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Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better by Gina Trapani

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Chapter 3. Trick Yourself into Getting Done

Just as Mom used to grind up that bitter pill in a bowl of ice cream, you can make working on tough tasks easier for yourself to swallow. Checking an item off your to-do list — and the sense of satisfaction and completion that comes with that simple motion — is one of the best things that can happen during your workday. But there are roadblocks, both environmental and just plain mental, on the way to "done."

Part of the reason that you leave the office at night feeling so behind comes from the nature of the modern workplace. Rife with distractions and interruptions, many offices couldn't be less conducive to productivity. Noise and drop-by co-workers aside, the reality of information work is that there's always another email to open, another web site to visit, another message that's making your PDA vibrate off the desk. At any moment there are a dozen things that you could work on, and the choice itself is a source of distraction and paralysis. It's easy to spend the day constantly switching gears and re-evaluating what's the biggest fire to put out next — instead of making progress on important work.

Even when you're alone, with email and phone turned off, procrastination rears its ugly head. Starting in on a tough project feels like an impossible feat; suddenly you're spending the afternoon you set aside to get to work on the big presentation ripping your CD collection into iTunes instead. In a culture that says "you can do anything you ...

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