Define what you're trying to accomplish.iStockphoto/Thinkstock
That way, you know what you're asking yourself to do. “Procrastination is driven, in part, by the gap between effort (which is required now) and reward (which you reap only in the future, if ever),” writes James Surowiecki in the New Yorker. Paraphrasing David Allen’s classic title Getting Things Done, he points out, “The vaguer the task, or the more abstract the thinking it requires, the less likely you are to finish it.”
Put the word "focus" in front of you.iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Leo Babauta, the author of Focus and the blog Zen Habits, suggests writing the word focus on an index card and putting it on your desk: simple, and, he promises, effective. If you can't prioritize your projects, Babauta advises you narrow it down: pick the most important ones, start the one that excites you the most, and focus (that word again) on completing one task at a time.
Set a timer.iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Start a 25-minute countdown and get going, suggests Ryan Waggoner on lifehacker.com. You can do almost anything for 25 minutes, can’t you?
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Shut off the Internet.iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Working while connected is “like trying to diet with a magic spoon of ice cream following you around,” writes Steel in The Procrastination Equation Try RescueTime, a free online time-management tool that can “nudge” you back to work as well as block the Internet, or macfreedom.com, a favorite of the late writer Nora Ephron.
Aim for the smallest step.XiXinXing/Thinkstock
“Any improvement,” Waggoner says, “no matter how small, is a step in the right direction.”
Bet money that you'll succeed.iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Still reading this article? You might need stickK.com, where you can post your goals, determine who will make sure you achieve them, and calculate how much you’ll pay if you fail. (You’re encouraged to donate any money you lose to a charity you hate.)
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Make someone else manage your to-do list.iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Any.DO, an app as beautiful as it is practical, will remind you every morning to plan the day. For those who like to be nagged, download the app Carrot. The less you do, the more it mocks you: "Hello, lazy human." If you need a place to create organized lists of recommendations (books to read, ideas to remember), try Thinglist.
Streamline your calendar.iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Sunrise, an app created by the ex-Foursquare designers, makes checking your schedule enjoyable with a beautiful display and an easy-to-use list view. Other apps like CUE are great for professionals who want their calendar to include events, Twitter, e-mail, and more.