Close The Loop

If you are like most of us, you are busy.

Perhaps too busy…

Sometimes the day just seems to take on a life of its own and before you know it, you’ve missed your chance to exercise and you’ve not even finished half the things on your to do list.

What if I told you that you might not actually be as busy as you think you are?

Or what if I told you that sometimes we “feel” like we are busier than we actually are?

You are probably thinking, “Shaun, when I’m busy, I’m busy. Don’t try to tell me that I’m not as busy as I think I am”.

Fair enough, this may be the case, but I’m sure you have had days when you accomplished so much more and weren’t overwhelmed by how busy you supposedly are. Am I right? You know; those days that you look back on and say “Damn, I was on fire today. Look what I got done!”.

Here is the thing that might just be the magic wand for making those highly effective and super productive days happen more often.

The Zeigarnik Effect.

The Zeigarnik Effect states that the brain remembers uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed ones.

If we take this principle and look at why we sometimes get overwhelmed by how much we have to do in a day, it may be because too much of our mental bandwidth is being taken up by things that are occupying valuable mental real estate.

We don’t have a limitless ability to focus on multiple things at once and when we try, it is natural that we begin to feel stressed or unable to cope.

By utilising the Zeigarnik Effect, we can identify all the things that we need to get done and write them down. Firstly this will help us get clear about exactly what needs to be done. Secondly we start completing them one by one. Each time one thing gets ticked off the list, it frees up mental space for our brains to work more effectively and faster.

A good way of describing this is; imagine that each thing on your list is an open loop. Every open loop that we have is requiring a little bit of our strength to maintain. When we close the loop, that utilized strength can be put into another loop that needs to be closed. This creates a momentum of its own and pretty soon you are powering through your day accomplishing more than you ever have.

It is so easy to get stuck with too many open loops and to lack the energy, focus and strength to stay on track with them. Far better to close each loop as quickly as you can and then move on to your next thing.

Making exercise an open loop in your day and ensuring it gets closed off can be a highly effective approach and one that will work.

P.S. NOTE TO STUDENTS, you can take the Zeigarnik Effect and apply it in a different way. If the brain remembers things better when they are involved with uncompleted tasks, don’t discount the power of cramming! Yes, of course it is important to study over time, but if you stop studying well before the exam and tell yourself that you have learned as much as you can, your brain will close that loop and file it away to make more room for the next thing. It is actually more effective to study right up to the exam and keep the loop open as you go into the exam, because your brain is still in recall mode and has not closed the loop. Just don’t begin your study the day before and expect to retain it all…

If you need help with motivation or implementing success psychology into your training or life, drop us a line.

Run long,

Shaun Brewster.


Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)

  1. Rika
    5 years ago

    Wow this is really interesting! It explains why when i write lists of things to do, even breaking down boring things such as housecleaning into sections eg, vacuum, mop, dust etc… I pretty much always complete the tasks on the list!
    Closing the loop you speak of, is also the satisfaction felt in crossing things off the list, once completed!!
    I have really fallen into a slump with my exercise, and apart from walking the dogs, my running has been almost non existent this year!!
    I think back to last year, and I can\’t quite work out how i had time to workout, most days! Mind you things really haven\’t changed too much!
    So this week i have started the Novice1 marathon training, with 19 weeks till Melbourne Marathon, and an 18 week program, I am probably being somewhat unrealistic, but I will give it my best shot and aim for completion of the program.
    I have printed the program out and ticked off each run as I do it! 🙂

    I want to say wish me luck, but we all know luck has nothing to do with this!

    Thanks for this read, I look forward to your further newsletters!

  2. Shaun Brewster
    5 years ago

    Hi Rika,
    Thank you very much for your comments.
    It is great to hear that this article resonated with you.
    I wish you well in your challenge of the Melbourne Marathon and am sure you will make it over that line if you break the challenge down into digestible chunks. The key is to knowing how your mind works and then getting out of its way and letting your body follow.
    If you need any more help with training programs or advice, feel free to contact me. Happy to help.

    Run long,

    Shaun Brewster.

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