Link Posts

On today’s episode of The Weekly Briefly: thriving in the midst of the tensions between our time, ideas, and focus.

If I were to boil my upcoming book down to just two themes, one of them would be this. The other theme would be “committing to honesty and clarity with a bias toward action“.

Sponsored by:

Wednesday, February 25

This is the brand-new album from Mat Kearney, and it’s fantastic. I’m a huge fan Young Love and City of Black & White (“Here we Go” has long been up there in my list of favorite songs). And as a fan of his past music, Just Kids doesn’t disappoint one bit. Have pretty much had it on repeat for the past 24 hours. So great.

Tuesday, February 24

Jeff Abbott wrote our latest app review for The Sweet Setup:

We’ve covered several other list apps previously, such as our favorite simple list-making app (Clear), our favorite GTD app (OmniFocus), and our favorite shared list app (Wunderlist). Why spend the time on such a niche group of apps [Grocery Shopping] that can probably be supplanted by any of the apps mentioned above?

The thing is, you could use any list app for grocery shopping, but our focus for this review is on apps that make the experience of preparing a grocery list and assisting in going through that list an easier affair. One of the things that makes this possible is the ability to remember past items, display relevant items as you’re typing, and the ability to create lists of favorite or staple items that you can easily add in bulk to your current list. Yes, this is a niche category of list apps, and that’s partly why it’s so interesting and why they can be a better choice over other list or GTD apps.

This week’s continuation of bag reviews on Tools & Toys is Stephen Hackett’s Synapse 19:

As you can see from the photos, I opted for the black exterior, but instead of my normal choice of gray, I decided to live a little and order the “Wasabi” green interior for this backpack.

(I’m a lot of fun at parties.)

Monday, February 23

Whether you’re a designer, manager, or developer Sprintly is for you. It’s Agile project management that works.

Designers can collaborate effortlessly with other team members: it makes hand-off between designers and developers especially easy. Developers can keep their existing GitHub and deployment workflows. And managers? They don’t need to tap you on your shoulder to get the information they need.

Bring together all of your workflows by using our Slack, GitHub and Alfred integrations.

Sprintly can help your team ship faster. Sign-up for a free 30-day trial at

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My thanks to Sprintly for sponsoring the site this week.

Friday, February 20

On this week’s episode of my podcast, The Weekly Briefly: how putting your shoes away in the same spot can help you write that novel. No, seriously.

It can be frustrating to “start small” with our goals. But making small commitments and keeping them is how we build the momentum we need to be people who keep our commitments. It’s a way to rebuild our personal integrity from something that is small to something that can become an unstoppable force.

Alto’s Adventure is a brand new game for iOS, and it’s absolutely fantastic. The artwork alone is magnificent (I seriously would love some prints of these game screenshots). The music and sound effects are excellent (you should play with headphones on). And the gameplay itself is a lot of fun.

A huge congrats to Ryan and his team for creating something so magnificent.

If you haven’t downloaded Alto’s Adventure yet, it’s a mere $2 in the app store. Just in time for the weekend.

Wednesday, February 18

My friends Myke Hurley and Stephen Hackett have completely raised the bar in terms of indie tech podcasts. This “reboot” of Inquisitive — a podcast I’ve long been a fan of — is just fantastic. If you’re a fan of well-made, researched, shows such as 99% Invisible, and if you’re an Apple nerd, then Behind the App is for you.

SIRUI Travel Tripod

If you think a review of a travel tripod sounds boring, allow Álvaro Serrano to prove you wrong.

Friday, February 13

On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly: creativity, fear, and procrastination. If fear is what keeps us from doing work that matters, procrastination is what keeps us from reaching our potential.

Sponsored by:

Monday, February 9

A few days ago I announced a new email newsletter I’ll be sending out every week. On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly — my apologies that it’s a few days late — I answer the question as to why I’m doing an email newsletter when I already have a blog to publish to.

Thou Shalt Hustle is about overcoming obstacles and breaking down barriers. Pursue a more meaningful and fulfilling life by focusing not only on doing things right doing but also doing the right things.

The book looks at productivity through a Biblical lens and establishes clear, orderly steps you can follow to discover your “YES!” By helping you find your purpose, this book will equip you to say “no” to the things that aren’t essential and help you take action towards accomplishing your goals — even if you don’t know what they are yet or even where to begin.

Thou Shalt Hustle is available on Amazon Kindle for just $6.99 and includes a link to download a free audiobook version.

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My thanks to Mike Schmitz for sponsoring the site this week to promote his new book, Thou Shalt Hustle.

This has got to be one of the best issues of Offscreen Magazine to date. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I say that about every issue. Well if so, it’s only because the quality of Offscreen magazine has been getting better and better with every issue. Especially lately.

Issue 10 is Offscreen’s anniversary issue. It comes with a beautiful black dust jacket. And, as if written just for me, most of the interviews, essays, and featurettes center around writing, creativity, and business. This is my jam.

The articles from issue 10 that I really enjoyed in particular were: the interview with Om Malik about the journey of his writing career; Rachel Nabors’ essay about (not) doing what you love; Stewart Butterfield’s rules of business; Nick Crocker’s lessons learned as an entrepreneur; and, most of all, the interview with Scott Belsky.

Belsky’s interview hit me like a gospel sermon — I felt so encouraged and inspired after reading it. Scott is someone I admire because of his pursuit to help creative people grow in their ability to be organized and to develop a bias toward action. This quote from the interview especially stood out to me:

It is sad when design and business are seen as so distant from one another — or worse, at opposition. ‘Good business’ is about sustainability, scalability, and restraint — all forces that help the design process. […]

[M]ost people in business discount the value of design, and understand only the surface (literally). But designers are no better, often failing to embrace the principles of business to empower their careers and make their creations accessible for consumption.

The potential of creativity — and your ability to sustain yourself and serve others through your creativity — is more about business than it is about ideas. The impact of your creativity boils down to execution, distribution, packaging, marketing, messaging, strategy, leadership… in short, business.

Friday, February 6

Big news: I’m writing another book.

I’ve been hinting at this on the site since last summer, and site members who’ve been listening to Shawn Today have heard quite a bit about it as well. The book has now reached the point where I’m ready to announce it.

In short, The Power of a Focused Life is about living without regret in the Age of Distraction. I’ll admit, it sounds a bit melodramatic — but I’m serious. I’ve been working on this book for over a year. I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading and doing research (with much more to do still). And I’ve been applying these principles and ideas to my own life for over a decade.

All that said, there’s an awesome book trailer you should definitely check out.

And if you want to follow along with the book’s progress and get an email when it comes out, I’m kicking off a new weekly email newsletter. You can sign up for the newsletter via the book page, or there’s a link here on the site’s sidebar.


Patrick Clark and Connie Zhou put together a pretty great photo essay on SubTropolis, the giant and mostly unknown underground business complex we have here in Kansas City. It’s a 55 million square-foot space, and it represents about 10-percent of KC’s commercial real estate.

Wednesday, February 4

Tyler Hays (with help from Chris Gonzales and John Carey) wrote an awesome primer to getting started with vinyl — from turntables to preamps to speakers to where to still buy vinyl records.

The point of vinyl, here in 2015, is comprised of two main aspects. The first is the sound, which is remarkably different from the digital pointedness of CDs or audio files. It’s warmer, more visceral. You don’t have to be an audiophile to hear it. I liken it to hearing a recorded live album versus being at the concert — they’re the same on paper, yet totally different experiences.

The second reason vinyl is valuable is its potential for deeper enjoyment of the music.

I’ve been completely oblivious to the vinyl scene, but after working with Tyler on this article I realized that it’s actually alive and thriving. In fact (surprise, surprise?), even Amazon has a Vinyl Store on their site.

Monday, February 2

Helena Price:

What if we made more active decisions about how we spent our Internet time? If we weren’t bogged down maintaining our inboxes and social networks, who would we set out to meet or get to know better? If we weren’t so busy clicking links or browsing photos in our feeds, what would we choose to study or learn more about? If we spent these hours differently, what would happen?

I was curious to find out for myself.

So, one night while I was sitting in bed, I un-followed everyone on the Internet.

Helena’s considerations about how she spends her time and her desire to be more focused and intentional are just fantastic. Perhaps it just because we’re at the beginning of the year or perhaps because I’m nearing the finished first draft of my book about focus, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this stuff as well. And just a few days ago I even recorded a podcast episode about it.

P.S. Helena will be speaking at the Circles Conference later this year. You should come.

I was recently a guest on Robert McGinley Myers’ podcast, Anxious Machine. We talked about connecting with people, finding meaning in our tools, and a bit about how I got into my career as a full-time writer.

Rob is an incredibly thoughtful maker. He has written several excellent articles for us on The Sweet Setup. If you haven’t heard an episode of Rob’s show yet, you’ll be impressed. The production value is incredibly high — the shows are more than just back-and-forth conversation, but they weave storytelling and music and additional information to give context to the things being discussed.

Friday, January 30

On today’s episode of The Weekly Briefly, I talk about how there is more than one way to help us keep on track with doing our most important work day in and day out. And it goes beyond just white-knuckle focus and ripping our internet cable out of the wall.

It can be helpful to know what our high-level goals/values are for each day. And then we have a plumb line to see if the tasks we are doing fit into the big picture.

Sponsored by:

Thursday, January 29

If you’ve got something awesome you’d like to promote to the readerships here on and on Tools & Toys, then I’ve got some sponsorship openings available for you. And since February is still a bit open, I’m discounting the sponsorship rate by $100.

And speaking of… over on The Sweet Setup, we’re also running a discount for sponsorships in the month of February.

If you’re interested in a spot here or there (or both!), please do send me an email.

Speaking of typefaces, Obsidian is a new one from Hoefler & Co., and it’s pretty ingenious. The typeface itself has its own set of logic and rules for how the decorative shading is drawn, how the swash caps are rendered, and more.

Margaret Rhodes has more details about Obsidian over on Wired.

From the 8 Faces blog:

Over four years and across eight issues we interviewed 64 world-renowned designers1, including; Erik Spiekermann, Jessica Hische, Michael Bierut, Nina Stössinger, Mark Simonson & Seb Lester, plus owners of respected type foundries such as, Font Smith, Type Together and Process Type.

We’ve counted the number of times each typeface was selected and found consensus with the top 25. The top 10 designers’ favourite fonts will be quite familiar to many but hopefully the full list will provide a useful stepping stone to exploring many more.

So this morning Microsoft shipped what looks like a pretty great email app for the iPhone and iPad.

It works with Exchange,, iCloud, Google, and Yahoo emails. And you can also connect to your Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and/or Box accounts for sending attachments, etc.

In classical Outlook fashion, email, calendars, and contacts are in the same app. Which I’m not sure about. But there are definitely some is cool things going on:

  • A quick filter button that shows you only flagged emails, unread email, or only emails with attachments.

  • A “Focused” inbox view that is supposed to be Microsoft’s way of auto-filtering your inbox to only show you the most important emails in your inbox.

  • Scheduling of email messages. Which is the Mailbox-style of “remove this message from my inbox and hide it for the next hour/day/week/whatever”.

  • A files tab that shows you a list of all the files that are buried in attachments within your emails, and that lets you browse your OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox folders.

Outlook is certainly taking a lot of cues from a other successful iOS email apps, but also is very Microsoft-y in that there is a lot going on here. But honestly, my first impressions are good. Over on The Sweet Setup we picked Dispatch as the best iPhone email app for power users, but Outlook may give Dispatch a run for its money.

Wednesday, January 28

Over on Tools & Toys, Erin Brooks wrote a review of the Tom Bihn Parental Unit. It’s a diaper bag that doesn’t suck:

The market for diaper bags is pretty flooded — there are trendy diaper bags, designer fashion diaper bags, tiny diaper bags, giant diaper bags, giant purses people try to make “work” for diaper bags, and totes. Some people don’t want a “diaper bag” and opt for a regular messenger bag or a good old backpack instead. After trying numerous bags, the Tom Bihn Parental Unit ($140) has become my family’s go-to bag.

Erin’s review of the Parental Unit is the latest in our series of reviews of awesome bags.

Monday, January 26

For much too long email has been the main medium for communication at work. While email isn’t going away, team communication platforms like HipChat are allowing for more collaborative and productive communication experiences between co-workers.

HipChat combines every communication method you’d ever need — IM, group chat, screen sharing, file sharing, link sharing, video and voice calling — into a single solution. Working remotely, working across time zones, and working with the person right next to you becomes infinitely simpler and more efficient.

Create a chat room for your team or project so you can brainstorm, discuss work, or share files all in one place. Everything in HipChat is archived and searchable by keyword so you go back to a conversation whenever you want. @mentions allow you to bring your co-workers instantly into a conversation so you can get all of the right people involved in the discussion.

Best of all, HipChat is completely free for unlimited users. The Basic plan offers everything you need to get your team started: group chat, IM, file sharing, unlimited users and integrations. And if you’re interested in video chat and screen sharing, HipChat Plus is just $2/user per month.

Get your team on HipChat, sign up for a free account.

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My thanks to HipChat for sponsoring the site feed this week. Sponsorship by The Syndicate.

Friday, January 23

Last week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly was about technology. And, more specifically, how technology helps us to do our best creative work.

This week’s show is about another aspect of doing our best creative work: our inner work life.

When we have a healthy inner work life then we are poised to be at are our best in terms productivity and creativity. And so, how do we stay happy and motivated so we can be productive and creative? That’s what today’s show is all about.

Sponsored by:

Thursday, January 22

Macminicolo has been hosting mac minis for ten years, and they’d love for you to join them. To celebrate the milestone, the Decades Promo is just $10/mo for ten months.

Low cost. High performance. The perfect Mac server.

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My thanks to Macminicolo for sponsoring the site this week. These guys are the industry leader in providing world-class hosting and data center services exclusively for your Mac mini server. They host a ton of Macs minis, they’re located at one of the most advanced data centers in the world, and their Decades Promo is one heck of a deal to help you get up and running.

Over on The Sweet Setup we just posted our latest app review, and it’s for shared lists.

We chose Wunderlist as our favorite because it has great apps for every major platform (so you can share your lists with folks who aren’t as Apple-nerdy as you are), it has great and reliable sync, and a lot of extra features to make collaborating with others very simple.

Or if you want something more basic (like just one, maybe two, lists that you and your spouse share), then Apple’s Reminders may be the way to go.

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