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LIFEHACKS: Looking to increase your productivity? Starting is half the battle

5 min

Each year, our lives seem to get a little busier. We find ourselves presented with more tasks to complete and more goals we wish to achieve. This can be true in our careers and personal life. One solution is to find ways in which you can become more productive, doing more within the hours available to you.

There are many tips on how you can increase your productivity. Time management experts such as Brian Tracy argue that the key is to set clear goals and review them regularly.  In his seminal book Eat That Frog, he imagines a scenario that, for whatever reason, you have to eat a frog sometime during your day. Tracy recommends to eat the ‘frog’ as soon as you get up in the morning. That way you won't have it looming over you for the rest of the day. So, whatever your hardest task of the day (your own frog) is – you should get it out of the way at the start of your day, when your mental and physical resources are at their strongest.

How the Zeigarnik effect might help you out

Another useful tip that can reduce the tendency towards procrastination is known as the Zeigarnik effect. First observed by Lithuanian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik in the 1920s, she found that the very act of starting a particular project or task significantly increased the likelihood of its completion by causing it to remain in your memory until accomplished.

We can use this effect in our daily lives. Are you a student looking at a blank sheet of paper and wondering how to begin that essay? An executive who needs to finish that crucial board report before week’s end? A musician working on a new score? The key is to simply begin. It may only be a first draft, but you have started upon your journey

So, the next time you are faced with a significant task, give yourself a better chance of success and employ the Zeigarnik effect to help you achieve your goals and become more productive.

The Zeigarnik effect in real-life

Here at Griffith College, we teamed up with Pat Divilly as part of our LifeHack series. The series itself is aimed at helping students with tools to help with motivation, time-management and self-confidence. As Ireland's leading private college, we here at Griffth College deal with students from across the spectrum of society each and every day.

In recent years we've seen a huge surge in what we call 'lifelong learners' - people who are coming to education from their late twenties on. These students are either looking to upskill to gain an edge in their current jobs or are looking for a qualification in an entirely new area.

Taking the first step is often the most challenging thing for these students. They have jobs and often have family commitments too. As the old saying goes – life is what happens when you are too busy making plans.

But Pat Divilly himself is an example of the Zeigarnik effect in action. Pat is now a world-renowned motivational speaker with a global profile. But less than a decade ago he was unhappily working in a clothes shop not knowing what he was going to do with his life. After doing an Arts degree, Divilly  was struggling with motivation. and according to himself "didn't know what to do with my life".

You sometimes need to slow down to speed up later

Divilly had a passion for fitness – his first job was in a gym in his native Galway at the tender age of 15 but had got sidetracked by college and ended up folding clothes in a shop. Eventually Divilly decided to return to fitness and put up posters advertising his services as a personal trainer. His first class – on a beach in Galway – was attended by five students. Now he's trained over 10,000 including a phenomenally successful online training business.



"Making that first step was as hard as making the next 100 steps," Divilly said. "We all have these ideas and dreams in our heads but it can be really hard getting from dreams to reality. You have to take the time to put a plan into action.

"I always tell people that they have to slow down before they speed up. I know that when I went home for a few months to plan my new business – I looked at my peers and thought that they were all racing ahead of me. But I've realised that life is not a race. I needed time to get my plan ready – and then when it came to taking that scary first step – I had a plan ready to help me out when things got tough."

How the Zeigernik effect could actually work for you

The way the Zeigernik effect works is that just by starting a task – your brain keeps working on it in the background. Once you get over the hump of actually starting – then your subconscious will keep ticking away and working on the task. So, if college is a part of that for you, then we can help