Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

Worried about your incomplete drafts? Take a break and before you publish, Zeigarnik! [Tuesdays: “Write with the Pen of the Masters”]

October 6, 2020

Sigmund Freud.

Wilhelm Wundt.

Erik Erikson.

These are some of the famous psychologists in history whose works contributed to the knowledge and understanding of the human mind.

Here is another psychologist we occasionally hear about…

Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik was a Soviet psychologist who studied the effect of interruption on memory processing after her professor at the University of Berlin, gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin, noticed how a restaurant waiter had better recollection of unpaid orders.

In order to test this hypothesis, Zeigarnik conducted an experiment and published her findings in a paper titled, “On Finished and Unfinished Tasks” in 1927.

In the experiment, Zeigarnik asked 183 participants to complete various tasks such as solving a puzzle and assembling a flat-pack box. Some of the tasks were interrupted halfway through while the other tasks were completed undisturbed.

Once the experiment was done, Zeigarnik interviewed the participants, asking them to recall the details of their tasks. She found out that participants were able to recall the details of the interrupted tasks 90% better than the tasks they were able to complete.

The Zeigarnik Effect

Named after psychologist Zeigarnik, the Zeigarnik Effect is the tendency to experience mental tension about an incomplete task.

The only thing that will relieve this tension?

Closure brought about by the task’s completion.

For example: You are trying to finish writing an article but you failed to accomplish it in one sitting.

It might also be that you’re already done writing the first draft of your article but you’re not yet done rewriting.

Since the task is still incomplete, thoughts about it will keep popping into your mind, even as you do other things.

Even when people tell you to “sleep on it,” your brain keeps working on that task subconsciously so that when you sit down once again to accomplish it, you have a better idea as to what you should write or do.

That is why whenever you finish writing an article and you plan on rewriting it, you don’t do it all in one sitting…

…you stop to “Zeigarnik” it!

Aside from being the name of a psychologist and an effect, the word “Zeigarnik” has also become a verb, such as how it was used in the previous sentence.

This means you take a pause at what you’re doing to allow your brain to process information more efficiently and yield better results the moment you rewrite your article.

Here’s how you can make the most out of the Zeigarnik Effect:

  1. Get more out of your writing sessions.

    Don’t put too much pressure on yourself by writing everything and revising it in one shot.

    Break up your writing sessions into parts and do other activities in between to give yourself―and your brain―breathing space.

    By doing it in increments, you’ll be able to better accomplish the task at hand.

    However, if the article you’re writing is for work and you have a deadline to follow, taking too many breaks in between is not advisable as well.

    It would be better to start writing your article on the day (or days) before the deadline so you wouldn’t cram everything up to the last minute.

  2. Overcome procrastination.

    Procrastination can lead to a lot of stress as well as poor performance at work or any activity.

    In order to overcome this bad habit, put the Zeigarnik Effect to work.

    Start by taking the first step. Once you’ve begun, you’ll find yourself thinking about and working on your task until finally, you’ve finished it.

    The Zeigarnik Effect not only motivates you to complete your task, but also gives you a sense of accomplishment once you’ve reached the end of your task.

  3. Relieve your stress about an unfinished task.

    When you are aware of an incomplete task, it interrupts your thought processes and creates stress and mental tension.

    Applying the Zeigarnik Effect can help you transform these stressful thoughts into something more productive and motivate you to accomplish the task at hand.

    As long as the task is incomplete, your brain will keep it at the forefront of your memory so you can think of ways to tackle it.

    The completion of this task will then lead you to feelings of confidence and self-esteem, as well as enable your brain to let go of the stress brought about by an unfinished task.

  4. Generate interest and attention.

    Advertisers and marketers have taken advantage of the Zeigarnik Effect by deliberately “teasing” their target market about the products or services they offer.

    That way, people will want to know more about the product or service and take the necessary steps to accomplish it.

    For instance, when you’re writing copy for your email marketing strategy, it’s better to not disclose everything at the beginning of your email.

    Add a little bit of suspense. This can make your email recipients want to read deeper into your content.

    Break down your sentences into small parts as it offers your readers the idea that it is “not yet done.”

    Remember that blocks of texts can make your readers feel “full” but when you keep your sentences short, readers will be motivated to read up to the bottom part of your content.

Part of psychologist Zeigarnik’s study revealed that students who temporarily stop their study sessions to do unrelated activities remembered the material better than those who completed their study sessions without a break.

In the same way with writing an article, you can also take momentary breaks and “Zeigarnik” a few ideas so you can produce a better copy.

You don’t need to literally “sleep” on it so your mind can process information. It can be doing something else that’s not related to writing such as listening to music, drawing, playing with your pets, or meditating.

Write better copies by getting the most out of the Zeigarnik Effect.

Remember: Before rewriting, revising, and publishing…Zeigarnik!

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Tuesdays: Write with the Pen of the Masters”

Who doesn’t find content writing to be a skill that requires a lot of practice and effort?

In fact, many people may even find copywriting very intimidating.

However, you can be a good writer as long as you have the right tools. You won’t always get things right the first time, but with enough time and practice, you’ll get the hang of it!

When you write a copy for any brand or for your company, your aim is to make an impact and…

…to get people to remember.

Getting people to remember means getting consumers to buy your product or to avail of your service.

And when you get your content to deliver the results you want, THAT is a great copy!

Every Tuesday, we publish content based on tips and insights from the masters of content writing, copywriting, and storytelling.

Become more familiar with ways to write great copy that helps you gain ROI from your efforts, drive profitability, and achieve your business goals.

Learn time-tested tactics that better capture the attention of your target audience, and maximize the benefits of great copywriting.

Hope you found this week’s insights interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Tuesday’s “Write with the Pen of the Masters!”


Kyle Yu
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
Powered by Valens Research

View All

You don’t have access to the Valens Research Premium Application.

To get access to our best content including the highly regarded Conviction Long List and Market Phase Cycle macro newsletter, please contact our Client Relations Team at 630-841-0683 or email client.relations@valens-research.com.

Please fill out the fields below so that our client relations team can contact you

Or contact our Client Relationship Team at 630-841-0683