What to do when you have too much to do!

What to do when you have too much to do!

Do you often feel stressed about how much you have to do? Do you feel that you have so many things to get done that your mind is spinning? Are you constantly worried about getting it all done and not forgetting anything? When you’re trying to relax, are you interrupted by intrusive thoughts about all of the things you need to get done? If you do, then I can totally empathize!

Right now, the Frugalitude household is preparing for a big trip so there is so much to be done: travel arrangements, booking accommodation, paperwork for travelling, packing….so much planning and preparation to be done. At times is does feel a little overwhelming! Luckily, I know something that can help: the Zeigarnik effect!

What is the Zeigarnik effect?

In the 1920’s Professor Kurt Lewin noticed that waiters in a nearby café appeared to remember incomplete orders better than orders that were completed. Bluma Zeigarnik was a Russian psychologist studying under Professor Lewin and she performed a set of experiments which showed that the human brain can recall an interrupted task about 90% better than a completed task.

If you’ve ever wondered why the cliff-hanger endings in TV shows are so compelling and make you want to watch the next episode, it’s the Zeigarnik effect in action – your brain doesn’t like unfinished stuff so wants to “complete” it.

Unfortunately, the Zeigarnik effect also has a darker side: if you have too many uncompleted tasks to remember then that can cause a lot of mental stress and strain. Sound familiar to any of you?

How to combat the Zeigarnik effect

So, what can you do when you brain is buzzing with too many things to get done? One obvious answer is to complete the task. As Bluma Zeigarnik showed, once a task is complete your mind relaxes and lets it go.

However, when you have numerous tasks and to-do’s floating around your brain it’s not always possible to get it all done. In this case you can do the next best thing to doing it: plan to do it.

According to researchers E. J. Masicampo and Roy Baumeister, the brain considers planning to do the task, the same as actually doing the task.

Once a plan is made, the Zeigarnik effect goes away and your brain can relax. That’s why, when you have so many things zipping around your brain, it feels so good to make a to-do list: it’s showing your brain that you are taking care of your unfinished tasks.

Take it a step further and schedule when you’ll do the “To Do’s” on your list, and how you’ll do them, and you’ll find yourself relaxing even more as the Zeigarnik effect dissipates.

As I mentioned, we’re currently getting ready for a big trip and listing out the 156 “To Do’s” and the 116 items that we need to pack has definitely helped relieve a lot of stress! So, if you’re suffering from the Zeigarnik effect and have too many things whirring around your mind, if you can’t get doing, at least get planning!

Now I’m off to get some of those “To Do’s” done but let me know in the Comments section if this helps you…or if you have other ways to handle too much going on in your life.

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