished work.

What is the Zeigarnik Effect?

The Zeigarnik effect is a person's tendency to remember unfinished tasks compared to those that have been completed. As mentioned above, you may remember unfinished series you watched, or perhaps unfinished work assignments. Well, it all happened because of the Zeigarnik effect.

This effect was first studied in the 1920s by a psychologist named Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik. One day, she observed a restaurant waiter who was able to remember every detail of a customer's order well. However, interestingly, the waiter can only remember the order when it has not been served or paid for. Otherwise, she would instantly forget when the order was finished.

Causes of the Zeigarnik Effect

Cognitive strain due to unfinished tasks causes the Zeigarnik effect to appear. This cognitive tension can increase the brain's desire to immediately complete the work that has been started. Thus, when the task is completed, the brain will feel relieved and reduce tension.

One study by Bluma Zeigarnik found that distraction during a task that requires focus can actually improve a person's ability to remember a task afterward. However, the success or failure of this method on a person depends on several factors such as individual motivation, level of self-confidence, level of fatigue, and time of interruption experienced.

Benefits of Zeigarnik Effect on Productivity

Unfinished work sometimes brings up disturbing thoughts that we usually know as distracting thoughts. But the truth is, if handled properly, the Zeigarnik effect can make you more productive. How to do? Well, here are some of the benefits of the Zeigarnik effect for productivity:

1. Overcome Procrastination: Are you a true deadliner who likes to procrastinate? If so, the Zeigarnik effect can help you overcome procrastination or procrastination.

Although quite annoying, the feelings of anxiety and discomfort caused by the Zeigarnik effect can encourage you to start working on an unfinished task until it is finished. Indirectly, this can have a positive impact on increasing your productivity.

2. Forming Effective Study Habits: According to the Zeigarnik effect, interruptions or distractions while doing a task can actually make us remember this task even more.

In this case, instead of cramming the brain with various kinds of exam material overnight. It would be better if you learn gradually. Organize your study schedule by including breaks where you focus on doing other things outside of studying.

While resting, your brain will try to remember previously disturbed material. That way, your memory will increase.

3. Maintain Mental Health: The feelings of anxiety and disturbing thoughts caused by the Zeigarnik effect are really disturbing. This feeling can make your life feel uneasy as long as there are unfinished tasks.

But actually, if handled properly, this effect can provide positive benefits for mental health, you know. One of them can lead to a sense of satisfaction and confidence when successfully completing a task. In addition, the Zeigarnik effect can also prevent stress from procrastination.


Those are some of the positives of the Zeigarnik effect on human productivity. Whether the Zeigarnik effect gives you a negative or positive impact depends on how you react to it. However, if the effects of anxiety and fear caused by the Zeigarnik effect make your daily activities uncomfortable, you should immediately consult a specialist.
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