Resist the “uh oh” effect. Midpoints—of work projects and training regiments can either discourage (the oh no” effect) or motivate (“oh no, time's running out”). UCLA researchers studying teamwork found that the majority of groups did almost no work until halfway to the deadline then suddenly buckled down. Set interim goals and adopt the “chain” technique: Pick a task and mark a calendar with an X every day you do it—the string of X’s serves as an incentive.
Aaron Fernandez writing in Wired Magazine