Merge's Blog

Tag Archives: time management

Use the Zeigarnik Effect to overcome procrastination

procrastinationAre you guilty of procrastination?  If so, you’re not alone.  As a leader, you’re constantly juggling many priorities, and there are always a few items on the to-do list that seem to slip from one list to the next.  Usually, the procrastination is either because the task is so large that the even the thought of tackling it is overwhelming.  Or it’s because the task is just something that you don’t really want to do.  Either way, the end result of procrastination is that the task gets pushed further out into the future.  And sometimes it simply just doesn’t get done.

If you think it’s time for the procrastination to end, then consider how you can use the Zeigarnik Effect to your advantage.  So called because it was observed by Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, the Zeigarnik Effect states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.

Use the Zeigarnik Effect to your advantage

To better understand the connection between procrastination and the Zeigarnik Effect, some background information about Zeigarnik’s research is useful.  In a series of experiments, she asked individuals to do several simple tasks such as solving puzzles and stringing beads.  For some of the tasks, the participants were allowed to complete them, and for others, they were interrupted about half-way through.  Interestingly, she discovered that people were twice as likely to recall the tasks during which they’d been interrupted than those they completed.

So …. if you want to overcome procrastination, the best thing to do is to get started.  If you just initiate the task and get it underway, the Zeigarnik Effect will kick in.  Because the project will now be incomplete, you won’t be able to forget about it.  And you will seek to relieve the tension by bringing closure.  Ergo, getting the job done!  Item checked off the to-do list!

So … I’m curious to know.  Have you used the Zeigarnik Effect to your benefit?  Perhaps you’ve been using it all along, but you just didn’t know that it had a name!  Do share your experiences by commenting below.

P.S.  If you want even more insights into to how to overcome procrastination, then you may find this helpful: A 9-point plan for overcoming procrastination, which I wrote as one of my regular columns for ProfitGuide, the online portal for Profit Magazine.

Work-life balance is a myth, seek work-life blend instead

For years, nay decades, there’s been talk of work-life balance – that delicate equilibrium between the time you spend at work and that which you dedicate to family, social and leisure activities, and personal interests.  In fact, I too have often penned posts (such as this one) that seek to achieve just that.  But work-life balance is a myth, a non-achievable nirvana that few (if any) have realized. So it’s long past the time to let this obsolete idea go. Instead, it’s time to embrace work-life blend.

In my latest column in The Globe and Mail, I explain how the word “balance” implies that a negative – work – needs to be offset by a positive – life. But there shouldn’t be anything negative about earning a living.  Work-life blend acknowledges that trying to isolate work from life is not only impossible, but also places immense amounts of anxiety and tension on those trying to do so.

Work-life balance is a myth

work-life blend

Shifting to work-life blend doesn’t happen overnight

So what will it take to reposition from balance to blend?  That’s exactly what I address in this column which published in yesterday’s print edition of The Globe.  If you get the print version, you would have seen it on page B10.

Note: if you are a subscriber to The Globe and Mail, you can also read the column directly at their website at this link: https://tgam.ca/2zIvkMH

So I’ve already heard from several readers on The Globe‘s site who are not impressed with my point of view.  They believe that my suggestion of work-life blend is just another way to further reduce “life” time.  But I’d love to hear what you think as well.  Do you agree or disagree with my perspective?  Please add your thoughts below.

Procrastination: why it happens and how to conquer it!

Back in September 2015, in one of my regular columns for ProfitGuide, the online portal for Profit Magazine, I wrote about how leaders can overcome the endless cycle of procrastination.  You know … procrastination … the situation where you put off doing stuff until it becomes critical, vow that you’ll never put yourself in those circumstances again, but of course, finding yourself exhausted from the last sprint to the finish line find yourself in exactly the same condition yet another time!

Published in The Downtown Victoria Magazine

Overcoming procrastinationWell, I was pretty thrilled when The Downtown Victoria Magazine chose to reprint my article in their special insert in Victoria’s Times Colonist on November 23.  I realize that we’re already in February, but I just recently got my hands on a hard copy of the publication so I had to share!  Yes, I know that the print is too tiny in the photo for you to be able to read the article, but you can read the original version at ProfitGuide.com – A 9-Point Plan for Overcoming Procrastination.

Big shout out to the DVBA!

As many of you who regularly read the blog know, I only just last year opened a new office on the west coast Continue reading

Compensating for Parkinson’s Law – good practice or disingenuous?

parkinsonYears ago, when I was still at university, I experienced first-hand the validity and strength of Parkinson’s Law. This time-tested adage – Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion – stand true even today, as it still very aptly describes what repeatedly occurs in workplaces. And if you’re managing projects or leading teams, it’s definitely worth your while to not only be conscious of it, but also deliberately adapt to counterbalance it.

Parkinson’s Law doesn’t usually occur with any sinister or negative intent, or for that matter, even deliberately. It just happens. Conflicting priorities and other responsibilities mean that work expands to fill the time available up to the pre-determined deadline. Which means that if you’re a leader or project manager, you need to assign target dates to team members so that you are left with some “buffer” should things go off the rails. Not everything works out perfectly the first time (understatement of the year!), so creating a “false” deadline is a prudent business decision. Continue reading

Don’t multitask, be present when it comes to employee interactions

Back in March 2013, I wrote a blog post titled Focus on the present in order to achieve big things in the future. In it I talked about how not to let current short-term challenges get in the way of future long-term goals. Today’s blog post takes a slightly different tack on the word “present” – specifically that it’s important to BE PRESENT in order to maximize productivity and team performance. Let me explain.

Female architect using tablet computer, looking awayYou’ve done it (we all have) – glanced at your email while talking to one of your employees. Or shuffled through papers on your desk while simultaneously carrying on a conversation with one of your staff. Stop. Not only is it not working, but you’re also doing more damage than good. You may think that you’re being productive by doing two things at the same time, but the truth is that you’re doing neither well. Not only that, and perhaps more importantly, you’re jeopardizing your relationship with your staff. You may not intend to do so, but your inattentiveness is disrespectful to the very people who ensure your department’s success. Instead, choose to be present. Continue reading

Stop working on the weekend!

Businessman using modern smartphone or mobile phone. New technolBack in 2011, we conducted a fun informal poll at our website that asked the question: What is your single biggest time waster at work? And the top two answers were Other people and Email. I had that poll in my mind when I also realized that we (in Canada and the United States at least) are heading into a long weekend, so today’s blog post seems particularly timely – how not to get caught in the trap of working on the weekend.  Now many of you are from countries other than Canada and the United States, and others of you work unusual shifts, so translate the topic to be “how not to get caught in the trap of working on your days off”.

The problem is that in today’s highly-connected tech world, so many of us can’t seem to shut work down when we’re supposed to be off. In fact, some of the leaders in my client organizations have sheepishly admitted to regularly saying out loud “I’ll get that done over the weekend.” I say it’s gotta stop!

But how? Continue reading

Procrastination: why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?

My latest column for ProfitGuide.com is up this morning. Today’s column is part of Productivity Week and is about how leaders (or anybody) can overcome the endless cycle of procrastination. You know … the one where you put off doing stuff until it becomes critical, vow that you’ll never put yourself in that situation again, but of course, finding yourself exhausted from the last sprint to the finish line find yourself in exactly the same condition yet another time!

A 9-Point Plan for Overcoming Procrastination

ProfitGuide090815

So these are my top five ideas for ways to overcome procrastination – what are yours? Please share what has worked (or not) for you and let’s learn from one another.

P.S. In case you didn’t know, I am a regular member of ProfitGuide.com’s panel of business experts. You can find links to my previous columns on their site. For your information, Profit Magazine is a sister publication to Canadian business magazine giants Canadian Business, MoneySense and Macleans, so I’m pretty chuffed to be in such esteemed company.