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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.

This article might look a little bit different than others you might find on the internet. We are not just interested in getting things done, but getting the right things done — how to be productive, for real. Productivity is about so much more than to-do lists, fancy apps, workflows, and beautiful stationery (although I do love all of those things). Let’s talk about meaningful productivity.

We define Meaningful Productivity as “… the state of consistently giving your time and attention to the things that are most important.

We over here at The Sweet Setup (and The Focus Course) take a holistic approach to productivity. It’s not just about the apps that help you accomplish your to-do list (although we do love apps). We need to take several steps back and ask an important, but often ignored, question about productivity: why?

Productivity “tricks” that promise lasting change apart from a foundation of personal values, vision, and integrity are merely skin deep and will not last. It is important to identify what matters to YOU before you set goals, change your schedule, or start new habits and routines. Life can be tedious, hectic, and full of challenges. If you are spending your time on things that don’t matter to you, it will be nearly impossible to maintain motivation and joy through the midst of life’s tensions. — Shawn Blanc

Meaningful productivity involves more than just apps and cool tricks. There are several pillars of productivity, vision, values, habits, routines, goals, and eventually tips and tricks.

The pillars of productivity are more like a hierarchy.

Hierarchy of Productivity

Most people focus on Tips & Tricks (productivity tools, that one routine that you saw from TikTok that is going to completely change your life…). Tips & Tricks are like a bandaid on a gunshot wound if you don’t focus on the why behind your productivity.

Most people focus on the top section of the hierarchy cause it’s the most fun. I get it. I love apps, 5-minute videos on the latest productivity trend, and the latest and greatest template that is going to change it all.

If you only focus on the tips, tricks, and tools, you are never going to make meaningful progress. Nothing will stick. You won’t really move forward. You’ll soon slip back into your old patterns.

You have to take a big step backward and focus on your vision and values, then habits and routines, and once you’ve got that figured out, you can look at some tips and tricks.

Vision & Values

You might be asking, “What does my supposed vision and values have to do with being productive?” The answer: everything.

If you have to make real progress in your life, you need to know why you’re doing it and where you’re going. You need to decide what is most important.

If you don’t have a marker, a goal post, or a vision, you will end up walking in circles and never really going anywhere at all.

How do I discover my vision?

This is a question we answer at length in the Focus Course, but I’ll give you a sneak peak.

An abbreviated version is asking yourself a few questions:

  • What do I want to be remembered for?
  • What are my values?
    Examples of values are wisdom, excellence, love, patience, being adventurous…
  • What are the most important roles in my life?

Something that I would include in this section is goals. What do you want to accomplish in your life? That can be a really hard question to answer, so let me break it down for you.

Try and split your life into separate life areas, such as career, relationships, and physical health.

Btw this is something we talk about at length inside of The Focus Course

Think about what you want to have accomplished in 20 years in each life area. Go through each area and come up with a long-term goal and then work backwards. What do I need to do this year to accomplish this goal? This month?

“Goals give you a direction to go. Your habits and routines will keep you moving toward progress and results” — Shawn Blanc

Routines & Habits

The next section of the hierarchy is Routines and Habits, which are the bedrock for consistent success. This isn’t anything new. James Clear’s book Atomic Habits was the number one bestselling book of the year in 2023 on Amazon. There is hard science behind habits and how they help you become successful.

Picking the right habit and routine is crucial. So many influencers and so-called productivity gurus tell you if you just implement this one habit, your life will be completely changed.

That might have been true for their lives. But we are all very different people, wired differently. We can’t expect some random dude’s habit on Instagram to work for us the same way it worked for them.

I like to build my habits around my goals. If my goal is to be healthier and more in-shape, I need to create a habit that will work for me to accomplish my goal.

If you are a night-owl, you don’t have to introduce a new 5am routine because someone said it changed their life. You can create your own night-time routine to help you get the same results. If I incorporated a 5am routine, it would certainly change my life, but not for the better.

When deciding what habits and routines you want to instill into your life, it’s okay to ask yourself will this actually work for me? Does this habit or routine help me show up for what’s important for me right now?

Habits help you see the progress you are making on your goals and meaningful work.

Shawn talks about this in the Focus Course: “Your productivity, motivation, and morale are all improved when you are able to see that you are making progress on meaningful work.”

Habits and routines are one of the ways you can actually see your progress.

The power of living a focused life is found when we have clarity about what is deeply important to us and we are able to consistently spend our time each day on those things. — Shawn Blanc

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One Habit to Change Your Life

I know I am guilty of wanting to start a bunch of new habits and routines all at once, but here’s my two cents: incorporate one at a time.

This might seem hard to do when you are in the mood to change your life for the better, but you won’t be able to incorporate five new habits and routines at once. You will start them all and make it about 10 days.

Instead, start with one new habit. One habit to change your life. It takes a while for a new habit tor really begin to stick. Most people say 21 days. It’s more like 60 days.

Choose one habit to implement and stick with it for 60 days. Once it actually becomes a habit — something second nature — then you can implement the next one. When you try to implement too many changes at once, you end up reverting back to what you were doing before, having made no real progress. It’s too much change at once.

Design Your Ideal Weekly Schedule

Free → Video Workshop + Productivity Templates

Productivity Spread




If you want to reduce the busywork and distractions, then sign up here for instant access to a brief video workshop on How to Plan Your Week.

♥️ Quick Note: You’ll get access to the workshop, plus a few additional bonuses to help you overcome procrastination and deal with distractions so you can spend more time on the important work that matters.

Tips & Tricks

Computer image

Latest app-picks, tools, and tricks are icing on the cake. They help you make progress towards your goals that you’ve already set in place. They help you make steps toward lasting change, based on your vision and values.

I’m gonna be honest, I love new apps and new workflows. I even like writing about them.

It is really hard to not fall victim to the shiny-new-app-syndrome. At least it is for me. Every time I hear about the latest and greatest app from my buddies here at The Sweet Setup, I always take a look. But before diving in, I ask myself “is this going to be a distraction or actually help me do meaningful work?”

My tech stack is pretty set at this point. I’ve gone all-in on Notion because it works well for me and it’s updated often.

No app is perfect, but you have to decide to use one or another, otherwise you’ll spend all your time testing out different apps instead of getting meaningful work done. You have to commit, even though every app or workflow has it’s flaws. Nothing is perfect.

Tips & Tricks are the tools that are mostly going to help you fine-tune your workflow. Helpful apps get you a bit more efficient and effective, but again, they’re not nearly important as your vision and habits.

With that said, here are a few of our favorite apps that can help you fine-tune your current system. But remember, if you don’t need a new app then don’t spend hours exploring every known option out there. Find something that works well enough for you and then commit.

Notion: Notion is a powerful app for note taking, task management, project management, and collaboration. This is my preferred app for almost everything. We use it here at Blanc Media and are big fans. If you are looking for an app that is great for collaboration, an all-in-one experience, and something that is visually appealing, Notion is a great option. It has a definite learning curve to get used to (check out our Notion workshop).

Obsidian:There are a few raving fans of Obsidian over here too. Obsidian is, at its core, a PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) app. It’s made to help you take notes and connect them to each other. It has also evolved considerably over the past few years to include plug-ins that support task management. This app has a pretty decent learning curve. Lucky for you, we offer a done-with-you workshop to get up and running plus an entire course.

Things: This app is the quintessential task management app. We’ve been fans for years. It’s really simple and straightforward to use. It doesn’t try to be every app in one. It’s just really good at task management. The MacOS and iOS experience are phenomenal. We also have a best-selling course on Things.

Fantastical: This is a great calendar app that supports time blocking, scheduling, and reminders. It’s very easy to use, feels just like an iOS or MacOS app.

Wrap Up

Being productive is more than just checking a few things off your to-do list, although that is something that I very much enjoy. It’s about making real progress on your most meaningful work.

Before you jump into the latest and greatest app or workflow, ask yourself what is most important in your life right now and how can you create systems and routines to help you be successful?

Design Your Ideal Weekly Schedule

Free → Video Workshop + Productivity Templates

Productivity Spread




If you want to reduce the busywork and distractions, then sign up here for instant access to a brief video workshop on How to Plan Your Week.

♥️ Quick Note: You’ll get access to the workshop, plus a few additional bonuses to help you overcome procrastination and deal with distractions so you can spend more time on the important work that matters.