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Mark Forster simplest method


This is Week 5 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested the ability of Mark Forster’s Simplest and Most Effective Method of All which hereafter I will refer to as SMEMA.  Scroll to the bottom of this post to see how I used it. I used the Clear iPhone app to implement it, but paper would have been a very workable option.

How SMEMA Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Effective in delaying gratification. I’m convinced that this is my biggest productivity problem. When I feel like checking email, researching a topic online, or chatting on the phone, I just do it–even if that is NOT how I should be spending my time. Once I recorded the tasks that I wanted and needed to do, I immediately felt resistance. I think this is because of the perceived obligation I’ve written about before. I talked myself into delaying the tasks I suddenly wanted to do more than the ones I’d written down by saying, “You can do as little as you want on the first two tasks and then you can add two more tasks you really want to do.” I don’t believe I’ve ever found a reward more motivating for me than the opportunity to add new tasks! I knew I could pick absolutely anything which gave me a sense of control that I loved.
  • Eliminated overwhelm. I used my weekly planner to get a sense of everything I had to do for the week, but other than looking at my “must do” tasks for a given day (of which there were few), I had a maximum of three tasks in front of me at any given time. I no longer felt like I was buried in things I should be doing. What’s more, I added to this feeling of being on top of my tasks by refusing to add anything to my IQTell list that I couldn’t remember to do naturally.
  • Gave me a sense of completion. When I went to bed, my list was complete. That’s a feeling I’ve only had before by putting tasks off so they weren’t due today. I’m someone who has very few opportunities to experience completion so this was wonderful.

How SMEMA Made Me Crazy This Week

  • The Mark Forster forum shenanigans. I won’t go into detail, but there were some problems on the forum that were pretty frustrating. I can go a bit off course when I focus on what other users say is the best way to use an approach, too. The purpose of A Year of Living Productively is for me to find productivity hacks that work for me, to share ideas, and enjoy discussions with others about what works for them. It’s not to win a debate. I have teens for that purpose, after all!
  • Task ordering. There were times when I wrote down that I would do a first task followed by a second. Then something came up which made it difficult or impossible to use that order. I made a new rule for myself that changing of the order (or even the tasks!) was allowed as long as I wasn’t doing it just to procrastinate or get to a more fun task.
  • Not being able to use it every day. I had several days this week when my time was completely scheduled. There’s no point to using SMEMA then, but on the other hand, there’s no point to using ANY productivity hack.

Did SMEMA Help Me Get More Done?

Without a doubt, YES. I plan to continue using it, and to think of it as strengthening my skills in delaying gratification. I’m hopeful that the accountability of writing this blog will help me continue. If it falls apart, I can certainly update this post to that effect.


I never use SMEMA now. The biggest reason why is because of the resistance I had to the ordering of tasks. I find that I need more flexibility to deal with tasks in the moment.

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 6

Lifehacker Guilty Hour

I read Nick Jehlen’s article on the Guilty Hour last month and knew I wanted to try it. I don’t mind having a backlog of things that I’d like to do, but I can’t stand feeling guilty about things I haven’t done.

The concept. Once a week, you work on the task you feel most guilty about for an hour. You can help someone with one of their guilt-producing tasks or vice versa, but because I don’t work with a team, I’ll be dealing with my own guilty tasks. I could spend an hour on one day this week on a guilty task, but I don’t know that I would experience the power of the method that way. Instead, I will spend a minimum of 15 minutes 4 days in the upcoming week on the task(s) I feel most guilty about. If I find I want to keep working, I will. If I don’t, I won’t.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read the article on Lifehacker. Decide if you’ll do one hour once this week (and when) or if you’ll break it up as I plan to do. Then get ready to go guiltless!

To see how the Guilt Hour worked for me, click here.

If you’ve tried SMEMA to increase your productivity, please vote in the poll below.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner