Can Heatmapping Help You Get More Done?

Can Heatmapping Help You Get More Done?


This is Week 30 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested whether Heatmapping from Productive Flourishing could improve my productivity. I adjusted my activities to fit my productivity levels. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post for details.

How Heatmapping Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Got me doing things I usually avoid. There are aspects of homeschooling I absolutely love. Reading history, literature, and science books to the kids are my favorites. Teaching piano and reviewing each child’s work are things I like least–at least they have been. When I began homeschooling, I had little ones who napped in the afternoon. It only made sense to me that I would save activities that required a lot more of my attention (like building castles and science experiments) for these times. It did work then, but now I can’t seem to get anything involved done in the afternoons. I don’t know why I didn’t think to make a change before, but I put the activities I least like to do in the mornings when I am the most productive and those I really enjoy in the afternoon when I would rather not teach. The result? Amazing! Not only did it work, but I’ve grown to enjoy the activities I disliked before.
  • Relieved me of guilt. In the past, I spent much of my low time on social media and felt bad that I wasn’t doing anything “productive.” I am now using the evening hours (when I have no energy for anything else) for social media which has the added benefit of promoting this blog. Guilt be gone!
  • No more productivity fantasies. Without studying my productivity levels, I can foolishly plan to get lots of things accomplished on Friday afternoons when my school commitments are done. I know that won’t happen now, so I can plan realistically and not overload my list.

How Heatmapping Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Levels are inconsistent. Even when I saw general trends in my productivity, it was annoying when I had unexpected lows–mornings I had to drag myself out of bed, for example. You can’t plan for these.

Did Heatmapping Help Me Get Things Done?

If I were writing this in the morning, I would be jumping up and down saying YES! But since it’s a low time for me, I will just say, “It sure did.” One of the things I realized is how often I fight my natural tendencies because of what I think I “should” be doing. I thought of what I should accomplish in the afternoons instead of what I was more likely to accomplish. Heatmapping has led to a happier, more productive school day and life for me.


Learning when your most productive times are won’t help you decide how to use them. It’s taken me a while to work out the ideal approach of exercising and writing first thing in the morning, writing again right after dinner, and just vegging out after 8 p.m. But heatmapping has been a critical component of my productivity.

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 31


This week I’ll be testing gamification using ToDoist’s Karma feature. 

The concept. I read the Game of Work {affiliate link} three years ago and loved it. It appealed to the psychologist in me. The concept is not based on the notion that everything needs to be entertaining in this culture, but rather on long-established research on behavior change.

The essence of the book is that too much of our work has become like a game with no clear rules for winning. Simple changes like tracking activities and clarifying what constitutes a “win” can make a big difference in productivity. I realized that I have been doing these productivity tests without a clear outcome measure other than if I “felt” more productive. I haven’t looked at number of tasks entered versus number of tasks completed, though thankfully I have most of that data and I will present it in future posts.

There are many ways of turning work into motivating games. See this Lifehacker article for ideas. I am most intrigued by ToDoist’s new Karma feature because it subtracts points for pushing back deadlines–something I do A LOT. It’s a free application that I can easily use to create tasks from Gmail using their Chrome Extension. The downside to trying a new app is that I will have to keep my IQTell dashboard up-to-date, assuming that I will want to continue using it (I think I will). IQTell has a badge system, but the rules for it aren’t as clear. Improvements are supposed to be in the works.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Determine a method for tracking tasks entered versus tasks completed. Many applications permit this and it can be done on paper. Saving and continuing to log this data can be helpful for future tests. Decide how you will gamify your work. The comments on the Lifehacker article have some good ideas, too. If you’d like, create a free ToDoist account and we can compare Karma.

To see if gamification worked for me, click here.

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

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

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Can a Guilt Hour Help You Get More Done?

Can a Guilt Hour Help You Get More Done?

Lifehacker Guilty Hour

This is Week 6 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested the ability of Nick Jehlen’s Guilt Hour, as described on Lifehacker to help me get things done. I did not work with a team, nor did I plan to use a one-hour time slot a week, but four 15-minute guilt-attacking periods. Scroll to the end of this post for a full description of my test.

How the Guilt Hour Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Helped me realize how guilty I feel. This may have been the worst week for me to test this approach because I was playing catch-up from the week before when I had many scheduled commitments. I felt guilty about putting things off, especially when people started asking me about them. Thinking about doing what I feel most guilty about made me realize that there aren’t many things I don’t feel guilty about. That’s an important piece of my productivity pie.
  • Encouraged me to spend quality time with my kids. Maybe my kids are reading this blog, because two of them asked me to spend individual time with them this week and I couldn’t refuse. Of course, I feel guilty about not having individual time with the kids. My son asked to use a gift card he’d gotten for his birthday, so we went out for a great dinner together. I’ve already seen improvement in his attitude as a result. My daughter asked for a girl’s night which she planned so many activities for, it ended up being a girl’s DAY, too. When all is said and done, no one will remember that I got buttons stitched on, woodwork cleaned, or a blog plugin installed. But my kids will remember their time with mom.

How the Guilt Hour Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Too much I feel guilty about. I felt very overwhelmed trying to decide which guilty tasks to focus on–especially because I felt guilty enough just trying to dig my way out of last week’s backlog.
  • Vague time commitment. I hadn’t scheduled time to do this. I just knew that I would be doing four 15-minute periods. But after spending almost an entire day and night with my kids, I didn’t feel like I could afford to spend more time on the Guilt Hour. That made me feel–you guessed it!–guilty.
  • Tapped into my procrastination issues. I’ve discovered that guilt and procrastination are a vicious cycle. It really doesn’t matter which I start with (guilt or procrastination), because I’m in trouble either way. I need more than a guilt hour to get me to tackle some of these tasks, I’m afraid. The little-and-often approach of SMEMA from last week might help. Maybe I needed the support of other people tackling their guilt-producing tasks, too.

Did the Guilt Hour Help Me Get More Done?

In general, NO. I invested time in my children which is extremely important to me, but in terms of getting things–even just guilt-laden tasks–done, it did not work for me. It’s possible this was a bad week, that scheduling it as a complete hour, and getting support might help. But for now, it’s not something I plan to continue.


Unsurprisingly, I still do not use a Guilt Hour and avoid feeling guilty about tasks. Instead, I take Sundays off completely to do ONLY what I want to do (aside from family, friend, and church commitments). This works much better for me.

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 7


Jason Womack believes that envisioning your ideal day is the best way to make it happen. He spends 15 minutes a day picturing how he’d like the next 24 hours to go.

The concept. By imagining how you’d like your day to unfold, you’re reviewing your goals, your tasks, and your time in a realistic way. After all, no one’s ideal day is working at an intense pace for 24 hours with no breaks. A friend mentioned that she was going to use SMEMA in conjunction with envisioning her ideal day and I thought that was a great idea. I’m not committed to spending a full 15 minutes, but I will do this every day this week in written form using idonethis. I have my idonethis email sent to me in the morning, so I can email my ideal day to idonethis in the morning and write back in the evening with what my day was actually like.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read Jason’s description of how he envisions his ideal day. Decide if you’ll record it and follow up like I am or will just dream it. Check out idonethis if you’re interested in recording your ideal day. It’s free.

Click here to see how envisioning my ideal day worked for me.

If you’ve tried the Guilt Hour 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

Week 5: SMEMA

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Can Mark Forster’s Simplest and Most Effective Method Help You Get More Done?

Can Mark Forster’s Simplest and Most Effective Method Help You Get More Done?

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

read more

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