The West Wing and Productivity

You are more likely to finish something you actually start. Hello procrastinators, I’m talking to you. Those projects you have sitting on a list somewhere gathering dust will probably keep gathering dust until you do the very first step towards completion.

It’s an odd truth, but just think about this for a second… You have always wanted to watch The West Wing, you just keep putting it off. One night, you sit with your spouse and kick off episode one. The project has started. Now, it won’t be long until each episode of every season has been completed. You’ll be coming to work with three or four episodes under your belt per night, worn out and tired (true story). Good news? Job complete!

The very act of doing the first step presses you to complete the project and keeps you from procrastination.

This is called the Zeingarnik effect:

In the mid 1920s, [Bluma] Zeigarnik conducted an experiment that would quickly become a significant contribution to Gestalt psychology. Under Lewin’s supervision, Zeigarnik began to investigate an individual’s memory for incomplete or interrupted tasks. She found that tasks that were interrupted and therefore incomplete were remembered more clearly than tasks that had been successfully completed. When this study was repeated with a sample of children, it was discovered that children could often only recall the incomplete tasks, forgetting finished tasks altogether. This phenomenon has been termed the Zeigarnik effect.

Kick start some projects today by taking step number one, you’ll be surprised how quickly steps two through completion will happen.