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Fail-Proof Trick to Get Your Brain into Gear Every Morning

Some call it the Hemingway Trick, others the Zeigarnik Effect. Psychologists say it's a guaranteed way to get your brain in the flow at the start of the day.

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Rachel Botsman, the first-ever Trust Fellow at Oxford University, explains: “A really easy trick I learned is: if you’re in flow the day before, don’t finish that paragraph. Get halfway through the paragraph, and then stop. Write the next sentence the following day because it makes it really easy to pick up. Days where you’ve completed something, and you’re starting again, they’re harder because you’re starting the engine from scratch.”

Organizational psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant uses a similar strategy. He refers to it as parking on a downhill slope, given the ease that this act brings to getting back into flow the following day.

Some people call this idea the Hemingway Trick. Writer Ernest Hemingway once said, “When you are going good, stop writing.” Indeed, he was purported to have stopped each day’s writing session halfway through a sentence.

Not only does finishing halfway through a task give us momentum, it has the added benefit of keeping the information in our brain. Psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik ran a famous experiment in 1927 in which she observed that waiters were better able to remember complex orders when the order was interrupted or incomplete. However, as soon as the order was finished, it faded from memory more quickly. Known as the Zeigarnik Effect, this research demonstrates that our brain hates unfinished business, so much so that it will hold onto the information until it gets closure.

In the case of the Hemingway Trick, our brain continues to think about the unfinished task and when we come back to it, our brain is primed to easily pick up where it left off.

When you are finishing work for the day, resist the temptation to reach a natural conclusion before clocking off. Instead, deliberately finish halfway through a sentence, a slide, a line of code, or whatever the type of work you are doing. By finishing halfway through, you’ll find it far easier to get started the following day and have a much more time-wise morning.


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