How To Use The Hemingway Trick To Gain Better Momentum During The Day

Beginning big tasks — think painting your bedroom wall in your favorite color or writing a book — can feel daunting. But when you do get started and feel like you're doing well, the last thing you want to do is stop.  

But according to the late novelist, short-story writer, and journalist Ernest Hemingway, there is a benefit to stopping when things are going well, especially when it comes to writer's block. If you've ever tried writing a book, you'd probably already know that on some days, the words fly out of you, and on other days, they don't. According to the "The Old Man and the Sea" author, forcing yourself to stop when things are going well will only help you pick back up more easily the next morning. In a 1935 article the novelist penned for Esquire, he shared (via BBC), "The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel, you will never be stuck." 

This piece of advice later became known as the Hemingway Trick. Unsurprisingly, it's been applied to other areas of productivity too, not only writing. It may sound unconventional, but it might just be the way to start your day in a good mood. 

The Hemingway Trick is all about keeping a consistent momentum

Think about it. If you start working on a presentation that you know is going to take several days to complete, and you're doing well, what if you were to force yourself to shut the computer off and carry on with the rest of your day? Chances are you'd be thinking of the unfinished presentation for the rest of the day. By the time you get to it the next morning, you're eager to put your ideas into words. You've given yourself renewed momentum to carry on with the task — one you may not have had if you'd exhausted all your ideas and had to start from scratch the next morning. 

Lithuania-born psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik studied this phenomenon in 1927. She found that waiters were better able to remember complex orders that were interrupted than the orders that were completed. This was later called the Zeigarnik Effect. The basic premise is that our memory has a way of retaining information if whatever we were engaged in was interrupted. The unfinished nature of the business keeps our minds on it. This is probably why we keep wanting to return to TV shows that leave us on cliffhangers or a video game that's just too interesting. 

Kyoto University's Emmanuel Manalo, commenting on the topic, shared (via BBC), "When we have parts of something, we always want to create a whole." 

Here's how you can use the Hemingway Trick in your life

Innovation psychologist and author Amantha Imber wrote for Fast Company, "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." 

If you're someone who struggles with momentum at the beginning of your day, the Hemingway Trick might be of help. For those studying for exams, breaking up study sessions might be more beneficial than trying to cram everything in at the last minute. Procrastination is another area in which you can employ this hack. By starting on a task — no matter how big — and working on it till you're in a state of comfortable ease, then stopping and getting back to it the next morning, you're giving yourself the motivation you need to consistently stay on the job till you finish it. As Imber shared, "Not only does finishing halfway through a task give us momentum, it has the added benefit of keeping the information in our brain."

A lot has been said about how you should start your day. Adding the Hemingway Trick to your routine may just help you stay on track when it comes to the big stuff.