Home #AtoZChallenge Zeigarnik Effect

Zeigarnik Effect

by Vidya Sury April 30, 2014 34 comments
zeigarnik effect vidya sury

Z for Zeigarnik Effect on Day 26 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Sniff Sniff!

The Zeigarnik Effect describes the tendency to finish a task once started.

In the 1920s, Russian industrial psychologist and psychiatrist Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik (1900-1988) who established the discipline of pscyhopathology, was sitting at a cafe in Vienna and was intrigued by how waiters in restaurants were so efficient in getting and memorizing their customers’ orders even without writing them down. Once those orders were delivered, the waiters immediately forgot them. She ran experiments for several years and in 1927, at the Berlin University, she published her research on this kind of work ethic behavior she called the Zeigarnik Effect.

In short, the Zeigarnik Effect is a sense of discomfort with unfinished business that bugs us until we finish it!

I can totally identify with this! Can’t rest until I finish something I’ve started! Even when I had to stay back at work.

Can’t sleep until I finish something I started for a client, even if it means I sleep at 3 am.

Can’t relax until I’ve finished a book I’ve begun to read.

Can’t dream of ditching the A to Z Challenge because I’ve started it and can’t bear to leave it unfinished.

Of course, there are those who won’t take on anything new until they’ve tackled what they have on hand. Mono-vision. But I like to look at the positive side of the Zeigarnik Effect. Those who’re focused and on-task and highly productive, have it inbuilt in them. The flip side is, with those who are inflexible, this mule-headedness can end up being a real pain as they’ll stress others out and create conflicts.

So should we care about the Zeigarnik Effect?

The right way to approach the Zeigarnik Effect is understand that work is ongoing and it makes sense to be flexible, relaxed and prioritize what needs to be done. It is okay to finish some tasks quickly and take longer to do others.

Managing our focus by being organized and disciplined, rather than scattering ourselves over things left undone makes more sense.

I’d apply the Zeigarnik Effect to our relationships, our life. What about some past experiences we haven’t gotten over? What about that time when we could have acted and didn’t, said something but didn’t?

Maybe we don’t remember it all the time, but something triggers the memory and the pain comes right back. Some things just cannot be undone. It is time, then to show ourselves some self-love and forgive ourselves. It is time to get rid of the pride and forgive others. It is time to get rid of the anger and get the closure we want, so we can move on positively. Let’s take action and do what we can to stop stressing over that unfinished business.

Zeigarnik effect vidya sury a

Granted that we want to hang on to certain things, but let’s also be ready to let go. Let’s learn to focus our energy on what matters most. Let’s use the Zeigarnik Effect to help us overcome distractions and procrastination , gain focus and get things done!

What do you think?

Have you experienced the Zeigarnik Effect?

My gratitude goes out to all of you who supported me, visited and commented through the A to Z Challenge this month! Thank you!

The A to Z Reflections post linky opens on May 5 on the A to Z Blog. Don’t forget to write your post and link up

Share this post ❤

You may also like


Monica Deshpande April 30, 2014 at 4:11 am

I learned a new word today. I’m a Zeigarnik-an and proud of it. 🙂
I have miles to go before I can ‘let go’ but I’m working on it.
Thanks, Vidya!
Monica Deshpande recently posted…Y is for Yeast risen Baguettes

Sreeja Praveen April 30, 2014 at 8:08 am

That’s a new word for me, even though the phenomenon is not new 😀
I usually used to fret if I couldn’t complete a task in one go , but some experiences helped me take it in a relaxed manner. Now I’m Zeigarnik in some situations, not all.
Your application of this t the daily life has come at the right time Vidya. Believe me, I slept last night with lots of stress. And the first post I read this morning was this. I deem it pure serendipity. But this has given me a direction now. Thanks and Hugss for that !!
Sreeja Praveen recently posted…A to Z Random Post # 26 Z – Zeal , for him !

Pheno Menon April 30, 2014 at 9:06 am

OOhhhh so thats what I was having eh…. Now I know ! and now that I know I might forget the word 😉

Pheno Menon recently posted…Zzyzx

Marie Abanga April 30, 2014 at 9:33 am

Hmm, never heard of the effect and must agree it is fascinating. Will look indepth into it. For now, am just glad l finished this challenge too and my T had properly expressed all my gratitude.
I just zzz today at http://myeverydaypersonal.blogspot.be/
Marie Abanga recently posted…Emotions and Intensity

Beloo Mehra April 30, 2014 at 9:33 am

Like Sreeja said, this is a new term for me too, though what it represents is as old as the wisdom goes. I like how you interpret it in a more flexible and “freeing” sort of way, yet keeping true to the essence of what this term implies. I think it is important to have that kind of plasticity and suppleness in mind so that we aren’t obsessed or over-stressed by anything, any experience past or new, any deadline or commitment. There is something to be said about the joy of an experience also when we go through it, especially when it is a work-related experience. It will be interesting to see if the good Dr. Z also observed writers, painters, artists and other creative people to test her hypothesis.
Beloo Mehra recently posted…Z is for Zero and Infinity

Beloo Mehra April 30, 2014 at 9:35 am

Oh, and congratulations for finishing the challenge so successfully – on two blogs! What an accomplishment! Z-effect working well for you, eh? 🙂 I have yet to visit your other blog, am hoping to do that next month when I have a bit more time….well, hopefully 🙂
Beloo Mehra recently posted…Priceless are the Moments…Part I

Vidya Sury April 30, 2014 at 10:18 am

Shhh, Beloo. I am lagging behind on the health blog and ought to have caught up in the next 3-4 days! Life has been hectic outside the blogs, and rather than let go, I am being all “zeigarnik” 😉

Thank you – I am looking for your AtoZ posts in a book! Love to you, and grateful for your support!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Zeigarnik Effect

Judy Charlotte April 30, 2014 at 10:21 am

So that’s why I’m always compelled to finish what I started.
Judy Charlotte recently posted…rubyweightloss.com

Proactive Indian April 30, 2014 at 10:23 am

Zeigarnik Effect is a new term to me. It is interesting!

Your interpretation is even more interesting! 🙂

Some years back, an uneducated, middle-aged woman would deliver milk packets to over 50 households in our neighbourhood, with each household having a different requirement in terms of type of milk and number of packets. We always wondered how this woman managed to make all deliveries correctly every day AND keep a mental note of all adjustments made for each household during a month. Her verbal bills at the end of the month always tallied with our written records!
Proactive Indian recently posted…Zero tolerance

Vidya Sury April 30, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Pro, my fascination is with the dhobi – who collects clothes of assorted variety and numbers from over 80 flats and delivers them without mixing them up. 🙂 There are so many such amazing examples! Thank you for your comment!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Yardsticks

Nisha April 30, 2014 at 10:29 am

This is great – learned something new today. And applying this to relationships is so important. I’ve felt this in things I am passionate about. Things that don’t interest me sometimes are left halfway. Like a boring book, hmm?

Great job at the contest! Good luck for the future 🙂
Nisha recently posted…Z is for… Z to A April Challenge

Kimberly Robello April 30, 2014 at 12:31 pm

I have never heard of this before. Thank you for teaching me something new! I didn’t know there was a name for this behavior that I sometimes have. :o)
Kimberly Robello recently posted…A to Z Challenge: Z is for Zine

KP April 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Nice reading about this new word.But everything should be in moderation and one should not make a fetish of it.Completing the job on hand is necessary and all efforts should be taken.But it is not an earth shattering job to deprive oneself of sleep or food.I hope you see the drift.
Allow me to tell something about A-Z experience of your blog
Three things stand out in this almost four week long challenge especially in your daily posts.
-Even much discussed subjects get a special gloss when dealt with by you.I discern an inimitable style of yours in your well thought out writings.There was nothing flippant or casual.
-Secondly you have generously lent your space to a few great bloggers/writers adding worth in the process to your blog
-Thirdly some of your posts corruscate like a roman candle with its flashes of brilliance and wisdom.Your blog, thanks to A-Z challenge, has been a find for me.
KP recently posted…The kind heart

Sulekha April 30, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I am a serious case of it, love the new word. I have to finish what I am doing before signing off. I need to learn to let go, it’s not a race to the finish…working on it.

Meena Menon April 30, 2014 at 3:29 pm

I was the queen of procatination but somehow this zeigarnik bug is catching upon me
Meena Menon recently posted…Zenith of Happiness..

nabanita April 30, 2014 at 3:47 pm

It’s so hard to let go but I’m working on it..keep going back and forth actually 😀
nabanita recently posted…Z is for Zen

Shesha Chaturvedi April 30, 2014 at 4:14 pm

This is a wonderful take on ‘Z’ and wonderful closure to A-to-Z Challenge! I have experienced this a lot!When going for exams for the subjects I never liked I learned the theories and poured them out there and used to forget after a while! Writing word to word things always irritated me- I wanted to write and express them in the way I understand things- but that doesn’t happen much in India! Like you I also go through pressure when I have a task to complete! My mind can not rest, even when I am asleep! I keep on thinking, and working for it!
Congratulations for reaching the finishing line! 🙂
Shesha Chaturvedi recently posted…Zealots- War over Peace, Hatred over Love!

Kathy April 30, 2014 at 4:21 pm

This is awesome Vidya and I love the Dr. Suess quote you shared. Congratulations on completing the A-Z challenge! ♥♥
Kathy recently posted…Z is for Zentangles

Kaarina Dillabough April 30, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Kudos to you on taking on and completing with Zeigarnikiness (yes, I made up that word:) the A -Z challenge. I used to have a compulsion to finish something I started. But watercolour painting helped me to see when that was critical/beneficial, and when it was not. For example, I used to think if I started reading a book I simply HAD to finish it, even if it was crappy. I don’t do that anymore. And a job sometimes half-done is done enough sometimes:) Cheers! Kaarina
Kaarina Dillabough recently posted…What Can I Do With My Life Today?

Obsessivemom April 30, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Zeigarnik effect… Hmmm that’s why I forgot all the maths the moments cleared the exams. On a serious note it’s such a great way of cleaning your kind and heart of trash.. Letting go of stuff that doesn’t matter while holding on to what does. I’ve so enjoyed following your posts through the challenge. Of course I’ll keep coming around for my dose of happiness.

Nats April 30, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Hhhhmmm… I conclude that I mildly suffer from Zeigarnik Effect.
Nats recently posted…Z for Zila Sonitpur

Jemima Pett April 30, 2014 at 9:22 pm

I’ve not heard of this, but I have heard of the Completer-Finisher role in Belbin’s Team Theory.I’m not good at that, but better than a whole lot of people so it often falls to me to get people to finish on time!

Thank you for your wonderful blog here Vidya. So the other one’s late… you’ll catch up!

Blogging from Alpha to Zulu in April
Jemima Pett recently posted…Z for Zulu

Susan Scott April 30, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Thank you so much Vidya … what a word! So important to give what you said you’d do, your all – and complete the task! Forget about it once completed – allow for new energy to emerge! Thank you for all your inspiring posts over the A-Z. I’m deeply grateful!
Garden of Eden Blog
Susan Scott recently posted…Z – Zero

Ananya Kiran April 30, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Hey Congratulations and thanks for sharing this new word !
We have survived the challenge !
Ananya Kiran recently posted…Zeal for life

Michelle Wallace May 1, 2014 at 1:35 am

I love the Dr. Seuss quote!
Congratulations on reaching the A to Z finish line, Vidya!
I really enjoyed your inspirational posts!
Michelle Wallace recently posted…Z is for Zibaldone

Gary May 1, 2014 at 8:15 am

Hey Vidya,

I have that effect happening to me all the time. I mean, it’s almost four in the morning and I wont quit until I’m happy that it’s time to retire for the morning.

Well done on finishing the alternative to The Alphabark Challenge, 2014!


Gary 🙂
Gary recently posted…Alpo Lapdog Computer.

Rajlakshmi May 1, 2014 at 11:52 am

I suffer from the same… didn’t know this condition has such an unpronounceable name 🙂 I get this anxious feeling if something is unfinished. Can’t rest, can’t sleep, can’t enjoy.
Rajlakshmi recently posted…That Zazzy Effect

Nats May 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I am nominating (passing on) you for a few chain blog awards. Please check the following link for the same: PointsToPonder

Aditi May 1, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Ah new word learnt! Beautiful the way you interpreted its meaning! 🙂 🙂

Congratulations on completing A-Z with such grace. I have to catch up on few of your posts. And well still write my Z!! Phew…hope by the end of this week! Lv
Aditi recently posted…Under My Yellow Top

Betsy/Zen Mama May 1, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Very interesting! I’ve never heard of this effect! I’ve really enjoyed reading the challenge. Congratulations on a wonderful series. You really are amazing!
Betsy/Zen Mama recently posted…Wisdom of the Mayans – The Road Less Traveled Part 2

jaishvats May 2, 2014 at 8:40 am

Of course I have. Quite often in fact. Tough part though is when ones boss is in its clutches and one wants to just get back home 🙂 on a serious note, what you said about relationships is absolutely true.
jaishvats recently posted…Fiction 55:The Attack

Wan May 3, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Zeigarnik Effect is one of my favorite psychological findings.

Based on this article by PsyBlog, http://www.spring.org.uk/2011/02/the-zeigarnik-effect.php, the Zeigarnik Effect can usually be seen if we are doing something that we believe are meaningful and possible to be completed. So, this effect is not really a magic bullet.

You’ll need to define why you want to do something before you jump onto the starting line.

Birgit May 4, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Oh I missed this last post! I saved you on my blog but it comes up as if you posted a year ago-have no idea why. So Yes I have felt this before but I can still sleep and make excuses until I finally get it done-hahahaaha. At least I do finish it-might be a while but I do finish it
Birgit recently posted…A special thank you!

jetgirlcos May 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Wow! I never knew there was a name for that! Now I can use this word to explain to my husband why I need to stay up how ever long it takes to “just finish this one thing…” 🙂 Thanks for all your wonderful A to Z-ness. I still have many A to Z posts to read from great bloggers like you!
jetgirlcos recently posted…Laisse-moi réfléchir… Reflections on A to Z


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge