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Category Archive: Productivity

Scheduling Every Minute of The Day (April Focus Digest)

Welcome to April! This monthly digest is for folks who want to create a more ideal schedule, get organized, and stay in control of the things that matter. If you are new to the digest…here’s what to look forward to the first week of every month: A short article on a single concept around focus Links […] »

A Roundup of the Best Obsidian Plugin in 2024

One of the things that makes Obsidian unique is the ability to extend its capabilities with third-party plugins. In this post, we share a bunch of our favorite Obsidian plugins to help you take your personal knowledge management game to the next level. »

Knowing How You Work Best is a Cheat Code for Better Productivity

Throughout the years and after countless experiments, I’ve discovered how I work best. This best version doesn’t involve the sexiest setup. It doesn’t involve the nicest mechanical keyboard or the most expensive camera. This version of “work best” is defined more as “more productive” than “more creative.” »

Finding the Right Habits

We’ve been talking a lot about habits in the past few months. Habits help us build the future we want for ourselves and accomplish our goals. “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures” — F.M. Alexander In the name of habits, we decided to pull an […] »

5 Ways to Show Up Everyday (March Focus Digest)

Welcome to March! Our monthly Focus Digest is for folks who want to create a more ideal schedule, get organized, and stay in control of the things that matter. If you are new to the digest… here’s what to look forward to at the beginning of the month: A short article on a single concept around […] »

How I Use Notion AI Q&A Each Day

Notion AI Q&A is the key to unlocking a new type of productivity in our office. It’s effectively the executive assistant in the office, ready with a quick answer whenever you have a question or ready to find an update for something you know you worked on months ago. »

Omnivore is a Really Good, Completely Free Read Later App

Omnivore is one of the newest, and probably one of the most underrated read-it-later services out there. Many of us know about Pocket, Instapaper, Matter, and Readwise Reader, but Omnivore deserves to be in the conversation as well, as it does quite a few things very well, and even better than the rest in some cases. And it does all this completely for free. »

How to be Productive

When we hear the word “Productivity,” we all picture something a little bit different. Some people simply think “getting things done,” while others immediately start thinking about the seven different apps they use to be productivity. »

The Importance of Routines

I’m Mike Schmitz, a full-time creator with a YouTube channel, multiple podcasts (Bookworm and Focused), and a frequent contributor here at The Sweet Setup. »

The Ultimate Guide to Time Blocking

In this post, we'll show you everything you need to know to start time-blocking yourself and feel like you just got more hours in your day. »

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. »

How to be Productive with the Apple Reminders App

Over the past couple of months we have explored how to get the most out of the Apple stock apps. Apple has stepped up their game with the newest iterations of their stock apps (Notes, Calendar, Mail, Reminders…). In this article we are going to focus on the Apple Reminders app (with the updates from iOS 17). »

A Closer Look at Apple Notes’s Smart Folders

Right alongside the ability to tag your notes in Apple Notes is the ability to create smart folders. Smart folders are tags and folders on steroids — you can build out entirely custom ways to unearth and organize your notes. »

A First Look at Heptabase, a PKM App for Research and Learning

One of the newest apps I discovered was Heptabase, a research-specific PKM app that uses a more visual approach to presenting your research and learning. Heptabase uses whiteboards, sections, and mind maps to connect your thinking and has unique PDF features that will be sure to catch the attention of professors, graduate and doctorate students, and more. »

How to Use Custom Planning Templates Inside of GoodNotes

Analog vs. Digital The battle for analog vs. digital for productivity tools has never been more fierce. On the one hand, what digital tools are able to accomplish continues to amaze as technology advances. On the other hand, technology also opens the door to distractions and interruptions and there’s a lot to be said for […] »

A Guide to Determine if Apple Mail Is the Right Email App for You

Apple’s built-in Mail app has become pretty feature complete over the years. Though the latest email features take a year or two to show up in Mail, most have made their way into the app — features like Send Later, Snooze, Undo Send, and more are now all in Apple’s default Mail app and available to all iPhone, iPad, and Mac users. »

Here’s What You Need to Know About Raycast Pro

It was nearly a year ago that I first wrote about Raycast here on The Sweet Setup, and few apps have seemed to gain as much momentum in recent years in the Mac enthusiast crowd than this new app launcher. In fact, I don't think I've seen this many Mac nerds change their app launcher since 2010 when Alfred first hit the scene. »

How to use Notion for Personal Knowledge Management

I officially joined the Blanc Media team in September of 2021. When I joined, I had some understanding of productivity, habits, focus, and all of those exciting things. But when I first heard the term “PKM” I drew a blank. What the heck is PKM? Over the last two years, my understanding of what PKM is has grown quite a bit. I realized that PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) is not just for the super-nerd or the information hoarder. The concepts within personal knowledge management can be utilized by anyone, and at the end of the day it’s about doing more creative work. »

The Ultimate Guide to Apple Notes

Let's dive into what makes Notes so good. We’ll provide a few simple quick tips of things that make any Notes experience that much better, as well as the latest features coming to Notes in iOS 17. »

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 […] »

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. »

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 […] »

Startup and Shutdown Routines

The key is to nail the beginning and the ending, and anything that happens in the middle doesn’t matter so much. »

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. »

A Time Blocking Comparison: Sunsama vs. Fantastical

Habits change. Inspiration comes and goes. Workflows spring up and taper off. But for me, time blocking never changes. Time blocking has become fundamental to my work day, ensuring I have chunks of time to complete tasks and ensuring my colleagues know what I’m up to. Time blocking structures my day. Time blocking blocks out extra meetings. Time blocking pushes me forward. »

Avoiding Productivity Pitfalls and Boosting Focus

When it comes to productivity and focus, I have a secret weapon — a book that I never see anyone talking about. Now, I know not everyone is a nerd about planning, scheduling, and setting goals, but there is a book by J.D. Meier that's just fantastic. »

Jeff Abbott’s Must-Have Productivity Apps

We've heard from Matt and Josh on which apps they consider irreplaceable for their workflows and productivity, and now it's my turn to pull back the curtain. These days, a lot of my work happens on a work MacBook Pro that is fairly locked down. The IT-managed operating system presents some challenges when it comes to finding a good productivity balance, and these apps meet my needs on my work device and personal devices too. »

Josh’s Must-Have Productivity Apps

As Matt so wisely put last week, we’ll quickly run the risk here of replicating each The Sweet Setup contributor’s must-have productivity apps. By the end of this little series, you’re likely to see a few commonalities, such as Notion, Fantastical, Ulysses, 1Password and perhaps Things. Each of these apps rock in their own right. And we as a group have a great taste in productivity apps. »

A Few Apps & Tips for Using ChatGPT to Boost Your Creativity and Productivity

Interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) has exploded in recent months, due in large part to the popularity of ChatGPT. While the technology is still evolving, there's no denying the impact that it's already having on the world around us. In this article, we're going to look at how to leverage AI to boost both productivity and creativity. »

Matt Birchler’s Must-Have Productivity Apps

Today, we’re going to look at a few apps that I find absolutely essential to my work, but we’re not going to dwell too much on the typical apps that everyone mentions, or that you’ve heard us talk about at length on The Sweet Setup already. »

Crafting Your Own Productivity Workflow to Handle Everything Life Throws at You

When it comes to a lack of clarity, the solution is to take the time to get clear on what matters so you can stop spending valuable time spinning your wheels. One of the ways to help you get clarity is to understand how information flows into and out of your productivity system. So in this post, we're going talk about crafting your productivity workflow so that you can handle anything life throws at you. »

Shawn’s Bizarre #1 Productivity Tip

I get asked this question all the time, and I have a somewhat bizarre answer. When people first hear it, they give me a weird look. But as I explain it, everything clicks. »

4 Reasons Productivity Systems Fail

If your system is overly complex, you’re more likely to spend time tweaking it (or avoiding it) than…ya know…actually doing the work. »

Plotter, Sunsama, and Notion: A Simple Hybrid Productivity System

I can point to a sequence of events that led directly to my current hybrid productivity setup. It started last year when I attended Focus Course Academy. One of the mini-lessons nestled in the middle of the academy was a crash course in time-blocking. In hindsight, time-blocking is so obvious. If you want to ensure you get something done, it needs to be part of your calendar. But actually time-blocking isn’t all that obvious. Do you do the time-blocking in your digital calendar? Do you buy a physical notebook and sketch out each day? »

I Tried to Migrate to Todoist; It Didn’t Go Well

This post can only start one way, and that's with a confession. This article was originally going to be about how to effectively migrate your tasks and workflows from Things over to Todoist. That all fell apart a few weeks after migrating because Todoist was driving me crazy — and ultimately send me running back to Things. »

How to Create an Effective Weekly Schedule

Have you ever finished a week feeling like your to-do list got longer with each passing day? Even though each day was a flurry of activity, it feels like no matter how hard you try and regardless of how much you do, it seems impossible to make progress. I can relate. And there were a lot of weeks this was my reality. »

Ideas for Using Notion AI to Make Yourself More Productive

I’m a professional accountant, so my daily work consists of financial and tax reporting, consulting, and communicating with clients via video and written memos or emails. AI is useful for some of these, but certainly not all. Here are some ways I use Notion AI in my daily work. »

The Brain vs. The List

When you are creating your “ideal productivity system” you need to keep one thing in mind. Your productivity system needs to serve you and your goals. »

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, […] »

Polar Habits – A “Cool” New Habit Tracker (Without the Guilt)

There are a million habit-tracking apps out there. But almost all of them are built on some form of the idea, “Don’t break the chain.” The basic idea is that when you consistently show and take action, you create a lot of momentum toward creating positive change. And that makes a lot of sense. But […] »

A First Look at Rewind.ai

Rewind.ai is a pretty incredible new tool for Mac users that bills itself as the search engine for your life, and that's really not a bad way to describe it. »

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 […] »

How to Create Habits with Sunsama

Want to know the secret to creating new habits and sticking with them? Hint: It’s not Sunsama (though, as we’ll see, Sunsama can be a really big help.) There’s no app or workflow out there that will magically transform all your desired habits into actual habits. The key to developing habits is to perform the […] »

How to Get Back 7 Hours per Week

Raise your hand if your current schedule looks something like this: Adam shared this in the private Focus Academy Slack community during a previous Focus Academy class. (Reminder: enrollment for our January class closes in 5 days!) Keep in mind, that was just his work schedule. Imagine how it would look when factoring in family […] »

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 […] »

Using Web Apps in the New Arc Browser Rather Than Native Apps

If I had written about using web apps in Arc a month or two ago, I would have discussed how this was a failed experiment. Instead of using the native Notion, Hey, and Slack apps for macOS, I opted to create spaces and tabs inside the new Arc browser. The apps behaved super quickly in Arc and all the latest and greatest features were present from the start. »

Why Goals Fail

Setting goals (especially the right goals) is a critical ingredient for unlocking more focus in your life. »

How I Designed My New Office for Focus and Less Distraction

I can’t imagine too many folks have too many opportunities to design their own office from top to bottom. The fit, the finishes, and everything in between. I had the chance to do so over the summer and, though stressful at times, it was a pile of fun. Our small accounting office worked out of […] »

Beware of these goal-setting myths

For as long as productivity nerds have roamed the earth, we’re argued about goals. What makes a good one? What makes a bad one? Are they even worth setting at all? But no time of the year sparks debate over these questions quite like the handful of weeks leading up to January. From now until […] »

Joe Buhlig’s Task Management Workflow Diagram

Building systems is a borderline addiction of mine. There is something fascinating about building a process for inputs to travel through and the problem solving required to make it happen cleanly and efficiently. »

Looking at Notes in iOS 16

Here’s a roundup of iOS 16’s latest features for Notes, and a quick look at what we’re going to see in iPadOS 16’s Notes soon. »

A First Look at Mail in iOS 16

Remember the golden age of email apps? I remember Sparrow, the best email client to ever be made. I remember the wait line to get into Mailbox. I even remember the seemingly endless wait to get the new Outlook design just a few years ago. »

Mouseposé: A Handy Little Utility for Better Live Software Demos

Earlier this year, I attended the Macstock Conference & Expo where I saw Mike Rose share about a few tools to give better live software demos. One of the apps he mentioned was an app called Mouseposé, a simple macOS utility by Boinx software that I had somehow never come across before. »

Elements of a Sweet Setup Part 2: Computers and Accessories

If you’re in the middle of building a new workspace at home or at the office, you know just how many elements there are to consider. Desks and chairs are just the tip of the iceberg — anything from lighting through to plant life has likely played a role in your considerations. »

A Roundup of Habit and Routine Tracking Methods & Tools

Traditional wisdom says you should set a goal and work towards achieving that goal. On the surface, there's nothing wrong with this concept. But there are so many variables in the mix with goals that it makes them difficult to achieve and troublesome to keep front of mind in most work-life scenarios. »

How to Create Text Snippets in Alfred

I had my first taste of text snippet expansion way, way back when everyone could use TextExpander without the subscription cost. There was a little bit of magic every time one of those snippets expanded. It was even cooler when you triggered a little dialog box that let you type in a custom bit of text to be added into the text expansion. »

How to Record Professional Screen Shares with CleanShot X or Loom

Recording your screen and sharing it with others is something that's always been useful, but it's only accelerated as so many of us have been physically separated from our teammates over the past few years. There are dozens of options out there for recording your screen, but two of the best and most interesting options for Mac users are Loom and CleanShot X. »

How To Create A Productivity Dashboard in Notion

A couple of years ago, Shawn created a productivity dashboard in Ulysses. As you can read more about in that original article, Shawn was working to build a central spot to hold everything he was working on that week: his schedule and most important tasks as well as a place to easily access and work on his notes, ideas, and writing. Anyway — Shawn challenged me to create something similar in Notion that could include the functionality he was looking for. »

Level Up Your Shortcuts with Stream Deck

Elgato's Stream Deck has really taken off in the past few years, and at it's core, it's simply a programmable keyboard that you can use to do whatever you want on your Mac or PC. Originally designed for streamers to do things like switch cameras, play sound effects, and bring up graphics on screen, it's drawn the eye of regular office workers as well. »

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." »

Creating a Home Note Dashboard in Obsidian (VIDEO)

Obsidian is a great place to take and keep your notes, but by adding a Home note that acts as a dashboard, you can really transform it into a productivity hub. And in this video, that's what I'm going to show you how to do. »

A Workflow For Managing Projects with Alfred and Obsidian

With the rise of PKM tools comes an interesting dilemma. If set up well, your PKM can house all the information you need to know about a project that you have committed to completing. However, what happens when you need to access the files that correspond to that project? »

Learning Productivity Lessons in the Midst of Chaos

My adventures in task management began with Evernote and The Secret Weapon. My corporate job had begun pushing the limits of my memory and led me down the stereotypical path of overwhelm. A quick internet search led me to GTD, TSW, and Evernote, and I thought I had found the solution to my stress. »

Event Notes in Craft Are Awesome for Time Blockers

Daily Notes became a hallmark feature in Craft in short order. The quick and easy ability to create a note, specific to a calendar date, that could be linked and back-linked across your entire Craft database made the feature a perfect option for collecting digital paraphernalia. »

Quick Tips for Staying Focused While Working From Home

Like many of you, I’ve been working from home for the past two years, and I’d be lying if I said that I’ve been 100% focused on my work the entire time I’ve been here. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve done my job, but I’d be lying if I said I spend all of my working hours on, well, work. There are just so many distractions at home, and without some strong discipline, it’s easy to get sucked into all sorts of things around the house that are way more fun than work. »

Fantastical’s “Duplicate as Event” Has Changed My Time Blocking Routine

The transition from listing out all your tasks to putting them into your calendar has long been an annoyance of mine. Long list of tasks, check. Time blocking habit in a calendar, check. But how do you seamlessly transfer tasks to your calendar without manually inserting each task in its own block? Enter Fantastical. »

How I Track My Habits in a Notion Dashboard

I use Notion almost every day in some capacity. It is the main project management software we use here at Blanc Media, and I also use it for all my side hustles. I also use it as my predominant task list manager, and since it’s one of the apps I use the most, it made sense to start tracking my habits in my personal, customized dashboard. »

How Obsidian’s Live Preview Feature Works (VIDEO)

Obsidian version 13 introduced a new editor engine that allows WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) text editing called Live Preview. It's a pretty big update, and in this video, we walk you through how to set it up and how it works. »

Sending Highlights & Notes from Matter to Obsidian (VIDEO)

Matter is a Read-It-Later service that integrates really well into Obsidian. So if you like to collect your newsletters, RSS feeds, and even Twitter threads into Matter, you can sync your digital highlights and notes into Obsidian using the official Matter Obsidian plugin. »

How to Use Live Text on Your Mac in macOS Monterey

Imagine seeing text somewhere in the real world and being able to easily share it digitally. That's exactly what Live Text allows you to do. Whether it's a handwritten note, writing on a whiteboard, or a printed sign, Live Text allows you to snap a photo and turn the text into a digital version that can be easily pasted into any application. »

A Professional’s Approach to the Creativity Flywheel

Way back in February 2021, I wrote about how I used the iPad to study for the biggest exam of my life. The iPad is the best educational tool in the world, and I had developed a bit of a process over the last 10 years to get as much out of the iPad as possible. Here’s how I’ve adapted the first two steps of Mike’s Creativity Flywheel (Capture and Curate) to my own personal workflows. »

How I Use Notion to Make My Clients Happy

Notion has fundamentally changed how I work with clients on freelance projects. Not only has it given me a way to track my progress and organize everything for myself, but it’s given me a way to share that progress with my clients in a way that always impresses and makes me look like a real pro. »