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Brand New Video Series on Focus (Part 1)

In partnership with our sister site, The Focus Course, we are kicking off a short video series on the topic of focus and productivity.

The videos are all being posted on The Focus Course website (see video 1, here). But we’ve also embedded the first one below, along with the full notes.


Watch on The Focus Course site.

In today’s video I share with you why you need a focused life and some of the challenges you’ll face to get there.

In video 2 — which will be posted tomorrow, Wednesday — I’ll reveal the “framework” so to speak that I use to stay focused, organized, and on track.

And lastly, on Thursday, I’ll show you how and why it all fits together so you can reap the benefits of this in your own life.

When you think about “focus” or “living a focused life” what comes to mind?

Here are a few examples I hear…

  • Better control of time and energy.
  • More organized (with time, tasks, life in general)
  • Not being distracted
  • Heading in the right direction
  • Able to do the things you want (you have the time AND you have the focus-ability)
  • Making progress on projects
  • Having all the areas of your life feel like they are in harmony

When you DON’T have that “focus” then it’s frustrating. It can be stressful. There’s nothing worse than spending you days, unintentionally chasing someone else’s dream and building someone else’s goal.

My Story (Briefly)

For those who may not know, I’m Shawn Blanc and I’m the founder of The Focus Course and The Sweet Setup. I live in Kansas City with my wife and our three boys. And ever since 2011 I’ve been working for myself running a couple of websites.

Before 2011 I was a full-time creative director and marketing director, and I was working 70+ hours per week as the norm.

In short, I know all too well the challenges we face when it comes to trying to work reasonable hours, keeping work from taking away from our personal life, doing meaningful work, gettin breathing room, and working without distractions on a daily basis.

For well over a decade, I have been teaching and learning about productivity, focus, time management, and work-life balance. I have read hundreds of books on the subject and our online courses and training have helped thousands of people.

I LOVE these topics. I think they are so very practical and life-changing. And, as we’ll get to in a minute, there are a few things that have been transformational for me in terms of the focus for my own life.

For several years I served as a marketing and creative director for a large non-profit. I was super busy, working 70 hours per week.

Basically, my job was to live and work in a constant state of “emergency” and “urgency”. I never knew when a new “super important project” could come flying my way and derail everything I’d been working on for the past week or month. In short, I had no time and no clarity to think long-term strategy and do meaningful work.

Than, in 2010, my wife and I got pregnant for the first time. And I realized that there was much more to my life than my work. The prospect of becoming a dad gave me a ton of perspective.

But about two months into the pregnancy, we had a miscarriage. And it was the hardest things my wife and I had ever gone through together.

That whole season of finding out we were having a baby and then losing the baby, made everything around me just slow down. I could see clearly that what I was doing was not what I wanted to keep doing for even one more year.

(Moments like that don’t happen very often in our lives. Only a few times at most. But they are not the only way to make change.)

So I quit my job and started my own business.

I had been running a blog on the side for a few years, and I knew that if I gave it my full-time attention it could produce a full-time income.

What I didn’t know is that when you work for yourself, you can drown in the possibilities, ideas, and your own autonomy.

So, after jumping into full-time writing and working for myself, I found that even still I was working way too many hours. I wasn’t taking enough time off because there was always “one more thing” I needed to do.

In short, I had no boundaries for myself.

There were two big things that I realized I so desperately needed:

  1. I needed a way to keep ALL my life on track and in balance, no matter the season. I needed a way to make sure I wasn’t giving an unhealthy amount of time to my work at the detriment to other areas of my life.

  2. I needed to detox from my previously unhealthy work environment that had me addicted to the urgent, and never allowed the time or space to do deep, focused work.

Fortunately, I had tool I could turn to and use. Something I’d learned about in my early 20s that had been extremely helpful to me.


Have you ever felt anxious or been stressed out because there’s not enough time in the day to do everything you NEED to do, let alone everything you WANT to do?

It’s one thing to feel that way for a week or so — but it should not be the normal way you live for months or years.

Or perhaps you’ve been frustrated because you know there are areas of your life that need attention, but you’re not able to give them the focus they need.

Very common challenges I hear from folks all the time:

  • They don’t know how best to be using their time to do the things that are most important to them. (i.e. You lack clarity.)

  • Even if they did know, their schedule is completely full and they don’t know where to find the time. (i.e. You do not feel in control of their time and energy.)

That’s where I was at, too. Even though I had complete control of my time and energy — because I literally worked for myself — I still didn’t feel like I was actually in control.

What’s dangerous about this state of living is that each area of your life impacts the others, for good or for bad.

When you are off track in one area, you’re probably off track in other areas as well. And, conversely, when you begin making progress in an area, you begin making progress in other areas.


What Helped Me Get Back on Track

What helped me get back on track is something I call the 5 Components of a Focused Life.

It’s a framework, so to speak, that is helpful and relevant for all seasons of life, different priorities, etc.

It quite literally works for anyone, anywhere, doing anything.

And, what’s unique about it is that it takes into account not just your time and focus for the day-to-day stuff, but also the higher-level stuff of your vision and values.

It’s a way to bridge the gap for finding a way to focus on the things that matter to you, and to say “no” to everything that is not essential.

It never occurred to me to teach this online

I used to teach small seminars on inbox zero or GTD to anyone who would come. And I would teach about these 5 components of a focused life as well.

I use it in my marriage, also. My wife and I sit down once a year and go through some of the questions and make sure we’re in unity on one another goals.

So, again, here I am working from home and for myself.

This was in the early days when The Sweet Setup was still young and the Focus Course didn’t even exist. I had podcast and a blog that I was earning my full time living from.

And it never occurred to me to teach this “focus framework” online. (I think it’s because I was a tech blogger, not a productivity blogger.)

But I knew how valuable and helpful it had been for me.

So I decided to go through it with my private, members-only podcast. And the feedback was fantastic. I received more feedback on this subject matter than any other.

So I knew I was on to something. I wanted to get this teaching out there for more people. But I didn’t want to just talk about it… I wanted to help people implement it.

Because there’s a huge problem with almost all productivity advice I see…

Most productivity advice often focuses on the wrong thing. It doesn’t take the whole picture into account, or it overemphasizes one dynamic over another.

Moreover, productivity advice can be very difficult to implement. The Internet is full of theory and ideas and methodologies, but not so much when it comes to implementation assistance.

What I wanted was for you to be able to go through the Focus Course and come out on the other side with change that has actually taken root.

I spent nearly a year building the content and structure of the Focus Course into something that would teach the material in a manner that actually took root.

Creating the Focus Course with Notecards

I used tons of notecards to initially organize all the content.

When the Course was ready, I opened up an initial paid pilot to 100 people. And that pilot group sold out.

As I took this initial group of people through the first version of The Focus Course, the feedback was incredible. People were seeing real change in their daily lives. They were getting focused, they were getting their time under control, they were starting projects they’d been putting off for years. It was awesome to see.

I knew there was something here that was valuable and helpful to others.

Since that time we’ve had close to 2,000 go through the Focus Course. From stay at home moms and dads, to engineers, pastors, entrepreneurs, CEOs, artists, retirees, managers, students, even productivity coaches…!

And the feedback is always off the charts for how impactful and life-changing the Focus Course was for them.

For example, here’s what one of the Pilot Group members, Tyler Soenen, said:

In all of the reading I’ve done, the The Focus Course has something original that was very beneficial to my own life: the integration and union of having daily lifestyle practices that tie in to our short- and long-term goals.

Shawn defined this paradigm in such a way that makes it possible to feel like you’re achieving success daily by completing activities that are aligned with your values, but at the same time using these activities to complete a short term/long term quantitative goal.

In other words, the 5 Components of a Focused Life that we teach in the Focus Course is a very simple way to bridge that gap between your big goals and life values and what you spend your time working on every day.

Up Next…

In the next video, I want to show you what these 5 components of a focused life are. This is the exact “framework” so to speak is at the very heart and soul of the Focus Course.

This is what has been so helpful to me over all these years for staying focused and getting things back to center when they are not.

Stay tuned. The next video will be posted on Wednesday, November 8th.


Bonus: Read this…

How to Stay Sane When Life is Extra Busy →