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Zeigarnik Effect

The Zeigarnik Effect, named after Lithuanian-Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik1, is the tendency to keep unresolved problems front of mind. In other words, we’re more likely to remember incomplete things than complete things.

Chris Bailey brings this up in Hyperfocus as a tool that we can use to improve what we focus on. By reducing the number of unresolved items, we can focus on one thing better, putting ourselves into hyperfocus mode easier. (See: Attentional Space)

To reduce the number of unresolved items, simply writing notes in a notebook can be enough to move things out of your mind.

Similarly, deliberately leaving important items in an unfinished state can be used to get your brain unconsciously processing the task at hand while you work on other things.


  1. Zeigarnik Effect, Wikipedia ↩