The Zeigarnik Effect: Finish What You’ve Started

I have a fairly large walk-in closet in my office …

Half of it is packed with business books, binders, notebooks, old journals, AWAI programs, old laptops, and more.

But the other half …

It’s filled with more books than I could ever read … workout programs still in the packaging … binders full of half-baked business ideas …

Every time I walk in, I’m reminded of all the things I’ve started — and never finished.

It’s human nature …

We get excited about the next thing.

And if you’re at all entrepreneurial like me … even just the slightest bit, you’re filled with ideas … things you’d like to do … maybe you even take them as far as starting …

Any chance you can relate?

Don’t get me wrong, I have accomplished plenty of things I set out to do …

I ran a half marathon, got my MBA, completely eliminated any debt, developed a web-writing division at AWAI … and then developed a B2B division …

But it’s funny how the brain tends to forget those things — and focuses on the things we haven’t completed.

According to “the Zeigarnik effect,” you are more likely to remember the things you never completed, over the ones you did. The brain wants to finish what it started! And will keep reminding you over and over again.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t dream …

But it’s time to finish what you started.

If your dream is to make a living as a writer, enjoying what we call the writer’s life, I’m going to help you.

First, you need to answer the all-important question …

What’s your end game?

The first step is defining what you are trying to achieve.

Now I will tell you, I don't believe in setting goals every year …

I believe in just “killing it” every day. By that I mean, you should strive to make every day better than the day before.

I also think when you’re trying to accomplish something specific, it’s good to identify what the accomplishment or the “end game” looks like so you know when you’ve reached it.

In other words, define the finish line so you know when you’ve crossed it.

It doesn’t have to be the final long-term goal … I’m not asking you to name your income five years from now. But let’s say you want to be a “working copywriter.”

What does “working copywriter” mean to you?

First paid assignment? First $1,000? Three months of revenue exceeding $2,500 in a row?

That's your first finish line.

And now that you know where the finish line is …

How are you planning to get there?

Writing for the Web … for the Business-to-Business market … writing case studies … building a Money-Making Website …

If you’ve been around AWAI for a while, you know there are lots of ways you could get there — but the key is picking one to start and seeing it through.

This is the biggest obstacle for many aspiring writers. There are so many “bright shiny objects” around …

In the decade-plus I’ve been with AWAI, I’ve wanted to be a health copywriter, a grant writer, a B2B content writer, a travel writer, and more …

But I know from experience, you must pick a single path to start.

You’ll move forward much faster with one path than trying to move forward with a lot of paths.

Momentum is crucial to achieving the writer’s life … acquiring confidence, overcoming future doubts, building a business, and more. (More on that in a future article!)

So pick your path, and get moving. Remember, the goal here is to finish what you’ve started …

You can always set a new finish line after you reach this first one.

Once you’ve determined your path, you need a roadmap …

What are the steps you need to complete the journey? Acquire a skill, put up a website, put up your LinkedIn Profile, identify your ideal clients, attract well-paying clients … what’s still left to be done?

(If you need help with your roadmap, I recently did a webinar where I show you how to create a success roadmap — no matter what your path. You can access it for free here.)

And then it’s time to start doing …

That's probably the most important part of the entire process.

You and I both know there’s a difference between reading about what it takes, and actually doing it.

So pick one thing from your roadmap today …

Whether it’s to decide/define your niche …

Finally put up your website …

Finish a program you’ve started …

Whatever it is, commit to finishing it. And then when you’re done, finish the next thing you need to do.

Keep going until you’ve reached your finish line …

Celebrate …

And then decide where you’ll go next. ;)

You can and will cross many finish lines on your way to living the writer’s life … you just can’t cross them all at once!

What have you started and stopped? Share in the comments below what you’d like to finish so we can cheer you on.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

Click to Rate:
Average: 4.0
Published: June 9, 2017

11 Responses to “The Zeigarnik Effect: Finish What You’ve Started”

  1. I'm thinking about a website that supports people in recovery. I'm attending a class and learning unique information about what's really going on in a substance abuser's brain. The next logical step for me is to share the info and keep it up and going. I want a place on the internet just for us that we can access anytime and connect. Thanks, And

    Guest (Abigail Watts)

  2. Great article, Rebecca. Thanks. It definitely pushes some buttons for me.
    Next on my list is to update my Linkedin profile - to finally say that I am a copywriter, and what I can do to help my clients.


  3. My goal is to finish a book that I have been working on for a really long time.

    Christina C

  4. I've got a few programs to choose from but think maybe I should choose the most recent one I partially attended. Joshua Boswell's Writers Life in a day course.


  5. This is SO me...I'm notorious for starting stuff with gusto and then fizzling out, for whatever reason. I have ideas coming out the yin yang, but then the thought of actually IMPLEMENTING all those ideas exhausts me and I end up doing nothing (or very little).
    I want to finally get my Money Making Website started; I've been kicking that around for months. I need to just DO it. This article was right on time.

    Jessica Terry

  6. I have several of AWAI's "bright shiny objects". I've collected them over the last three years, each time with the intent of completing the course. No such progress. My immediate goal is to complete the Accelerated Copywriter course and to be well prepared for bootcamp in October. I intend to get some work at bootcamp and kick off my writer's life. It will require consistent steps toward my goal every day. It's time to jump off the lily pad and grind the spark.

    Guest (Ian Martinez)

  7. The gift of sharing is indeed the most precious gift. So many people have crossed my path to share their path with me.I tend to become a part of their journey,as they empty themselves into my soul.What about me allows them to trust me with their holes fears and pains.I am open to having them see the same struggles in my journey. We are the healing center for each other.I heal from the sharing as I share for the healing.I really feel their path and maybe that allows them to freely share for feeling is the secret.

    Guest (Prielinso)

  8. The Companion Series, no more excuses, I need to pick it back up & do it. I'm scrambling up & down California doing heavy construction, not making ends meet, & going to be staying in a co-workers backyard shed, next to chickens, yes Chickens, in Salinas. My favorite author is from Salinas. Ate at his hang-out then toured The John Steinbeck Center. Got my son The Red Pony & me Of Mice & Men. When I finish The Companion Series, I'll read Travels With Charlie, my favorite as a reward. Thanks.

    Will Pieper

  9. I started the Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting in 2015. Since then I've added other courses. It's time for me to get back to the basics, finish that course and start living the writers life.

    Action Driven

  10. Great article about how to stay the course and finish what you start. In addition to a plan I have the following affirmation taped to my computer monitor:

    "Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit."


  11. One more kick in the pants. I need it. I have a sci fi book to finish. I also have the Accelerate 6-Figure and Web Writing courses to finish. Somewhere in there I need to learn how to finish setting up a blog in Wordpress so I can get working on it. Its a lot, but I need to get money coming in and I've been feeling the need to write. If I can figure out what I need to, I hope things come together soon enough. Seems possible right now.

    Tamara Kratzer

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)

This name will appear next to your comment.

Your email is required but will not be displayed.

Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters

Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)