Elaine Martini
Elaine Martini 

Zeigarnik effect


She opened the cupboard door. It's funny how almost everyone she knew preferred a hidden mess to out in the open clutter. When not on view it's so much easier to ignore the presence of the unfinished task.


The cupboard was tomorrow's job. It had been for years. Sometimes she would open it but only to take out something that she needed. Scissors and coloured pens were useful every once in a while. She kept them right at the front so she didn't have to look through anything else. 


She always saw herself as a person that liked making things. Craft and stationery shops were like a candy shop for her. It made her feel like a young girl again. She could picture in her mind all the things she could make, her imagination went wild. That filled her with excitement and joy. That was probably why the cupboard got this chaotic with all the things she bought out of an impulse.


She didn't know where to start. Since the move years ago she had just been putting things in it to be finished another day. But there was always something more important to get done.


She started running her eyes through the shelves. She noticed a cross-stitch set still in the original packaging with the price label. She remembered why she bought it. Her mum loved trains. Last she came to visit a long time ago they went in a historic train journey. She remembered how excited her mum was about it all. It became one of the most cherished memories of that visit. So when she was walking in the craft shop and saw that cross stitch set she thought that would be a perfect gift! She remembered thinking she wanted to get it done in one go. Use a whole weekend, learn how to do it, and finish it. She thought that was probably why it never came out of the packaging. There was always something else that needed to be done at the weekends, that wasn't a priority. 


She took it out and put it on the floor next to her. Just under it, she noticed a new scrapbook. She had this idea of making a pretty scrapbook with pictures to gift to each of her nieces. She knew they would love it. Just underneath the unused scrapbook were the pictures she printed. This was a project she actually got started with. She selected and printed pictures. Yet when they got delivered she didn't do anything else. It's been years now, there were so many other pictures that would have to be added. The girls had grown so much. 


As she moved those out of the way she found the big box with all the bracelets she used to make. That was probably one of the projects she had worked the most on. She even had a business for some time selling them online. It made her feel proud of how much she learned about marketing, selling online, creating her brand, dealing with customers and so much more. She thought so many times about continuing it. It wasn't that she wasn't successful, it was quite the opposite, she was getting orders from all over the world. What made her stop was the lack of time and the fact that she just didn't find it that enjoyable anymore. The business side of things took away the joy and the freedom she felt about just creating. But then she could have still carried on making jewellery for friends and family like it was before but she never did. 


It was becoming more clear to her that sorting out this cupboard was much more than just an organisation task that she was putting off. She started to notice seeing all those unfinished projects were making her feel bad about herself. That's why they were hidden in the cupboard in the first place, she didn't need a reminder of her lack of commitment or motivation. Was it what was behind it all? Or maybe she was a quitter. She would get excited when things were new and full of possibilities but as soon as things became harder or took longer than she thought she would put them to the side. Maybe she just wasn't the type of person that would be ready to put the effort in when things got challenging. 


But she also knew this wasn't true. She always worked really hard in her career. She liked solving problems and overcoming difficulties. She always made sure that all her work was completed before schedule and without mistakes. She knew she could do it. So what else could it be? 


She thought maybe she could pick one of those hobbies to stick to. She decided to choose one she thought would be the most enjoyable of them all. She didn't want it to feel like a task or work. She was determined having fun was important as it would help her through the middle bit when things get hard. 


She did a little research about ways to help people get things done. She didn't really feel anything applied to her. She wasn't really a procrastinator. Not with the things she considered a priority, she was always busy doing things. 


In her research, she learned about the Zeigarnik effect. She identified herself so much with this tendency to remember unfinished things more than completed tasks. She wondered how much of her thoughts and her mind were actually consumed by all the incomplete tasks. She realised how much that would be preventing her from living and enjoying the present moment but instead keeping her either in the past or future. There was so much to get done all the time and nothing ever seemed complete. 


She stopped for a minute. She just had a big realisation. It suddenly made sense to her. She never took the time to appreciate the things she did. She just moved on to the next thing. She rarely treasured that moment when something gets done. She always thought time shouldn't be wasted that way. How could she cherish or value something that she accomplished? It sounded silly and wrong. She wasn't good at anything, she didn't do anything better than anyone else. Nothing she did was special.


That's when she understood the only way for her to stick with hobbies and projects was for her to acknowledge and value herself, her time, and effort all the way through. Stop her mind from judging and diminishing herself. And whenever she completed something to take the time to find things to praise about herself instead of wanting recognition from others. This was only about her and that is why it was so difficult. 


She smiled as she sat down and opened the train cross stitch set. 


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© Elaine Martini