Now, ask yourself: “How many of those tasks are fully completed, and which ones are 80-95% done?”
I bet that your task list contains a lot of blogging related tasks which are not fully complete, but they are waiting for – well, something, to be completed.
Maybe this isn’t just a case with one or two tasks. In fact, the amount of unfinished tasks may keep growing and growing continuously right along with your stress levels too.
Ultimately, that big and unfinished task list begins causing chaos, simply because you have too much to do; too many deadlines to make and you really cannot focus on anything properly.
You have a ticking time bomb on your blog’s task list.
The lost art of finishing
What you may be experiencing is nothing new: You keep starting a task or even a project when you are excited about it but as soon as the excitement starts to fade away, the completion part becomes very difficult (and in most cases things are never finished). This leads to a situation where all of a sudden you have too much stuff to handle.
Another major thing that is causing unnecessary stress and burden is an unorganized way of working. You don’t have any defined times for your work, nor do you tend to finish a post (or other blogging task for that matter) in one sitting.
Do you really know what you want?
There is a great way to add yet another item to a growing list of unfinished tasks.
Do you know what it is?
Yep, it’s trying to be part of everything while losing focus at the same time.
The sales e-mails in your inbox, social media or your blogging peers are telling you about new and compelling ways to reach success. You feel pressured to join the group because you don’t want to be left out.
Of course, this (if anything) is slowing you down and helps to grow your already huge list of unfinished tasks.
Without knowing what you want with your blogging (your “why”), it is impossible to have laser-sharp focus and ignore those shiny objects that keep trying to interfere constantly.
Know your top-level first …
In order to tackle those unfinished tasks, we have to start from the top-level first and eventually get into the details where Ms. Zeigarnik is jumping in.
First of all, know the reason for your blogging. It could be becoming a top expert related to knitting (if knitting is your topic) or becoming a go-to authority on guitar playing.
Whatever your main goal is, keep it in mind and don’t let other shiny opportunities blind you. Most likely they are not contributing to your main goal in any way and they are distracting you.
When you know your “why,” other strategies most likely will start to fall into place: Should you be growing your blog by using YouTube, Pinterest or Twitter? How much SEO you should be doing? What type of content should be created?
Once you have found your optimum strategies for growth, stick with them and ignore all those other shiny object strategies altogether. This will make your blogging life much more focused and simple.
By taking the previous step alone, we have already eliminated a lot of possible tasks that could end up on your list and stay there unfinished. However, we are not done yet.
Now that you have a pretty condensed list of tasks/project to work on, it doesn’t hurt to do an occasional review of these items as well: Are they still valid or not? Can I let them go or should I keep them on the list?
Make sure to do this frequent housekeeping to keep your task list simple and short.
Finally – let the Zeigarnik show begin!
Now, once you are done find your blogging path, have a focused strategy in place and have cleaned your task list, now you have to take care of the most important tasks on your list – and finish them! And this is where Ms.Zeigarnik comes into play.
No, I didn’t invent Ms. Zeigarnik – she was a real person.
Her full name was Bluma Zeigarnik (1901 – 1988), a Russian psychologist, who came up with a ground-breaking theory that stated: people tend to remember incomplete things better than things which are completed.
You may recognize this effect in your everyday life – not just in blogging. If there is a task or anything else that is not finished, it keeps popping up in your mind – until it’s done.
Anyway, you can consider Zeigarnik as your personal (internal) notification service which tells you which tasks are done and which are not. And as soon as you take action on those unfinished tasks, the notification service shuts itself off.
The issue with too many unfinished tasks is that your brain keeps processing them – whether you are aware of it or not.
But as soon as the work is completed your brain capacity can be freed up to something else.
To keep the Zeigarnik effect serving you it is important to have only important tasks on task your list. You can accomplish this by changing the way you work.
If you fail to accomplish this change, the Zeigarnik effect has turned against you. You have too many tasks to handle and their existence is constantly reminding you to complete them. So is it any wonder you feel stressed and overwhelmed?
The best way to handle this situation is to organize your working methods a bit.
First, know your optimum working times. It may take some testing to learn that, but once you figure it out, it is easier to move your work to those times when you are the most productive.
Next, push through the task in one go and take breaks in between.
One great way to “force” yourself to work on a task is to use a timer. Define a certain time block for a work, put the timer on and then take breaks between the sessions.
It is also important that you work in an isolated environment. This cuts down all the extra distraction and you can focus on your tasks at hand – 100%.
Now, let’s put all the pieces together
In order to take advantage of your internal notification system (aka. the Zeigarnik effect), do these following things and be aware of the increased productivity, since you actually finish your tasks:
1. Define your “why”. It all starts by defining your why: What is the ultimate blogging goal you are trying to reach?
Write it down – as detailed as possible – and keep your goal visible so that you can see it when you are working.
When you are confused or feel lost, remember that ultimate goal again and re-evaluate your current actions related to that goal.
2. Apply the right strategies. Once you know your big goal, learn the right strategies for growing it further.
For example, if you are into knitting, Pinterest could be a nice way to make connections with others knitters. If you are teaching people how to play guitar, you could use YouTube for marketing efforts.
The main point is that once you know your goal, find those other means that support that big goal and stick with these strategies – instead of following every shiny object and traffic generation technique out there.
3. Clean your task list. Most likely your blogging task list is very big. Some of the tasks are important while others are secondary.
Your job is the evaluate each one and as a question: “Is this task – when completed – contributing to my goals somehow?”. If the answer is no, then you know it’s time to let go of that task or project.
Schedule a time block in your calendar on a monthly basis for pruning the task list.
4. Know your optimum working times. Once you have the important tasks on your list and you want to finish them, figure out your optimum working times. You can use a tool like HeatMap to figure this one out.
5. Do it at once – with breaks of course. Once you get to work, try to get as much done at once as possible – with some proper breaks of course.
A very popular way of working this way is to use Pomodoro method, where you split the work for 25 minute chunks with small tasks between the sessions.
Obviously only you know your optimum working style, so the sessions/breaks could be longer than in Pomodoro.
To help you to focus even further, use a timer when working. Even though the idea might sound very simple, timer helps you to improve your focus. You just have to test this and realize yourself.
You could use the timer on your phone, have an egg timer or use an online timer.
6. Pick the right environment. Pick the best environment for your work. If you like to work in an isolated (separate) room, that’s fine. If you get stuff done in a coffee shop, that’s fine too.
The point here is to find your optimum place for your work, so that distractions (phone, e-mail, instant messaging, other people) are disturbing your as little as possible.
Once the Zeigarnik starts to notify of itself, you know that you have to take action and kick those unfinished tasks forward.
Until you can effectively do that, your task list should consist of the tasks that make the biggest difference and which have the biggest effect to your blogging success.
Over to you: How do you control your blogging task list so that it doesn’t grow too big? How do you finish a task that you have once started?