Most productivity software helps organize and prioritize your work. But what would tools for overcoming your psychological obstacles to productivity look like? We asked some creative people for their ideas.


Even after starting on a task, you sometimes get distracted and lose momentum, making everything take longer. This app would continuously monitor your progress and tell you when--at your current pace--you'd cross the finish line. If an hour after you start working on a client presentation you are still fooling around with the first slide, the app shows you that you won't finish until morning. But when you stay focused and make steady progress, the goal line moves closer, to 11 p.m. The emphasis on pace, rather than just progress, prevents users from losing focus. --Tom Kelley, partner at Ideo

Better Off Bed

You know sleep makes you productive, but you keep putting off bedtime to squeeze in just a little more work. With this technology, sensors would detect when you are working late and sync with your calendar to lengthen the next days' tasks accordingly. So for every half hour you deprive yourself of sleep, every hourlong task on your calendar expands to an hour and 15 minutes, because you will be less efficient when you undertake it. --Dan Ariely, co-founder of Timeful and author of Predictably Irrational

Chicken or Brat?

Sometimes you have trouble getting started on a task and don't know how to get yourself unstuck. This app would show you two pictures: one of poultry and one of a screaming kid. In these metaphors, created by life-coach company the Handel Group, the chicken represents your fear of failure. The brat represents your obstinate desire to do something more fun. Decide which one is holding you back. Click on the chicken, and the app will lead you through a series of questions to help you confront your fears and put them in perspective. Click on the brat, and a message appears in large letters: Stop being such a brat and do it! --Allison Schoop, associate strategy director at design firm frog