Zeigarnik effect and productivity


Effect of Directed Forgetting

In 1927, in a restaurant in Berlin, Dr. Kurt Lewin and his colleagues were engaging in a long conversation. The waiter had not yet given them their bill, so Lewin called him over and asked for the amount. The waiter told him immediately, and Lewin paid and reengaged in the conversation for some number of minutes. Suddenly though, Lewin had an insight—he called the waiter over a second time and asked again for the amount of their bill. The waiter no longer knew.

The Zeigarnik Effect

This day marked the beginning of something known as the Zeigarnik Effect, a theory which was first dreamed up by Lewin and then later researched and named after his colleague.

When a person intends to perform a task, a quasi-need is established which causes a strong desire for fulfillment of that task. These quasi-needs, or „tension systems‟, come into being because of a person‟s decision to begin a task.

Another more common, every-day example is one that is experienced by most students: when taking a timed multiple choice test, the questions which are never answered, or those that the student is not sure about, are the ones most often remembered after the test has been finished. According to Lewin and Zeigarnik, this represents a lack of closure, which is the driving force behind the tendency for individuals to remember incomplete or interrupted tasks better than completed ones.

How does this relate to productivity?

1. How finish task faster?

To be able to concentrate fully on current work we have to close all previous tasks. This is basically what Kanban with definition of “Work In Progress” limit is proposing. To be most effective we need to concentrate on one task and avoid multitasking.

2. How to remember stuff better?

The Zeigarnik effect suggests that students who suspend their study, during which they do unrelated activities (such as studying unrelated subjects or playing games), will remember material better than students who complete study sessions without a break.

Sources and more reading:


Facilitating Global day of Coderetreat 2013

On the 14th of December 2013 – the Global Day of Coderetreat was held at Warsaw as part of annual Agile Development Day. Event was hosted by Pragmatists and Sages.

For me it was first time to facilitate this kind of event. Many thanks to organizers for providing hangout workshops about facilitating coderetreat event. This provided many helpful information

We followed a fairly standard format but we had only 5 sessions in total. We wanted to leave some time to participants to network and get to know each other doing brakes.

My first thought of theme of this coderetreat was Test-Driven development. But after seeing how good people are doing TDD and Pair programming after first few sessions we started to play with OO programming in last sessions.

Session 1 – Warm up with no constraints

Starting session to get to know the problem.

Session 2 – Ping pong pair programming with TDD

Session teaching pair programming and Test Driven Development rules. One additional constraint was not using plain arrays.

Session 3 – Mute pair programming with evil coder

Person being Evil coder was supposed to implement the code in a way the tester doesn’t expect.

Session 4 – Extreme OO.

3 lines of code per method
2 fields per class
3 methods per class
One dot per line

It turned up to be very difficult to follow those rules. But there were some insights that creating small classes and small methods made the code more readable and better designed.

Session 5 – Pick your own

In last session we voted for constraint. And “no if statements” was picked up. We have very interesting approaches to code without ifs and people have a lot of fun in this session.


One thing i could have done is ask user to write down one thing they wanted to learn before event. Then after last session write one most important thing they learned.
On Retrospection session we could compare this findings with others. I got this idea watching photos from other cites and i think its the best way to sum up whole day.

Interesting sessions in other locations

Some interesting sessions that other teams around the world were doing:

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Inherit the code from the previous session (yes we did not delete our code). With mixed pairs (1 of the 2 knows of the old code base).

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Zombie cells, which are cells that where alive, died, and then revived. Zombie Cells behave like Alive cells for now but we ought to know if they where ‘resurrected’

Berlin, Germany
No return values

Peterborough, UK
Abstract cartoon names for variables