The Zeigarnik effect – it messes up achieving goals

Breathing, Goals, Human Brain, Worry

I have written multiple posts earlier also, on the Zeigarnik effect. There’s a lot of research on the internet with various people citing the validity as well as the invalidity of this. I will not go into the technical aspects of its validity or otherwise. I will take it as given.

That being said, what happens with this effect broadly is that, your brain keeps alerting you of the tasks that have not been closed. Which means that anything which the brain things is important, or which you inform the brain as in being important , it will keep reminding you.

My mother used to say, “if you want to get up early at a specific time, inform the pillow before you go to sleep and it will wake you up”. For most parts, this was true, and I would get up early in the morning until and unless I was extremely exhausted.

Now that I know why this happens, I don’t tell my pillow, I just think when I have to get up the next day and almost without an alarm clock I get up at the right time . Now this is the positive side of the Zeigarnik effect. In a lot of restaurants you will see some of the experienced servers just take the order without writing down and still deliver the right dish to the right person. This is another positive use of this effect.

On the other hand, this same effect , makes me feel guilty when a task is not finished. It keeps reminding me about it, because of which I am not able to concentrate on the task which I am presently doing. A lot of times, I take a day-off to close some specific items. But at the back of mind there’s some task which has not been closed and my brain keeps sending signals about what could go wrong if I don’t finish the task. After all the brain is designed to protect me, first and therefore creates all the “doomsday” scenarios and the Zeigarnik effect has a major role in it.

That is also one of the reasons why psychologists say that when you take a vacation, it should be for a minimum of 14 days, because the brain takes about 5-7 days to realise that it can wind down. That’s also one of the reasons why you come back relaxed after a vacation. Since the brain does not have to be on alert anymore with your daily tasks, it lets you explore things and those experiences stay with you.

But coming back on everyday tasks, till you close the unfinished tasks, the brain will keep hounding you. One way is to complete a task before moving to the next. But this is easier said than done, especially if you work in an organisation and there’s a dependency on others completing their role before you can again get involved with it.

Now that is something I have not been able to solve and due to that, I keep getting anxious from time to time about unfinished tasks and deadlines. One of the things that I do every once in a while is sit down for about 50 minutes and just list out all the things going on in my brain and dump them on paper. Once there you can then strike them out as you keep closing them.

The biggest advantage of this method is that your brain gets slightly pacified that you acknowledge that there’s unfinished tasks that need to be addressed.

Some people say, with meditation, the brain can be calmed down. I have not tried meditation in its truest sense though with some of the breathing exercises that I do, I have some semblance of order. With the order comes the ability to achieve a higher number of tasks, which in are directed towards your goals can help you achieve a lot in life.

For me the Zeignernik effect has created a lot of havoc, where I have lost track of my goals because my brain was constantly creating fear in my mind of the unfinished tasks.

Let me know your views in the comments below so I know if there are others like me and how you have solved this challenge.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!

White sugar – not listening to my own advice

Energy, Health, sugar

I must have written multiple posts on the drawbacks of eating white refined sugar. Along with corn syrup it is one of the biggest killers in modern life, being a direct cause for blindness, kidney failures, obesity etc. The biggest problem is that all the sugar related diseases crop up suddenly. They keep getting bad to worse in the background and then suddenly appear when the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that I have seen people suddenly lose their eye sight or a small wound suddenly getting infected with gangrene and having to be amputated.

We are having the festival of Diwali , in India, going on for the last 4-5 days. We Indians have a sweet tooth. The amount of “sweet” dishes we have in each of our different cuisines is mind boggling. If you think of at least 16 different broad regional cuisines and at least 30 different sweets in each cuisine, you are looking at close to about 500 different types of sweets. In addition we now also have different kinds of chocolates, cookies and cakes / pastries.

Now during the main festival on Thursday, we had a whole lot of sweets of different kinds which were had laid out. I ended up eating a lot, because there was a huge variety, I got tempted and wanted to try all the items. I actually didn’t realise that I was consuming so many since they were all so tasty. At the end of the day, I am also human and I given in to temptations.

The next day when I got up in the morning, I was feeling so “low” on energy, that I was worried what was wrong with me. After having a couple of glasses of water, I started feeling a little better and started thinking for the reason. Then it struck me that it was the sugar which was playing games with me, since I had eaten so many sweets.

I am flabbergasted that I had not heeded my own advice, I keep telling everyone not to have white sugar based products and generally I have given up on eating all kinds of items which have sugar or corn syrup in it. But I did not listen to my own advice and paid a price for it.

If feasible always avoid white sugar and corn syrup and be more healthy.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!

Taking a day off from everything

Health, Rest, Uncategorized

Yesterday I had mentioned how because my wife had fever, suddenly my day went topsy-turvy but I was still able to achieve considerable outcomes because of the prioritization matrix.

Today however I was also a little under the weather and because my is still unwell I decided to take a day-off from work. Today’s post is about not doing anything and the learning from it.

Since I was also unwell, I decided to just sleep. After breakfast I went off to sleep and kept sleeping till mid afternoon . I ensured that I did not use my computer or my tablet all day so that my eyes, my body and my brain all got a respite. I also did not spend any time thinking. I just moved around lazily doing nothing

This post I am writing now towards the end of the day on my tablet and for about 30 minutes I read a Robert Kiyosaki book. That’s all the things I did on my electronic devices.

When you spend time in a lot of transactions every day, taking complete time off makes you feel guilty. Every now and then I had the fear that there would be some kind of fire somewhere which would need my attention.

Two things happened one because my team as well as peers knew that I was unwell they didn’t bother me for most part of the day. Second it also brought out the fact that the team is capable of handling most things without my intervention.

So that makes me happy because I can now delegate even more. So when I say life does things FOR us, you need to find the learning, this was my learning for today.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!

Happiness

Energy, Gratitude, Happiness, Human Brain, Yoga

Happiness is such a fundamental thing, as far as I am concerned, that I tell all my team members that there’s no point in doing a job if it doesn’t get you to be happy.

I have written a lot about gratitude and how it helps you feel more happy, safe etc. This is one practice that I follow a lot.

In addition I do a little bit of Yoga / Pranayam (different kinds of breathing exercises) everyday in the morning because it gets me tuned a little better to start my day. Just the fact that I take time out in the morning without looking at my phone ensures that I don’t get any SMS or WhatsApp which can cause me to become anxious.

I don’t get a newspaper at home, I don’t watch newspaper on TV and I don’t have any apps on my mobile or tablet that can give me news because all these channels only vend negativity in some form or another, which gets my brain anxious

So while I wrote about activities which stop me from getting anxious (consciously or subconsciously) as per Steven Kotler there are actually methods by which you can ensure happiness.

In his book The Art of Impossible, he also talks about Gratitude as one activity to increase happiness. Then he talks about mindfulness – while I use Yoga. Then he says even exercise makes you feel happy because it helps you reduce cortisol levels, thereby reducing stress, while increasing feel good neuro chemicals.

Finally the most surprising thing that I read was a good night’s sleep. I have known that a good night’s sleep is critical for being alert and active. But this alertness and activeness is because of the higher energy levels that you have after a good night’s sleep. As per Steven, because of the higher energy levels, your brain feels more capable of solving the challenges ahead and therefore you feel more secure, which in turn leads to feeling more happy.

But when you are under pressure, these are the exact things you stop doing, which causes a negative spiral to take place. So how do you ensure that you do these four things even when you are stressed…. I don’t know…but would definitely like to know if any of you has been able to crack this code.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!