What happens when memories or tasks are unfinished, and why is it that they seem to stick in our heads? In this episode, Mel and Dan explore the Zeigarnik effect and how we can use it to create stronger memories, stop procrastinating, and keep customers thinking about us long after our ads have run.
Mel: 00:00 What do we know about negative emotions?
Dan: 00:03 They're bad?
Mel: 00:04 You haven't learnt anything. What we know is that when we feel negative we're highly motivated to relieve ourselves of that feeling.
Dan: 00:12 That's where we got the phrase, "Shitting myself."
Mel: 00:32 Hi, and welcome to Bad Decisions.
Dan: 00:34 The podcast that helps us understand why we choose what we choose.
Mel: 00:36 Why we think what we think.
Dan: 00:37 And how to exploit this stuff for fun and commercial gain.
Mel: 00:40 Ethically.
Dan: 00:41 Of course, always ethically. I'm Dan Monheit, co-founder of Hardhat a creative agency built for today.
Mel: 00:46 I'm Dr. Mel Weinberg, I'm a performance psychologist.
Dan: 00:48 And this is Kops about to press play on the best audio ever.
Dan: 00:58 We're going to do something different this episode.
Mel: 01:00 Oh, mix it up.
Dan: 01:01 We normally start with "Dan has a weird life anecdote." Then we stumble into a heuristics, and then we stumble into advertising.
Mel: 01:09 Either that or we go, "We're going to mix it up this time."
Dan: 01:11 Yeah. It's definitely either we do the normal thing or we do something different.
Mel: 01:14 Well, or yeah that.
Dan: 01:15 So, I want to start today talking about an ad. It's an ad-
Mel: 01:18 What a surprise.
Dan: 01:19 Well, I know, now I don't have to wait 15 minutes to do it for a change. So, I want to talk about an ad that I kind of ... The inner ad nerd in me loves. It's one of the greatest and most successful and most imitated ads of all time. In the 16, 17 episodes we've done up until now we've talked about a lot of heuristics that have hints of themselves in this ad, but nothing that really explains it properly.
Mel: 01:43 Okay.
Dan: 01:44 So the ad that I'm talking about, of course, if you're an ad nerd playing along at home is an ad from 1926. So almost 100 years ago. A guy by the name of John Kapel, so maybe it's Jon Kapel's I don't know, he died in 1990 so I'll never get to ask him.
Mel: 01:58 RIP.
Dan: 01:59 Right. So, he wrote an ad and the ad came out in the era of lots of print advertising, obviously, and lots of direct response print advertising. So, ads where you want somebody to send in a coupon or mail in to get something sent back.
Mel: 02:13 Okay.
Dan: 02:13 The ad was for piano lessons. Rather than doing ads about, "Learn to play piano in 30 minutes a day," or "The easiest way to learn how to play piano." He wrote this ad for which the headline was, "They laughed when I sat down at the piano. But when I started to play ... "
Mel: 02:29 What?
Dan: 02:30 Yeah. So that's the headline, then there's a few hundred words of copy underneath it. Like most ads from the 1920s there's this beautiful illustration that takes up probably the top third of the page, which looks like a very 1920s style dinner party with a whole bunch of people sitting around in suits doing what they do.
Mel: 02:46 Okay.
Dan: 02:47 So, this ad might sound familiar. The structure of it might sound familiar. It has kind of been imitated countless times, and is actually the blueprint for most of what we'd consider clickbait these days. “Something happened and you'll never believe what the outcome of that was.”
Mel: 03:05 Okay. Yeah. I see where you're going. So, tell me, how long have you been sitting on this? How long have you been sitting in this state of discomfort and just not understanding this ad that you love so much?
Dan: 03:14 Well, you know I feel in one respect I do understand it because it's suspense. It's getting people to buy into an idea and then not know how it's resolved and then they have to read something else to find out about it.
Mel: 03:25 Yeah.
Dan: 03:25 It's why a lot of TV shows work, and it's why a lot of movie trailers work. But why is suspense a thing? Why do we care? Why do I care about some illustrated guy from the 1920s sitting there on the piano?
Mel: 03:37 You know what? We should talk about this more.
Dan: 03:40 We should.
Mel: 03:40 We should solve this problem for you in this episode.
Dan: 03:41 Well, we have a whole podcast for that. Let's do it.
Mel: 03:43 All right. Well, I'm thinking that one of the ways, or something that might help you to understand, is a psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik effect.
Dan: 03:54 The Zeigarnik effect.
Mel: 03:55 Right. And it sounds like a really cool word, but it was really just the name of a Russian researcher, or psychologist. I'm not actually sure. We should probably clarify.
Dan: 04:03 Yep.
Mel: 04:03 Anyway, it was in 1927, so whatever it is she's probably not that anymore.
Dan: 04:11 1927, and if we just were to wind back the tape, this ad that I'm talking about is from 1926.
Mel: 04:15 Whoa.
Dan: 04:16 Which is just further proof that ad guys are always one step ahead of psychologists. You guys just kind of turn up and put a fancy name on something that we've actually worked out.
Mel: 04:24 Are you finished now?
Dan: 04:24 Yeah. I'm finished now.
Mel: 04:25 Okay, good. So, back in 1927 Bluma Zeigarnik observed, while she was dining in a restaurant, that waiters were more likely to recall details of orders that were not yet paid for.
Dan: 04:41 Uh-huh (affirmative).
Mel: 04:41 So, basically you're taking orders, and for some of them they've finished the task and they've been paid for and complete. Those people have left, but orders that were not yet finished were being recalled more. The waiters were able to recall the details, they were able to tell exactly what you ordered, what dishes you ordered, what drinks you ordered with it. But once it was paid, see you later. Out of sight out of mind almost.
Dan: 05:02 And this happens today, almost 100 years later. You go into a good café to order brunch and there's like nine of you. Everybody makes their order. Not only do they make their order but everybody has weird variances of it. Menus are now just listed ingredients and people can just assemble whatever they want out of that apparently.
Dan: 05:17 So, you see waiters somehow not writing this stuff down, and often getting it exactly right. Then you wonder how long are they carrying this stuff around in their minds for?
Mel: 05:27 Yeah. So, this stuff was sort of happening before we had a good understanding of how memory works. We have working memory, and short-term memory, and long-term memory, right. So Zeigarnik was little bit ahead of her time. But basically what the Zeigarnik effect says is that we recall incomplete, or unresolved tasks, more frequently than we recall complete or finished tasks. So there's something in this idea of something being unfinished, or something being not yet complete that motivates us to actually remember it more.
Dan: 06:02 So, it's not so much the guy in the suit at the piano and what happened so much as it is just something that has started and my brain just wants to complete and finish?
Mel: 06:11 Yeah, your brains exploded because you've got some information and you're like, "I don't like having only some information. I need to have all the information. Finish this story for me, somebody please close this story and relieve the state of discomfort that I'm in by not knowing."
Dan: 06:23 Yeah. I guess my brain is running through all sorts of different possible ways that this thing could end, or that could explain this thing that I have incomplete information for.
Mel: 06:31 Exactly, and as you're doing that you're actually devoting a whole lot of mental energy to it, aren't you?
Dan: 06:35 Yeah.
Mel: 06:36 Right.
Dan: 06:36 Which it's not inherently positive. It's kind of, I feel uncomfortable. I feel like I have this itch. Like somebody has given me an itch. That sounds like a weird STD story. I feel like-
Mel: 06:46 Save that for another episode.
Dan: 06:46 I have a psychological itch that I'm expending energy trying to scratch.
Mel: 06:51 Right. So, Lumen said it maybe a little more eloquently than that.
Dan: 06:57 Than that-
Mel: 06:57 And what he said-
Dan: 06:58 No mention of sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
Mel: 06:59 What he said was, "The intention to carry out a task generates a state of psychological tension that keeps the issue alive until the task is complete and the tension is released."
Dan: 07:11 Basically there's an itch in my underpants and I don't know how it got there.
Mel: 07:13 Right.
Dan: 07:14 That's basically what it's saying.
Mel: 07:14 That's one way.
Dan: 07:15 Yeah.
Mel: 07:16 Now, the interesting thing about that is that the reference cited for this quote from Lumen is 1935, and then 1951, which tells me that Lumen was thinking about this for 16 years.
Mel: 07:27 So it was a big problem for him that needed to be resolved.
Dan: 07:29 Yeah. He definitely didn't have anything else going on in his life. He was just thinking about this.
Mel: 07:33 Certainly a long time, yeah. Not a lot happened in the world between 1935 and 1951. So it's not like anything else could have interrupted.
Dan: 07:38 Mainly people trying to resolve this issue.
Mel: 07:42 Okay, so this issue of the Zeigarnik effect was picked up a lot later on by Baddeley in 1963. Baddeley's name today is associated, you'd read it in like 50 psychology textbooks, with working memory. What Baddeley did to illustrate the Zeigarnik effect in a sort of round about way, or that phenomenon that Zeigarnik noticed in waiters, was that he devised a test that involved anagrams of five letter words.
Dan: 08:08 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mel: 08:08 So, an anagram is-
Dan: 08:10 A jumbled up word.
Mel: 08:11 Yeah, like a word where the letters are all jumbled up and your task is to solve the anagram by putting the letters in the right order to create a word. So, he presented participants with 12 five letter words, right. Basically you've got a few seconds to solve each one. So let's play along at home.
Speaker 3: 08:24 “Tonight, on Australia's biggest bargain sale we're offering a-”
Mel: 08:27 The letters are-
Dan: 08:30 Oh, we're not doing this.
Mel: 08:30 Yeah we are, here we go.
Dan: 08:30 Come on.
Mel: 08:30 Come on. Put your thinking hat on, right.
Dan: 08:32 Let's see how smart-
Mel: 08:33 I'm giving you five letters, make a word.
Dan: 08:34 Only one of us is a doctor.
Mel: 08:35 All right.
Dan: 08:37 I'm an auditory learner, this is very difficult.
Mel: 08:38 You're already making excuses before we've even started, right.
Dan: 08:41 Okay.
Mel: 08:41 So, the letters are-
Dan: 08:43 You're giving me letters, I make them into a word.
Mel: 08:45 Correct.
Dan: 08:45 Any word I want?
Mel: 08:46 Well, a word that's part of the English language.
Dan: 08:48 Oh fuck - you and your technicalities. Okay, let's go.
Mel: 08:50 W-E-O-T-L.
Dan: 08:50 W-E-O-T-L. Towel.
Mel: 08:56 Correct. See, the fun part of this is you can play along at home and you can see if you can solve it before Dan!
Dan: 09:01 That's not what we're doing.
Mel: 09:02 Are you smarter than Dan Monheit.
Dan: 09:02 That's not what we're doing.
Mel: 09:04 R-A-P-T-Y.
Dan: 09:07 Party.
Mel: 09:08 Correct. Look at you.
Dan: 09:09 Also, Rapty.
Mel: 09:10 Right. But actually party.
Dan: 09:12 Yeah.
Mel: 09:12 All right, let's try a harder one. E-V-O-A-B.
Dan: 09:16 E-V-O-A-B.
Mel: 09:19 Times up. Okay?
Dan: 09:20 Above?
Mel: 09:21 This is how the experiment works. Yes. It's above.
Dan: 09:23 Yes.
Mel: 09:23 Okay. Right, but you were too late.
Dan: 09:24 Oh.
Mel: 09:25 So I'm going to tell you the solution, it was Above. Okay. But, unfortunately, you didn't get it in time.
Dan: 09:30 Aww.
Mel: 09:30 Okay. So this is what the experiment involved.
Dan: 09:34 Focus on the negatives-
Mel: 09:34 It wasn't like that-
Dan: 09:34 I got the first two.
Mel: 09:34 It wasn't something-
Dan: 09:34 The first two I did really well on.
Mel: 09:36 Very good, keep remembering that.
Dan: 09:37 Thanks.
Mel: 09:39 So basically in the experiment participants were given 12 of these and they were given a certain amount of time in which to solve it. If they failed to solve it in time they were told the answer. Okay? 12 times, all right. So then afterwards the participants were asked how many of the words they could recall. Obviously the solved words, the English words, that were not the jumbled up letters. But how many of them they could recall? What Baddeley found was that people were twice as likely to recall the words that they actually failed to solve than the ones that they did.
Dan: 10:10 Right, because they're unresolved.
Mel: 10:11 Yeah.
Dan: 10:12 Right.
Mel: 10:12 Well, they were unresolved. They've since been resolved. But at the time people were devoting a lot of mental energy to it.
Dan: 10:17 So, it stuck.
Mel: 10:17 It stuck.
Dan: 10:18 So, for an ad guy like this is very interesting. Because obviously when we're making ads and comms for people we want to be noticed, and we want to be remembered.
Mel: 10:25 Hmm.
Dan: 10:25 So, knowing that leaving people with a little something unresolved can help us be remembered for longer, is an interesting thing for us to play with. I guess when we think about that headline, "They laughed when I sat down at the piano. But when I started to play ... " it's totally doing that because I don't know what did happen when you sat down to play.
Mel: 10:42 It's giving you something unfinished, right. You sit there and you think, like you said before, all the things that possibly could happen. All that time you're putting a lot of attention to it, you're essentially rehearsing this.
Dan: 10:50 Yep.
Mel: 10:51 You're going to remember this for a long time. Once you actually do finish the story it's going to stick with you.
Dan: 10:54 Yeah, like 98 years people have been trying to work this out.
Mel: 10:57 You're one of them.
Dan: 10:57 96? Yeah.
Mel: 10:59 So, you're not alone.
Dan: 11:00 Thank you.
Mel: 11:01 You're not alone in your state of psychological tension.
Dan: 11:03 Thank you.
Mel: 11:04 So, if we think about why this happens, there are a couple of reasons. We'll talk them through. The first has to do with how we process memories. I often talk about this with clients in relation to trauma. But it doesn't necessarily, I mean this isn't a traumatic memory it's just a memory. We can use the same analogy.
Dan: 11:18 This episode is going to be a traumatic memory. When you lead me into trying to do a live piece of research.
Mel: 11:23 No, it's just gentle encouragement.
Dan: 11:25 You weren't very supportive of my efforts. Anyway-
Mel: 11:26 So anyway. The way that we process memories, I like to think of our brain having this section that’s sort of like a repository for all of the memories and experiences of our lives. It's like a library. Imagine you're the librarian, yeah?
Dan: 11:38 Okay.
Mel: 11:39 So, when something-
Dan: 11:40 Can I be a hot librarian and I take off my glasses and let my hair out?
Mel: 11:42 Whatever you want. If that helps you.
Dan: 11:44 I don't wear glasses and I don't have hair. This is going to be difficult. Anyway.
Mel: 11:46 Try to create that image.
Dan: 11:48 Yeah.
Mel: 11:48 Anyway ... So, you're the librarian and you are given a book and your job is to find the place in all of the shelves of your library that this book belongs.
Dan: 11:57 Yep.
Mel: 11:57 Right, what could you do? You could sort it by author. You could sort it by theme. You could sort it by-
Dan: 12:03 Colour.
Mel: 12:04 Alphabetical or title. You could sort it by colour.
Dan: 12:06 All the blue books go together.
Mel: 12:07 Yep.
Dan: 12:07 That's a very good way to find things.
Mel: 12:08 Hey, it'll keep things nice and ordered and neat.
Dan: 12:10 Yeah.
Mel: 12:11 That's what your brain wants to do. It wants to store things neatly.
So you've got all these different strategies that you can use to try and sort it. When you acquire a new piece of information your brain basically has to do the same thing. It has to figure out in which shelf of the library this piece of information belongs. Does it remind you, we're talking about the Zeigarnik effect, how do I store that? “Hmm, that reminds me of a heuristic, so let me put that with all the other heuristics in my brain and put it there, okay.”
Dan: 12:33 Reminds me of “this can go in the words that sound like the garlic” section.
Mel: 12:37 You come in and-
Dan: 12:38 It now has one book in it.
Mel: 12:39 Look, everyone has their own strategies for storing information. Okay, you could put it there.
Dan: 12:43 It's like how someone with English as a second language would say the garlic. “Ze garlic!”
Mel: 12:49 We're totally going off track. Can you please-
Dan: 12:51 You don't have that section?
Mel: 12:51 Stick with me here.
Dan: 12:52 This is weird.
Mel: 12:53 Stick with me. Right. So, once you've got a piece of information that's unresolved - "They laughed when I sat down at the piano. But when I started to play ... " That's sitting there like a book and your brain is going, "Where on earth do I put that?"
Dan: 13:05 Yeah.
Mel: 13:05 It doesn't even rhyme with anything.
Dan: 13:07 It's like, does this go with the happy books?
Mel: 13:09 I don't know where to put it.
Dan: 13:09 Or does it go with the sad books?
Mel: 13:10 I don't even know.
Dan: 13:12 Does it go with uplifting?
Mel: 13:13 So confusing, right.
Dan: 13:14 International drama?
Mel: 13:15 So what do you do with this book that comes in that you don't know where to store? What do you do with it? Putting it anywhere, it's not for somebody else to clean up later, that's not how your brain works.
Dan: 13:26 Yeah. You just leave it. Yeah. You just leave it out, right.
Mel: 13:28 What you do is you leave it on the desk.
Dan: 13:30 Yeah.
Mel: 13:30 Every now and then you'll sort of pick up the book and go, "Hmm. Do I know now where to store it? No. I'm just going to keep covering it up with other books." But it's not going to magically find its way to the shelf by itself. At some point you are going to have to finish this memory, or this book, and put it back and figure out where it belongs.
Dan: 13:47 Or my wife is just going to throw it in the bin.
Mel: 13:50 Either way, that would get rid of it at least.
Dan: 13:51 Yeah.
Mel: 13:52 But it's not going to help. That's not sort of how our brains work.
Dan: 13:54 Right.
Mel: 13:54 Okay, our brains aren't just going to discard it.
Dan: 13:56 Lucky she doesn't have access to that. I would literally remember nothing. Everything's an unresolved issue on the desk in my brain.
Mel: 14:01 So what's happening is the longer that this book sits there, the more you're thinking about it, the more you're rehearsing it, the more you're becoming familiar with the actual properties of the book. Once you eventually do solve it the easier you're going to be able to recall that when you need to, right?
Dan: 14:14 Yeah.
Mel: 14:15 You're going to be able to find it much easier because you know exactly where it went, and you've spent a lot of time thinking about it. So that's sort of strategy one. That's got to do with how the way that we process memories, and the way that we understand information and store it for easier retrieval later on.
The other element of this is that there's an emotional side of it. There's always an emotional side to everything, right.
Dan: 14:34 Always with you.
Mel: 14:34 That's what I'm here to talk about.
Dan: 14:34 Can't just be about the facts.
Mel: 14:34 Right, no it's all about the feelings. So, the idea that we are in this state of psychological tension when something is unresolved, we experience that as a negative. It has a negative emotional tone to it. We don't like it. What do we know about negative emotions?
Dan: 14:49 They're bad?
Mel: 14:49 Oh, God, you haven't learned anything. What we know about negative emotions is that we don't like them, yes. They're bad.
Dan: 14:54 See?
Mel: 14:55 So it motivates us to alleviate the situation.
Dan: 14:57 Yeah.
Mel: 14:57 But we're motivated to do something about it because we no longer want to feel this state of discomfort.
Dan: 15:01 We want to heal the world.
Mel: 15:03 Yes.
Dan: 15:03 Michael Jackson was on to something.
Mel: 15:06 He was. We want to make the situation better. Okay, we do not like feeling unpleasant.
Dan: 15:10 Yep.
Mel: 15:11 We feel unpleasant, we feel uncomfortable, and we have incomplete tasks so it actually motivates us. So this Zeigarnik effect actually has a very helpful aspect to it.
Dan: 15:19 Sure.
Mel: 15:19 It motivates behaviour.
Dan: 15:20 So, what I find kind of challenging about this … as an ad guy I'm trying to craft experiences for my clients, and my clients consumers, customers, humans, whatever we call them. Am I better off, then, trying to create for them a closed loop experience, which kind of feels positive but is then forgettable because we've just filed it. Or am I better off trying to create an open loop, like an unresolved theme, which I know is going to hang around in their attention for a bit longer but kind of feels inherently negative?
Mel: 15:52 Dan.
Dan: 15:53 Yes.
Mel: 15:53 What if I told you that through the magic of psychology you could do both.
Dan: 15:56 Oh, I would say sign me up right now!
Mel: 15:59 Let me just wave my magic wand and let me tell you how this works. You can create a positive experience. You can take a person from an emotionally neutral experience to a positive one, and they feel good and they like you and they like your product and they want to buy more. Cool. But, we've talked about with emotions, there is the emotional tone. With memories it's really important to create that emotional tone.
You can intensify the positive emotion by first taking a person down. All right. So first you create this state of psychological tension. You create this discomfort and then you solve the problem for them. You take them not from neutral to positive, but from negative to positive and that has a much more long lasting effect. Great memory created, problem solved, podcast over.
Dan: 16:43 So, upset people first and then make them happy.
Mel: 16:46 Now you're starting to understand. But no, no. No wait-
Dan: 16:48 I don't want to upset them by giving them something incomplete that's going to irritate them.
Mel: 16:53 Create a state of tension that bothers them, makes them think about it more.
Dan: 16:56 Yeah, okay.
Mel: 16:57 Yeah.
Dan: 16:57 I can do that.
Mel: 16:58 Then give them all the answers.
Dan: 16:58 Yeah. I guess one of the challenges here is probably as advertisers we often over state how much we think people are going to be invested in a challenge that we put out for them, or a story we start to tell them they then fade away from.
Mel: 17:09 Right.
Dan: 17:10 So I think it's pretty important to be real about how much we're asking people to solve, or how much we're asking people to give a shit.
Mel: 17:16 Right. I mean, none of this works if nobody cares.
Dan: 17:18 Yeah.
Mel: 17:18 If I give you a problem you don't care about and leave it unfinished, you're like, "All right, I'll see you later. Don't care."
Dan: 17:23 Yeah, whatevs.
Mel: 17:23 Yeah, you have to have some attachment to it.
Dan: 17:24 So, not to go completely off track but if we think about game shows like 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' we always find out the answer after the break of whether they got it right or wrong. They spend a lot of time trying to get you invested in the story, and the person, and they phoned a friend, and how are they going to spend the money. So you actually do care long enough to hang around to the other side of the ad break to find out how it all ends.
Mel: 17:43 Yep. To be continued, right.
Dan: 17:45 Cool.
Mel: 17:45 Three powerful words in advertising.
Dan: 17:46 Yep. Thanks, I'll write that down.
Mel: 17:49 Yeah. So how do we actually use this?
Dan: 17:52 Okay. Me first, you first?
Mel: 17:53 You first.
Dan: 17:54 Me first. Okay, what I think is really interesting about this, and it's very topical so this is probably going to date the show a little bit. But, one of the really hot issues in creative advertising at the moment is the six second format. So for those of you outside the industry 30 seconds used to be the default time length for a piece of creative. You could tell a reasonably nice story in 30 seconds. Then it got down to 15, and now really through social media and digital channels, six seconds is kind of what we get.
Mel: 18:19 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dan: 18:20 So there's a lot of conversation about how do you tell a story in six seconds? Can you get somebody to feel happy or sad or motivated or inspired or challenged within six seconds, which is an insanely short period of time.
Dan: 18:32 What I think about off the back of today's episode is that maybe we don't have to tell the whole story in six seconds. Maybe what we have to do is just elicit enough curiosity in that six second window that we get. Because I could make someone curious in six seconds. I can do that.
Mel: 18:45 Can you? Because that's still hard.
Dan: 18:46 I'm sure I can. Do you want to hear how? … Aha!
Mel: 18:48 You got me.
Dan: 18:48 Right. So I can do that in six seconds.
Mel: 18:52 You just did it in two.
Dan: 18:55 Exactly. I could do it three times in six seconds. Then pick up the story somewhere else. So I think from a brand that's an interesting way to think about using our short form media, whether that's a print ad or a billboard or a short video. Not trying to tell the whole story, just enough to hook people and then you can close the loop for them later.
Mel: 19:12 You've also repackaged the whole idea. The whole idea is not to tell a story in six seconds.
Dan: 19:16 Yeah.
Mel: 19:16 The whole idea is to garner emotional investment in six seconds.
Dan: 19:22 It's to write a headline.
Mel: 19:22 Right.
Dan: 19:22 Six seconds is a long time to write a headline.
Mel: 19:23 That's what you’ve got.
Dan: 19:24 And we're back to 1926. All right, and what about as just people? Trying to get by in this world?
Mel: 19:30 So as just ordinary people trying to navigate our emotions in a distressing world. I'm going to give you, I guess, a bit of a hack to use this to your advantage.
Dan: 19:38 Good. That’s uplifting.
Mel: 19:38 How do you use this to help you? Yeah. I'm going to talk to the procrastinators out there.
Dan: 19:43 Never met one. Never been one.
Mel: 19:46 Right. Well, I am one. There's a whole lot of work that I'm not doing right now while I'm sitting in here podcasting with you.
Dan: 19:52 This is important.
Mel: 19:52 Very important. But, it can also be serving as a procrastination tool. Anyway. So what's actually happening when we procrastinate, for some reason we're failing to initiate a task for some reason, or complete a task. Something’s going on and for some reason we feel like we're actually safe in not doing anything at all than actually moving forward.
Which might work in some instances, but when you actually have contracts to fulfil and things to complete you actually need to get these things started. So, the most effective way to use the Zeigarnik effect to actually motivate you to get work done is to start that task. No matter what. Even if it's as simple as opening a document and writing the title and your name on it.
Dan: 20:31 Yeah.
Mel: 20:32 Right. Bad Decisions, a podcast by Dan Monheit and Melissa Weinberg. If we were to write a book, hey there's an idea. If we were to write a book that would be how we would start it.
Dan: 20:39 Oh, now we've started it. That's annoying.
Mel: 20:41 Once we've started it we have created this state of tension that motivates us to relieve it.
Dan: 20:46 Yeah. So when I make a to-do list the first thing I should do is write, "Make to-do list." Yeah?
Mel: 20:53 Yeah, actually initiate that task. I guess you could do that.
Dan: 20:56 I can tick that off and I'm already on my way.
Mel: 20:57 Yeah. But you were telling me some way that you even do this with PowerPoint presentations.
Dan: 21:01 Oh, yeah.
Mel: 21:01 Even before you write the title.
Dan: 21:03 Yeah. Sometimes I would just take the previous presentation that I did, duplicate it and save it as the name of the new presentation that I need to do. Now it's started. For some reason, now my motivation instead of telling me to avoid doing that thing, it now just wants to dive in and do it.
Mel: 21:19 Yeah. You've opened a new box and you need to solve that box before you can do anything else.
Dan: 21:22 Oh, I'm so smart and such an idiot.
Mel: 21:24 So, you know people say you just have to start. You really do. You just have to start. It doesn't matter if it's the smallest start but you need to sort of click go. You need to initiate that task. It will create a state of discomfort that you do not like, and that will motivate you to actually get the work done.
Dan: 21:38 I think, off the back of that, a really great advertising line for somebody might be, like, "Just do It." So I might try and pitch that to somebody. I think it could really work.
Mel: 21:46 Yeah. That could be big. I can imagine that, I can see that. Yeah. Cool.
Dan: 21:51 All right. I think, is that everything for today?
Mel: 21:52 You know what would be good?
Dan: 21:53 Whoa, sorry.
Mel: 21:53 I was just going to say if you added to that by adding some sort of a tick to say that you've completed the task.
Dan: 21:58 Oh, yeah, yeah. I like it. We should start like a sports company or something.
Mel: 22:01 Yeah. Interesting.
Dan: 22:02 All right, maybe next time.
Mel: 22:04 All right, so Dan I'm just wondering how you feel now? Because we started this episode with you having a problem that was unresolved.
Dan: 22:09 Well, first of all I feel good that you care about my feelings.
Mel: 22:12 What you might have noticed, I mean I obviously do. But what you might have noticed throughout the episode was that I took you on an emotional journey, didn't I?
Dan: 22:18 Yep. Is that what just happened?
Mel: 22:20 You just got totally Zeigarnik'd here.
Dan: 22:21 If I had emotions that is definitely the journey I would have been on.
Mel: 22:25 I made you feel a little bit bad about it. I helped to escalate and emphasize those feelings of discomfort so that now that we've solved the problem, don't you feel amazing?
Dan: 22:34 Amazing. Do you bulk bill?
Mel: 22:35 No.
Dan: 22:36 No, okay. Cool. Well, I think we're good?
Mel: 22:40 Yeah.
Dan: 22:41 Well done.
Mel: 22:41 Yep. We've solved the problem.
Dan: 22:42 The Zeigarnik effect.
Mel: 22:43 Yeah.
Dan: 22:43 Solved it.
Mel: 22:44 Completed. Finished. Feel good. Wonderful.
Dan: 22:46 There actually is one other bit that we didn't tell people about, which is really the key for how this whole thing works.
Mel: 22:50 Which is what?
Dan: 22:51 Oh, they'll have to find out next episode.
Mel: 22:52 Oh.
Dan: 22:52 See what I did there?
Mel: 22:55 Did it. Did that take six seconds.
Dan: 22:57 Maybe. Peace out.