"One of the simplest methods for beating procrastination in almost any task was inspired by busy waiters. It's called the Zeigarnik effect after a Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik, who noticed an odd thing while sitting in a restaurant in Vienna. The waiters seemed only to remember orders which were in the process of being served. When completed, the orders evaporated from their memory.
Zeigarnik went back to the lab to test out a theory about what was going on. She asked participants to do twenty or so simple little tasks in the lab, like solving puzzles and stringing beads (Zeigarnik, 1927). Except some of the time they were interrupted half way through the task. Afterwards she asked them which activities they remembered doing. People were about twice as likely to remember the tasks during which they'd been interrupted than those they completed. What does this have to do with procrastination? I'll give you another clue...
Almost sixty years later Kenneth McGraw and colleagues carried out another test of the Zeigarnik effect (McGraw et al., 1982). In it participants had to do a really tricky puzzle; except they were interrupted before any of them could solve it and told the study was over. Despite this nearly 90% carried on working on the puzzle anyway. Got it yet?
Here's another clue: one of the oldest tricks in the TV business for keeping viewers tuned in to a serial week after week is the cliffhanger. The hero seems to have fallen off a mountain but the shot cuts away before you can be sure. And then those fateful words: "TO BE CONTINUED..." Literally a cliffhanger. You tune in next week for the resolution because the mystery is ticking away in the back of your mind.