Quit stalling

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Hi, my name is Dan, and I’m a procrastinator.

Over the years, I’ve found different ways to combat this nasty habit. I’ve taken classes. (And then put off finishing the homework.) I’ve tried different time-management systems. (Implementing the latest, based on a book called Getting Things Done, has been on my to-do list for months now.) I’ve turned on Microsoft Entourage’s Office Notifications, which only results in finding out first thing every morning that I’ve got 20-plus things due that day and then hitting the Snooze button on most of them.

Funny thing is, I’ve found that the most effective weapons are often the simplest—Post-It notes, for example. Somehow, putting a note smack dab in the middle of my monitor before I leave at night has a way of making me get the thing done first thing the next morning, if only so I can take the note off my screen without a lot of guilt.

The other day I came across another simple tool that might help: A Dashboard Widget based on Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies. (Yes, I’ve finally decided that Dashboard isn’t completely useless.)

Eno, for those of you who don’t know of him, is a brainy English musician/artist type with a strong geek following. I’ve been a fan since I discovered his band, Roxy Music, back in high school, so I already knew about Oblique Strategies: It’s a set of cards on which Eno wrote aphoristic bits of advice: “How would someone else do it?” “Do the last thing first.” “Build bridges then burn them.” He’d use the cards in the studio, pulling one out at random whenever he was facing a musical puzzle and needed a little creative nudge.

They may sound like pretentious twaddle. But when you’re stuck on a problem—which is the real reason many of us procrastinate—sometimes a little nudge is all you need. Over the last couple of days, since I installed the thing, I’ve found it’s actually a diverting way to get myself back to work. Who knows how long it’ll have that effect? For the moment, I don’t really care. It’s this week’s fix.

So, my fellow procrastinators, tell me: What Mac tools do you use to stop putting things off and start getting things done? Send me a note or add a comment below.

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