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Category Archive: Mindfulness

Mindfulness Monday: What Inboxes Need to be Calmed?

When I say the word “inbox,” what comes to your mind? For most people, it’s email, right? Email is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of checking our inbox. But the truth is that we all have multiple inboxes. An inbox is just anything that collects incoming bits of information that […] »

Email Lessons from Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was a famous military commander with some interesting information management habits. But he died about 200 years ago (1821), long before computers, the internet, and electronic communication. So what could we possibly hope to learn from his life about handling email in our digital age? »

Using Blank Space to Make a Minimalist iPhone Home Screen

According to recent statistics, the average American checks their phone 344 times per day (about once every four minutes). And before you say, “other people may struggle with this, but I've got it under control,” I dare you to go into your Settings and look at your Screen Time stats. The truth is, we all struggle with this stuff. And the deck is kind of stacked against us. »

Crafting My Obsidian Daily Questions Journaling Shortcut

I'm a big fan of digital journaling for personal growth, but I'm not a big fan of most journaling prompts that tend to focus on what you accomplished during the day. So for years, I've been using a different type of journaling in Obsidian called Daily Questions. In this post, I'll walk you through setting up the Shortcut I use to streamline my daily journaling process at the end of my day. »

Mike’s Idea System 2.0

How to use an idea development system to prime the creative pump and set yourself up for success when it's time to create. »

Our First Look at Apple’s New Journal App

Let’s take a look at Apple’s new Journal app for iPhone and how it stacks up to one of the perennial apps on the App Store. The app has a long way to go, but it has some very intriguing elements to start. »

How to Do a Personal Retreat in Obsidian

In this post, I'm going to show you how I use Obsidian to facilitate a process I call a personal retreat to gain the clarity I need to take consistent action and regularly achieve my goals. »

What Inboxes Need to be Calmed?

When I say the word “inbox,” what comes to your mind? For most people, it’s email, right? Email is the thing we think about when we think of checking our inbox. But the truth is that we all have multiple inboxes. An inbox is just anything that collects incoming bits of information that need to […] »

How to Deal with Distractions and Protect Your Focus

In a world of distraction, focus is hard. But that doesn't mean we should fight to protect our attention. In this post, I want to share some tips for staying focused — and what to do when the inevitable distractions come. »

Seven Tips for Eliminating Inbox Addiction

Inbox Addiction is an urge to continuously check our news feeds, social feeds, and message inboxes despite undesirable and even negative consequences or a desire to stop. »

How to Create Margin For Your Thoughts

As someone who basically writes for a living, I find it very important to have undistracted time to actually do the work — the writing. This may seem obvious, but just because the time itself is set aside in my schedule or during my day, that doesn’t always mean that it’s going to be productive time. Being able to focus for an extended period of time without any distractions is actually becoming a very rare skill. This means that if it’s something you can figure out how to do, it actually can be to your competitive advantage. »

The Ownership Matrix (What to Do When You’re Overwhelmed)

Have you ever looked up the dictionary definition of “overwhelm”? It’s actually pretty intense: bury or drown beneath a huge mass defeat completely give too much of a thing to someone If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then perhaps you feel as though you have been given too much. In fact, you’ve been given so much that […] »

Time Blocking Using a Custom Template on the Onyx Boox Tab Ultra

I’ve tried just about every time blocking method out there. I’ve done it Fantastical (my calendar app of choice), followed Shawn in planning my day using GoodNotes on my iPad using a custom template, experimented with time blocking in Obsidian, even crafted my own analog bullet-journal-based hybrid productivity system. For the past 6 months or […] »

The Ultimate Guide to Using Do Not Disturb on Mac and iOS

Do Not Disturb is a life saver. You can set it up on all your devices and it silences all your notifications. You can set it to turn on a set schedule, turn it on for meetings, or when you need to go “heads down” on an important project. »

Why not do less?

As a chronic maximizer, here are a few reminders that I need from time to time. You don’t have to take action on every idea. There’s no need to push every project to the max; ship when things are useful. You can make a decision without knowing every last detail and option; action will bring […] »

How to Startup and Shutdown Your Day with Sunsama

Way, way back when, Shawn showed off one of his cool tricks for spurring the creative juices each morning. Rather than sitting down cold turkey at the computer to begin work for the day, Shawn would leave a note right in front of his keyboard the prior evening outlining the next step, the next idea, […] »

The Margin Reset: A Complete Guide to Getting Your Time Back

This week, we are kicking off our next Focus Booster inside the community. And it’s a Complete Guide to Margin. How to go from busy and overwhelmed to…. not busy There are only two ways you can restore margin to your life. And they’re actually quite simple… As part of our upcoming Margin Reset — […] »

A Mindfulness Monday Review of the Onyx Boox Tab Ultra

A while back, I reviewed the reMarkable e-ink tablet. There's a lot to like about this incredibly thin tablet: it's thin and light, has incredible battery life, and offers a great writing experience for a digital tablet. But the software was lacking, and I found myself consistently bumping up against the limitations of the device in frustrating ways. »

In Praise of Habit Trackers

Quick wins are rarely the elements of a long-term strategy. If you search for quick wins, you’ll find them. But they won’t add up to anything substantial over time. Instead, focus on being consistent with smaller actions you can stick with over a long period of time. Here’s why… The two types of goals (and […] »

Four Failures of Productivity (and how to solve them)

After teaching more than 15,000 people about productivity and time management, we’ve identified four failures to productivity (and the solutions to each). These four failures are easy to avoid. And that matters a lot because, as you can see from the image below, the four failures work together in a flywheel. A failure of one […] »

Simple Mindfulness Meditation with Center

I recently re-read (listened?) the Audible Original How To Train Your Mind by Chris Bailey about the productivity benefits of mindfulness meditation. The short version is that you gain back an average of 7 minutes for each minute you spend meditating. This obviously only works up until a certain point, but this statistic has rekindled my motivation to make mindfulness meditation a regular practice again. »

A Mindfulness Monday Review of The Light Phone

I had heard of the Light Phone before and was intrigued by the idea, but I write so much about iOS apps that I just couldn’t justify making the switch. But recently, my son turned 13 and we needed a way to stay in contact with him so he could reach us in case of […] »

A Mindfulness Monday Review of the reMarkable 2

When I first saw the reMarkable 2, I immediately saw the appeal from a mindfulness perspective. In this Mindfulness Monday post, I consider the pros and cons of "the world's thinnest tablet." »

How Habits Work (VIDEO)

This is a free video lesson from our Simple Habits course In this video, we’re going to take a look at the mechanics of habits and explain how they work, then show you a way to use this in order to replace negative habits with positive ones. All habits follow the same four-step pattern: Trigger […] »

Building a Core Values Widget Using Widgetsmith

The first things we learn about in Focus Course Academy is the importance of values. Our values should guide the decisions we make and be the filter we need to say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things. And so, one of the initial (and, frankly, one of the more difficult) exercises we go through in the Focus Course Academy is to distill our individual values down to just two Core Values. »

Why You Should Be Curating Your Ideas (Video Replay)

Last week, I presented a paid workshop here on The Sweet Setup called Your Creative Flywheel. In the workshop, I walked through the process that I use for creating (I call it The Creativity Flywheel). Here's a quick recap. »

Apps We Love: Affirmations

Affirmations is a simple app with a singular purpose — to provide compliments and reminders to help make self-care a little easier. »

Introducing: Focus Course Academy (Fall 2021 Cohort)

Don't be like me and spend years of your life doing productivity-whack-a-mole while you try to get this stuff figured out. I have condensed and cultivated everything I know about focus, time management, productivity, and work-life balance into this new, 4-week cohort: Focus Course Academy. »

The Art of Note-Making

I've been thinking a lot about Personal Knowledge Management lately and the path information takes as it enters and exits my PKM system, and I've noticed that information tends to fall into one of three buckets »

Combat Burnout with a Productivity Journal

In our productivity flywheel, the fourth stage is to celebrate your progress. But sometimes this feels counterintuitive or inconvenient. Because when we want to be super duper productive, we often think that speed and efficiency are what matter most. Thus we get stuck in a loop of doing, doing, doing... without ever pausing to celebrate. »

Journaling Using Daily Questions in Obsidian

I'm a big fan of the mindfulness I gain from journaling, but have been searching for years for the perfect set of prompts that could completely eliminate the friction from my daily journaling workflow. I've tried many different prompts (and many different apps) over the years, but have settled on a practice called Daily Questions which has just clicked for me. In this post, I'm going to share how I implement my Daily Questions inside of Obsidian. »

Ian’s Awesome Counter

David Smith (of Widgetsmith fame) just publicly released a great mindfulness app with an incredible backstory. It’s called Ian’s Awesome Counter, and was originally developed for and with his son to help manage his attention. The app is pretty genius in its simplicity. You just respond to a simple prompt at each time interval and […] »

Triggers & App Open Automations

This is a video lesson from the new Time Tracking module in our Simple Time Management course. It’s 20% off during launch week. On iOS, we can easily create an automation that allows us to start a timer anytime we open an app. This is one of many tricks I use to help me track […] »

Creating My iOS Time Tracking Dashboard

This is a video lesson from the new Time Tracking module in our Simple Time Management course. It’s 20% off during launch week. In this video, I’m going to show you how you can use Timery on iOS to set up a time tracking dashboard using widgets in iOS, which can not only make it […] »

How to Use a Calendar

In this article, I’m going to share two very important things for how to use your calendar: why your task list should be on your calendar, and how to get it there by using time blocking »

Habits vs. Tasks

We all want to get things done. We all wish we could be just a little more productive. Our specific reasons may vary, but we are all motivated to solve a common problem: We never seem to have enough time for the things that are truly important. Today we’re going to look at two very […] »

Music for Deep Work

Some recommendations for working tunes to keep you focused and in the flow. »

A Big Update to Our Best Habit Tracking App Article

Today we updated our best habit tracking app pick for 2021, and it’s a doozy. The updated article now has over 6,000 words in an increased effort to help you find the perfect habit tracker for you. It’s only been a year, but a lot has happened. First, we’ve gotten the addition of widgets in […] »

How I Use Roam Research for Journaling

Regardless of the tool you decide to use, journaling is a worthwhile habit to establish as we leave this year and get ready for the next one. »

Webinar Replay: How I Use Mind Mapping to Take Book Notes

A few weeks ago, I participated in the ReadWriteMap, a virtual event put on by Bigger Plate for anyone interested in reading, writing, or mind mapping. There were several speakers who presented on a variety of topics, and it was a lot of fun. »

How to Free up Your Time and Attention

On Friday I shared with you my simple framework for keeping things on track. Lifestyle habits Daily Routine Process for focus Thanks to my habits, routines, and process I was able to survive an extremely difficult 8-weeks where we thought my wife might have Stage IV cancer. And, more than that, these things make up […] »

Mike’s iOS 14 Widgety Home Screen

iOS 14 introduced Widgets to the iPhone, which has allowed for some very creative home screens to be created to suit an individual’s preferences and personality. Here’s a look at my current iOS 14 Widgety Home Screen, and the thought process that went into designing it. Remember Why You Came I don’t know about you, […] »

How Roam Research Helps Me Time Block My Day

In this post, we share how time blocking works, why you should consider using it to plan your day, and how my time blocking routine is supplemented by my use of Roam Research. »

Our Goals Are Not Enough

There are some folks who say you ought to know your goals inside and out or else you’ll never accomplish them. Others advise against setting goals at all because you might not even accomplish them. Well....? Which is the right approach? Let's take a closer look. »

Why Dual Focus Email is Bad (Calm Inbox Video)

The last thing you want when it comes to your email is what we call “Dual Focus”. Dual Focus is a waste of your time. Dual Focus is frustrating and annoying. For example: Dual Focus is when you are trying to have a Zoom meeting and your toddler busts into the room. Dual Focus is […] »

3 Questions to Ask About Your Busy Inbox

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with email (and Twitter, too, for that matter). I love how they’ve allowed me to connect with folks, build friendships, and make things over the years, but I hate how email (and Twitter) can be such a draw for my attention and a distraction during my day. »

Shawn Blanc’s iPhone Home Screen, Summer 2020 Edition

Several months ago, I took all the apps on my Home screen and moved them over by one so that my first Home screen was blank. Now I’m trying something similar but different. I’ve placed just a few apps on the first Home screen, none of which have inboxes or infinity pools. »

Building My Bullet-Journal-Based Hybrid Productivity System

It's fun for me to find new and better ways to do things - especially if it involves Apple-branded technology. I love trying new apps and making my devices dance. But with everything going on in the world the last couple of months, I've also found it to be especially difficult to navigate emotionally, which is a big reason why I’ve started doing a lot more with pen and paper. »

Mindfulness Monday: Using Day One Templates to Create a Toddler Quote Book

If you tend to journal or document standard or recurring events in your Day One, entry templates are an easy way to save time. They also provide a cohesive, standard, and consistent look for all like-entries across your entire Day One. For those of us with a perfectionist tendencies, templates are the key to consistency. »

Work Doesn’t Happen at the Computer

We've arrived at the assumption that work only gets done on the computer. Humans have survived thousands of years without computers and accomplished some pretty incredible feats. Why is it we now assume computers equal getting work done? »

The Importance of Routine: A Habits Interview with Mike Schmitz

This interview is one of the many bonus interviews included in our new course, Simple Habits. The course is 25% off until Friday, May 29th. Your name and a short bio / info about you I’m Mike Schmitz, Executive Editor here at The Sweet Setup. I live in Wisconsin with my wife and have five […] »

How to Sustain Long-Term Habits

This Mindfulness Monday post is a video from Shawn Blanc, founder and editor-in-chief of The Sweet Setup In this short video, Shawn talks about: Maintaining momentum and motivation after the “honeymoon” period is over The role of automation in creating sustainable habits The balance of goals and habits in creating positive outcomes If you want […] »

Using Day One During Quarantine

Instead of going to Hawaii, we are staying home. My wife and I recently cancelled our 15-year anniversary trip to Hawaii. We’d been planning and saving for this trip since our 10-year anniversary. Alas, with the current state of the planet, we knew we’d have to cancel it, but we were putting it off. I […] »

Chuck Frey’s Simple 5-Step Process to Find Your Big Ideas On Demand

This Mindfulness Monday article is a guest post by Chuck Frey, creator of mindmappingsoftwareblog.com and author of several books on creativity including MaxThink, a creative ideation system that can help you be more creative and get unstuck. In this article, Chuck shares the key pieces of his own ideation system. »

How Dave Caolo Makes Apps Earn Their Way onto His Home Screen

In this Mindfulness Monday post, podcast and D&D enthusiast Dave Caolo joins us to talk about resisting the pull of social apps, his unique approach to apps earning their way onto his Home screen, and what baking cookies from scratch can teach us about focus and intentionality with our tech. »

Why Matt Ragland Starts Every Project by Planning on Paper

In this Mindfulness Monday post, YouTuber Matt Ragland shares about the boundaries he's established to maintain intentionality with his tech, his bullet journaling practice, and why he starts every project using analog tools. »

How Rosemary Orchard Uses Automation to Stay Focused

Rosemary is a tech lover and frequent contributer here at The Sweet Setup who lives in Vienna, Austria. During the day, she works as a web developer, but she can also be found at RosemaryOrchard.com and hosting Automators, a podcast about automation, and Nested Folders, a podcast about productivity. She loves to experiment with new apps and workflows, and the more automation included, the better! »

How Mike Schmitz Changes the Email Rules by Removing it From His Phone

In this Mindfulness Monday post, Executive Editor Mike Schmitz shares his moment of clarity with intentional technology use and how he continues the fight to shift expectations around email. I’m Mike Schmitz, Executive Editor here at The Sweet Setup and co-host of the Focused and Bookworm podcasts. I’ve asked quite a few people to share […] »

How to use mind maps when running a business and personal life

Recently, I shared with a couple of friends about the new mind mapping course we just released, and one of them (Brandon Wentland, who previously shared his sweet setup here started telling me about some of the cool ways he uses mind maps to run his digital marketing agency. »

Sharpening Your Mental Saw

In this Mindfulness Monday post, Mike shares part 3 in his series on capturing and developing ideas using mind maps. »

Mindfulness Monday: We Updated Our Best Mind Mapping App Review

I've been sharing recently about the system I use for capturing and developing ideas, and at the heart of this system is a mind mapping habit. Mind Mapping helps me develop my ideas so that I don't deal with writer's block and saves me a ton of time by making it super easy to get started whenever I sit down to write. »

How Isaac Smith Fights the Urge to Stay Connected

In this Mindfulness Monday post, we talk to Blanc Media Production Manager Isaac Smith about his intentional limitations, fighting the urge to stay connected, and his 6-month "dumb-phone" experiment. »

Doing a Digital Declutter

In this Mindfulness Monday post, we look at how to to maximize our intentional technology use by doing a digital declutter. This post originally appeared on our sister site, The Focus Course. If you want to join in by doing your own digital declutter, check out the 30-Day Digital Declutter Kickoff. I’ve long been a […] »

Creating Intentional Technology Habits in 2020

In this Mindfulness Monday post, we consider how to leverage our technology to create intentional habits. Last week, we published an interview with bestselling author James Clear about starting and building better habits. There’s some great insights in the interview about how habits work, and James shares some great tips about how to create them. […] »

Turning Ideas Into Action

In this Mindfulness Monday post, we talk about how to use your technology to develop your ideas and turn them into action. »

Technology, Margin, & the Lost Art of Authentic Connection

As the pace of our everyday lives continues to increase, it's only natural to look for an escape. As information and commitments are thrown at us without discretion at breakneck speed, we covet every opportunity to hit "pause" and disconnect. »

Create, Not Consume: A Mindfulness Manifesto

Creativity is not based on your artistic ability. It has nothing to do with your natural talent. It depends entirely on your perspective, and is vital to embracing an intentional approach to technology. We must all learn to flip the switch from mindless consumption to conscious creation if we want to reach our full potential. »

Apps We Love: Sleep Cycle

In this Mindfulness Monday post, we share how using Sleep Cycle can help you wake up well-rested. When I was 18, I had a seizure while standing in line at a McDonald’s. Fortunately, there was a nurse nearby and she kept me safe until the ambulance arrived and I was rushed to the hospital. When […] »

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

In this Mindfulness Monday post, we share some tips on how to set yourself up for NaNoWriMo success. »

Apps We Love: Brain.fm

Brain.fm is a special kind of music service designed for the brain to enhance focus and relaxation within only 10 to 15 minutes of use. »

Automating Habit Tracking with Streaks & Shortcuts

In this Mindfulness Monday post, we look at how to reinforce positive technology habits through automation using Streaks and Shortcuts. There is no shortage of high-quality habit trackers for iOS. Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it. There are options for tracking your habits across multiple platforms, options for ramifying your habit tracking, and […] »

Apps We Love: Forest

Forest is an interesting iPhone app that actually encourages you to use your phone less. »

David Sparks Video Interview: How to Stay Focused and Productive

When it comes to juggling all the things in life, it can be a challenge. And so, who better to learn from than David Sparks? David — a.k.a. “MacSparky” — has a lot of spinning plates. David is a solo attorney, a prolific podcaster, a blogger, an author, a screencast tutorial maker, a dad, and […] »

How Shahid Ahmad Stays Focused on His Phone

In this Mindfulness Monday post, we talk to video game developer and podcaster Shahid Kamal Ahmad about the steps he takes to stay out of the Infinity Pools and stay focused on what's important. »

Changing Defaults

It’s 6:34 am. The sound of your smartphone alarm startles you awake. (Actually, it’s the sound of the fifth alarm you’ve set because you’ve gotten so used to snoozing them that it now takes several to finally get you out of bed.) You instinctively reach to grab your phone from the nightstand and perform your […] »

The Intentional iPhone Web Browsing Experience

A look at how a constrained browsing experience on your iPhone can keep you focused on what's important without losing any of the fleeting thoughts and questions that come up during the day. »

Apps We Love: Moodnotes

Moodnotes is a simple iOS app that helps you track and understand your emotional state. »

Jour: A Guided Journaling App for the iPhone

Journaling is one of the best habits you can create. It allows you to distance yourself from the emotion and business of the day by reflecting on the events that happened so you can achieve clarity on the situation and see things from the proper perspective. »