Call it a disease, a bad habit, or a character flaw, but procrastination spares no one from its strangling grip. Just search “procrastination” in any mobile app store, and you’ll be rewarded with a glut of solutions that promise to motivate, badger, cajole, prod, inspire or otherwise spur you into action. Before you kick another project down the road, check out these 7 apps and conquer your task-avoidance once and for all.
Yelling Mom takes its cue from the original procrastination killer—your nagging mother. This reminder app operates on the principle that the best motivation is an aggressive prodding. When you schedule a task, you can set Yelling Mom to remind you at the appointed time with one of an array of obnoxious alerts, ranging from wailing sirens to a referee’s whistle to a melismatic disco diva. (Oddly, an actual yelling mom is not among the options.) Fortunately, the app is easier to manage than your mother: You can postpone items on your task list or delete them altogether. You can also lock an item to guarantee it will keep coming up until you do it or delete it, but that option is only as strong as your will. (iOS, $1.99)
Few things are as galvanizing as the whip-crack of a deadline. Finish combats procrastination by sorting scheduled tasks into short-term (within 0-2 days), mid-term (3-7 days), and long-term (8+ days) due dates. As time progresses, your tasks move through the term blocks, with Finish pushing you reminders at every step. Ignore them at your peril: The app will continue to bother you about a task until you mark it complete. But having every task’s looming zero hour in your face can quickly turn from motivating to maddening, so Finish also offers Focus Mode, which shows you only your most pressing tasks in each term block and collapses the rest. (iOS, $0.99)
Procraster uses prompts and short-term rewards to help you tackle projects one task at a time. When you’re stuck, you select the project you’re working on from the project list. Procraster prompts you to identify the source of your block by offering a list of common culprits: “My project is too big,” “I don’t know where to start,” “I’ve made a mistake,” “I have to finish my project,” and “I have to be perfect.” Choose one and Procraster responds with some sage advice about your problem, then asks you to set a single task to perform and choose an incentive (preset rewards include “coffee” and “check Facebook,” but you can add your own). From there, Procaster’s timer breaks the task down into a series of 25-minute sessions. When you finish a session, you can collect your reward. Procraster can be configured to add completed sessions to your calendar so you can track your productive time and use it as motivation. (iOS, $0.99)
(10+2)x5 Procrastination Hack
This app is based on Merlin Mann’s (10+2)*5 technique, which postulates the path to productivity is to work with “single-minded focus” for 10 minutes, then take a two-minute break to do whatever you want – surf the Web, call a friend – and repeat the process five times for a total of 60 minutes. The (10+2)x5 Procrastination Hack app is a timer to track these sessions. It breaks the hour down into five 12-minute intervals of “work” and “play.” Once you start the first “work” timer, the app cycles through each interval, alerting you when it’s time to stop working and start playing, and vice versa. Because you never need to stop what you’re doing and reset the timer, there’s nothing to impede your productivity. And that’s the point, isn’t it? (iOS, $1.99)
Whether it’s the temptation to check your Facebook feed or squeeze in a game of Angry Birds, the lure of your ever-present apps can quickly torpedo your work efforts. AppDetox helps you reign in your mobile app usage by enforcing blockage rules for individual apps. You set the detox terms: you can restrict the number of launches, block an app during specific times of day or days of the week, or, for the hopelessly weak-willed, forbid access “forever.” If you try to use a blocked app, you’ll get a pithy reminder like, “Hey dude! You wanted to detox from AmazonMP3,” or “Facebook? Not now.” But AppDetox isn’t playing around: it keeps time-stamped records of your violations. And, no, you can’t block AppDetox—we know you were thinking it. (Android, Free)
While the bulk of the apps in this roundup attempt to modify the behaviors that contribute to your procrastination, Beat Procrastination aims to change your unconscious attitudes about putting things off. In this meditation app, clinical hypnotherapist Andrew Johnson first leads you through some progressive muscle relaxation, then helps you reprogram yourself to associate feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and confidence with the completion of tasks (and some downright uncomfortable feelings with avoiding them). Stop Procrastination is no quick fix—it’s recommended you listen to it at least once a day for a minimum of three weeks—but it may have the longest-lasting results. (iOS, Android, Windows Phone $2.99)
Avoiding Procrastination 101
As the name implies, this app is an introductory text to overcoming productivity barriers. After a brief self-evaluation to get at the root of your problem (hint: you choose to procrastinate), this guide offers 101 tips for ending procrastination at work, home, school, and in your relationships. It also makes suggestions for improving your well-being, as procrastination is frequently a symptom of other underlying issues. While tips like reducing household clutter, learning to say “no,” and getting more exercise may not initially sound like cutting-edge productivity hacks, they do address “hidden” drains on your motivation. The only downside: Scrolling through dozens of pages of text can be a procrastination trigger in itself, so this app is perhaps best used in tandem with one of the others in our list. (Android, $1.36; Window Phone, $0.99)
Michael Ansaldo is veteran consumer and small-business technology journalist. He contributes regularly to TechHive and PCWorld.