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The villain in incomplete tasks

By Nancy Nzalambi | November 8th 2020 at 09:00:00 GMT +0300

Whether your to-do list is on paper or in digital planning platforms, unfinished tasks always roll over from day to day. We procrastinate, saying it will be done tomorrow, the task was too ambitious or any other reason to push it over.

As the list keeps piling up, the growing number of incomplete tasks will eventually weigh us down. In psychology, this feeling has a name; the Zeigarnik Effect, named after the psychologist who conducted research on this concept.

People tend to remember unresolved matters more relative to completed task.

The unfortunate thing is that unfinished work drains energy, leaving you feeling spent yet unfulfilled. They weigh heavy on your mind, you find yourself mentally fatigued and in a constant state of low self-esteem.

Just like the terrible feeling that came with not finishing your homework back in school, unfinished tasks at work have the power to make you feel unsuccessful.

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Why does it matter?

Completing a task always brings some sense of achievement. It is a fact of life. We get a confidence boost when we start out something and see to its completion.

The fulfillment that comes with putting effort and seeing the fruits of your work is profound. That is why graduations feel so satisfying. Your mind rejoices when a task comes together. It frees you from the burden of unresolved issues.

It’s always a challenge

Performing a task to completion is not always easy.

In fact, struggles seem to compound as we get older compared to our younger years. We are facing increasing responsibilities which come with their fair share of hurdles every now and then.

Whether you like it or not, incomplete tasks will always nag your subconscious until you complete them or blindly delete them.

With the fast paced work culture, we are always under pressure to produce quality results. Missed deadlines intensify the already stressful work life.

Procrastination is toxic

Habitual procrastination sabotages progress. The time we waste jumping from one incomplete task to another is something we cannot get back. We always say “I do not have to finish everything today”, which is somehow true.

However, if your work or personal life is plagued by putting off things that matter, it is only a matter of time before the mental implications starts to work against you.


Sometimes, procrastination stems from fear. You put things off because you doubt if you actually have the ability to compete them. You worry if you could handle the criticism since feedback is not always positive.

The sad thing is that once you persistently go down this road, fear will be your long term companion.

You will become an underachiever, your reputation will be ruined, you will not qualify for that promotion because colleagues could not help but stop depending on you to do your job. Eventually, it will be difficult keep or even find a job.

Strained relationships

Unresolved tasks have far reaching mental effects in all aspects of life. The effect is not only faced at work, where your coworkers feel frustrated because you constantly seem to put things in disarray; but imagine having a spouse who cannot seem to finish what they started.

If you are unreliable with the little things that hold relationships together, tension will definitely creep in.

Turn it around

Lean to get tasks completed. It is an achievable skill though it takes time, determination and effort. If your high level of incompletion makes you suffer, it sure does the same to your loved ones.

How to make your plan work

Here are some pointers to counter the energy sapping effects of nagging tasks.

Be objective. We sometimes throw tasks under the carpet because of the biased notion that they are inconsequential. Your mind will, however, keep nagging you about it.

Do not allow “unimportant” tasks to pile up. Rewiring your biases that if the task at hand wasn’t relevant, it wouldn’t weigh you down is a step in the right direction.

Get real with priorities. If something is neither a priority nor any of your concern, do not put it in your work schedule. It is best if your drafted boundaries and acknowledged your limits.

We sometimes end up with unfinished tasks simply because we bit off more than we could chew. It’s okay to be accommodating but learn to say no when you have enough on your plate. If you cannot plan your workload, someone else will be happy to do it for you. Do not play hero by taking up too much to the detriment of your mental health.

You can change your mind. Make room for something better when priorities change. It is okay to change your mind. However, keep your end goal in mind while focusing on how freeing it would be when you complete your tasks.

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