Sneak Peek at This Week’s Project

This week was my deadline for wrapping up the final version of a very special, very new project. And then, today, we recorded a bunch of videos for our upcoming 2020 Plan Your Year update.

That’s why, unfortunately, I didn’t quite keep up with publishing very day this week. But now that everything has been wrapped up, the NaNoBlogMo can continue!

Here’s a little sneak peek at what I’ve been designing and building all week…

Sneak Peek at This Week’s Project

This is a quick note to all the members here. Yesterday I began a new series on the Shawn Today podcast. Over the next couple weeks I’ll be doing shows related to one of my favorite topics: a focused life.

My list of show topics include: components of a focused life; getting a life vision; planning your days; making lifestyle changes to support your goals; having deep personal integrity related to your own commitments; the tyranny of the urgent; and more.

In truth, this is the subject matter for my next book. As I’m in the beginning stages of planning and writing, I’ll be sharing about it on the podcast.

For those members you who haven’t listened to the podcast lately, perhaps you’ll want to check in again. (From what I can tell, about half of the membership base listens to the show each day. Which means half of the membership may not know about the new series.)

For those who are not members of the site, you can, of course, sign up. A membership subscription is $4 a month and goes a long way to support the writing I do here. As a member you can subscribe to new episodes and you’ll get immediate access to every past episode I’ve ever recorded as well. Not a bad deal.

Kicking Off a New Series on the Shawn Today Podcast

Update Coming to ‘Delight is in the Details’

Delight is in the Details

This coming Wednesday, July 23, 2014, is the launch date for the update to my book and interview series, Delight is in the Details.

I’ve been working on this update for the last couple of months, and the end is finally in sight. And so I wanted to share with you guys a sneak peek at what exactly is going to be included in the update.

  • Two new chapters: “How to Stay Creative and Build Delightful Products” — this is the preeminent chapter of the entire book. It’s the chapter that should have been in there when I first wrote the book, but I guess I needed another year to muse on this topic in order to discover the contents and focus of this chapter. This chapter is my best answer to the almost impossible questions: How do you do your best creative work every day? How do you make delightful products? I’ve also written a chapter on “Finding Your Fanatics”, that talks about how sweating the details in your work is one of the ways to grow your audience and/or customer base.

  • Three videos: These are short videos I made for this project. They cover (a) How To Stay Creative, (b) The Power of a Focused Life, and (c) In-House Design Teams. You can check out a teaser trailer for one of them here.

  • The audio tracks have all been re-mastered (this includes audio book and the audio interviews). I learned some Garage Band tricks since first producing the audio book, and I’ve found a website — Auphonic — hat does magic with the equalizing and volume boosting and leveling of spoken word audio tracks. I began using this on the Shawn Today podcasts a few months ago and the increased quality of the audio was instantly noticeable.

  • There are two new audio interviews: one with Matt Alexander and one with Jared Sinclair.

  • There are now transcripts of all the audio interviews. Perfect for those who prefer to read not listen. It also creates a searchable archive of the conversations if you ever want or need to reference them.

  • A new section: The Makers Q&A interviews featuring Tim Van Damme, Jeff Sheldon, Jane Portman, Sean McCabe, Kyle Steed, and more. Because great products are forged in the details, I reached out to a handful of my personal design heroes to ask them what it means to sweat the details, what delight in design looks like for their work, and how they spend their day to do their best creative work.

  • Updated book content with examples from the latest versions of iOS and OS X.

  • The Resource Index: a list of recommended websites, books, forums, and other resources that will help you find fresh inspiration, advance your current skill set, and/or get plugged into a community of peers.

* * *

This all started with little more than my intention fix a few typos, re-master the audio, and get the interview transcribed. It has instead turned into a massive update, and I’m extremely excited about it. This “2.0” version of Delight is in the Details is what the 1.0 should have been.

With the updated content, this book and interview series feels much more complete now. It was predominately about making a case for sweating the details. But it now also gives you an understanding of what that actually looks like when done well, and, most importantly lays before you a roadmap for how you can change the mindset and habits of your own personal work life and even your company’s culture.

The new version comes out this Wednesday, July 23. I’m raising the price to $39, but on launch day it will be on sale for 25-percent off. Everyone who has already bought Delight is in the Details will get the update for free.

Update Coming to ‘Delight is in the Details’

The 2014 Membership Drive and Giveaway

Yes! Welcome to the Fourth Annual Membership Drive and Giveaway. Everyone loves winning free stuff and I love giving it away.

Yesterday I kicked off this year’s membership drive with a heartfelt note. If you haven’t yet read it, please take a minute to do so. The annual membership drive kickoff note is one of the most difficult things I write all year. It’s important to me that I get the words just right to communicate just how grateful I am for the support of all the subscribing members.

Many of you have read yesterday’s article already, and to all of you who have signed up for a new membership in the past 24 hours: thank you! But it’s not just about encouraging new members to sign up. It’s also about reminding current members just how valuable their ongoing support really is. And so, to all the current members who continue to keep their membership active: thank you. And, of course, to those about to join: thank you, too.

I could not be writing here full-time without the generous support of the members. It means the world to me that readers are directly supporting the work I do here.

Ideally, you are signing up to become a member because the value and enjoyment you get from is worth it to you, and the members-only perks are a nice bonus of course. But my job is to try and sweeten the deal as much as possible. And so, I’ve put together some things to be won if you sign up to become a member.

For those of you who have not yet signed up to be a member, there is, as they say, no time like the present.

Seven Boxes of Awesomeness

This year I’m giving away something different. Over the last several months I have personally collected a stash of awesome items, and put them together to make seven unique gift boxes, each with its own theme.

The Seven Boxes of Awesomeness are:

1. Coffee Box A

An Awesome Box

A pair of custom coffee mugs, hand thrown and fired in Denver, Colorado by my friend Matt Jorgensen and which I commissioned specifically for this giveaway; a Hario V60 pour over coffee dripper with filters; and a Kyle Steed print.

2. Coffee Box B

An Awesome Box

A pair of custom handleless coffee mugs, hand thrown and fired in Denver, Colorado by my friend Matt Jorgensen and which I commissioned specifically for this giveaway; an AeroPress coffee maker; and a Kyle Steed print.

3. The Productivity Box

An Awesome Box

A Field Notes Pitch Black pack; one Best Made Co. Famous Red Notebook; a Behance Action Runner in blue; three Signo DX 0.38mm fine-tip gel ink pens (my personal favorite pen); and an Origami Workstation for iPad.

4. The Games Box

An Awesome Box

Includes the Dominion base game and the Puerto Rico board game. Both are favorites here at the Blanc house.

5 & 6: The Dapper boxes

An Awesome Box

A custom silk pocket square courtesy of Need; a silver tie stay, also courtesy of Need; a hardcover copy of the Eighteenth Edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.

7. The Pixel Pusher Box

An Awesome Box

A signed copy of Mike Rhode’s Sketchnote Handbook; a 10-pack of Triplus Fineliner marker pens; a ruled Moleskine notebook; and a United Pixelworkers hat and standard issue patch.

How to Win

  • Anyone who signs up for a membership by midnight CST on Sunday, March 2 will automatically be in the runnings to win something.

  • Current members are, as always, automatically entered to win as well. In short, if you’re an active member as of Sunday night, March 2, then you’re entered to win.

  • You do not have to live in the United States to win.

  • The drawing will be the first week in March. Winners will be contacted by via the email associated with their membership (which is your PayPal email address if you’re a longstanding member still on the PayPal system).

  • If there is a certain box in particular that you’d like to win over another, please fill out this form. I will check it once the winners are drawn and try and assign each winner their first-choice if possible. You do not have to fill out the form to win, only to request a particular prize.

If you haven’t yet signed up to become a member, now would be a good time.

Update on March 3, 2014: The membership drive has come to an end. Thanks so much to all who signed up over the past two weeks, and to all the longstanding members who have supported this site for the past several years. For those who are not signed up as members, you can, of course, sign up at any time. And when you do you get instant access to the members-only podcast, Shawn Today, as well as access to the reruns page which features every show ever recorded (currently 485 episodes and counting).

The 2014 Membership Drive and Giveaway

Reader Supported for Three Years (And Counting…)

Sitting in front of my laptop’s camera, I felt so out of place and a little bit out of my mind.

That was February 2011, when I first announced that I would be quitting my day job to begin writing as my full-time gig. I knew I couldn’t keep writing full-time without some monthly support from a subscribing membership base.

And so I dressed up in my only suit, put on a tie, and recorded a video using the iSight camera on my old, aluminum 15-inch MacBook Pro. I didn’t know what to say then, and, three years in to things, I still don’t know what to say.

I spent several days making that video, trying to get the wording just right. How do you ask people to pay you to write about software, technology, and creativity and stuff?

Well, like this: You just ask. Put your hat out there and leave yourself to the — cough — generosity of your readers. And so here we are. This will be the fourth time I step out from behind the keyboard and hold my hat out and ask for your support.

It boils down to this: I’m writing and publishing the websites I want to read; I am giving all I have to do the best creative work that I can; and I couldn’t do this as my full-time gig without the support of this site’s subscribing members.

It has been an honor and a privilege to write for you, dear reader, these past three years. Though I don’t know what the next three years hold for this website, I hope — and believe — that my best creative work is still before me.

I think there are two elements which form the foundation of a successful creative business: creative freedom and financial stability. Therefore, I define creative success as having the opportunity to do work we’re proud of and the resources to keep doing that work.

In that vein, I consider a success. There isn’t a specific website, blog post, ebook, or podcast episode, that I would point to as being “it”. But that’s the point. I hope that over the past three years, I have contributed a little bit to the ever expanding and ever improving creative space we’re a part of.

I would be glad if I had done no more than to have helped carry on and facilitate our conversations and motivations for doing awesome work, making fantastic things, and feeling empowered to take risks.

For all of you who have been generous with your time over these years, coming here to spend a little bit of time reading, I thank you. And especially to those who have been generous with their money and have signed up for a membership. Your support of this site means the world to me and it serves as an indescribable encouragement that what I’m doing is worthwhile.

Now, that said, let’s talk briefly about this year’s Membership Drive.

A preview of this year’s membership drive and giveaway

This is the fun part… as usual, I’ll be doing a membership drive and giveaway.

Now, I’ll be posting more details about the giveaway tomorrow, but for now let’s just say that it’s very different than anything I’ve done here before.

Instead of hundreds of smaller prizes, I have instead put together just a handful of substantial prizes: Seven Boxes of Awesomeness, put together by myself. Each box has a select few items related to a few specific themes.

A note to current members

All current members are automatically entered to win, of course. The giveaway is not exclusive to new members only.

Secondly, and somewhat unrelated, last year I moved the membership software off of a PayPal-based system and onto a new, Stripe-based system. The new Stripe-based membership is significantly better in many ways. For those of you with memberships still being billed through PayPal, I encourage you to migrate over to the new Stripe system. You can find out all about the why and how right here.

Act now! How to become a member

If the value you get from this website is worth $4/month to you, then I hope you’ll consider signing up to become a member. As a member you’ll get access to my daily podcast, Shawn Today, and you’ll be directly contributing to the work I do here on a daily basis.

Moreover, signing up for a membership now means you’ll be entered to win one of the Seven Boxes of Awesomeness.

Sign up here. Then, tell your friends to sign up, tell your mom to sign up, and give yourself a very high five.

Reader Supported for Three Years (And Counting…)

Introducing The Weekly Briefly Podcast

This week I’m launching a new podcast: The Weekly Briefly.

(Though, if we’re going to be technical about it, it’s not really a new podcast… It’s more like a new spin on my current podcast.)

I’ve been recording and publishing my members-only podcast, Shawn Today, since February 2011. As of this morning I have published 467 episodes. Over the years, topics have run mostly parallel to topics here on — such as software, productivity and time management, photography, design, and more. But I’ve also talked about things I don’t write about, such as impostor syndrome, finances and budgeting, life as a dad, and more. On more than one occasion, Shawn Today has been the seedbed for future articles and reviews here on (Last summer, Shawn Today was even the seedbed for an entire book.)

With Shawn Today now entering its 4th season, I want to change things up a bit. Here’s why:

  • I very much enjoy doing Shawn Today, but I wanted to expand the show’s reach and add something new to the mix to see what would happen.
  • The Weekly Briefly is a way for those who aren’t members to still listen to my podcast (albeit a weekly version instead of the daily), and a way for me to put some of my podcasts out there for anyone and everyone. Because, I believe ideas that spread, win.
  • For those who are members, but who don’t keep up with the daily episodes, now you have an easier target if you want: just listen to the once-a-week show.
  • Hopefully this once-a-week public episode will draw in new subscribers to the members-only daily podcast.

If you’re already listening to Shawn Today, there’s no need to subscribe to The Weekly Briefly because the latter will double as the Friday episode of the former.

My deepest and most sincere thanks to all the subscribing members of this site who listen to the show, give feedback, and enhance the conversation. You’ve made the past 467 episodes of Shawn Today a possibility, and I am very much looking forward to what the next 467 episodes have in store.

Introducing The Weekly Briefly Podcast

Recently, on ‘Shawn Today’

This past week, on my members-only podcast, Shawn Today, I spent 5 episodes on the subject of working from home.

I’ve been working for myself out of my home office for just about 3 years, and, as anyone else who works from home knows, it’s not all coffee and pajamas. Yes, there are many awesome advantages, but there are also many unique challenges and distractions.

While there’s no way I could fully exhaust the topic, I did want to hit a few of the areas that are hot topics for me personally right now. In the weeks ahead, I plan to continue this conversation on the podcast and here in written form as well.

Here’s a quick overview of this week’s episodes:

  • On Monday’s show, I talked about how taking time off is hard and shared some thoughts on working from anywhere and working all the time, and how it’s so easy to do (especially when you work for yourself).

  • On Tuesday’s show, I talked about “The Transition”. That time after work where you decompress from the work day and leave behind what was unfinished, and let it wait for the next work day. I shared some of my own pros and cons of working from home as it relates to having an office just one flight of stairs away, and thus the lack of a transition before and after the work day.

  • On Wednesday I shared many pros and cons to working from home as submitted to me by folks via Twitter in response to this question.

  • Thursday was about how to deal with the being alone (as in, not physically around other coworkers for face-to-face conversation and interaction) in our victories and defeats. When you’re working on a project alone how do you best celebrate the victory of shipping something and how do you best minimize the criticism that comes with a failure, learning from it rather than taking it to heart?

  • And on Friday, I shared some thoughts on defining our work by schedule rather than to-do lists.

A huge thanks to those of you who wrote something of your own, sent in emails, and/or shared your thoughts via Twitter after various episodes. These shows turned out better because of your feedback.

If you’re a current member to the site and haven’t already listened to this week’s podcast episodes, you’ll find them here (as always).

And, of course, if you’re not a member, you can sign up here. It’s $4/month and you’ll get access to the members-only podcast feed and the archive page with links to every single one of the 450 episodes recorded to date (including this week’s series on working from home).

Recently, on ‘Shawn Today’

Introducing The Sweet Setup

Today is the day. It’s here. The Sweet Setup has launched.

There are three groups of people I want to thank:

There is much more to say about the site, but right now I’m busy fixing launch-day typos and broken links. I hope you’re able to take some time to check out the site and read some of our fantastic and considered articles. If you’re not sure where to start, take the Dime Tour.

Introducing The Sweet Setup

See You Next Week

By the time you read this, my laptop lid will be closed and my iPhone’s push notifications turned off for the week.

I don’t know if it’s like this for others, but for me, taking time off is one of the biggest challenges I face as a self-employed person. In the past, when I’ve gone on vacations or spent holidays with the family, I still try to spend at least a little bit of time every day working to keep the site updated.

But for this year’s vacation, I am unplugging from all my inboxes and publishing responsibilities and leaving the writing to someone else.

Friends, I’m pleased to introduce you to my cousin, Nate Spears, who has agreed to step in as the first-ever guest writer for the week.

Nate is 29 days younger than I and was the best man in my wedding. When he and I were 14 we tried to start a comic book company — our drawing skills were pathetic, and my dad was our first and only customer. Now, Nate is a software developer living in Colorado while currently commuting to San Francisco every week bless his soul.

When I was considering who I wanted to hand the reins over to for this week, I knew Nate would be perfect. For one, Nate emails me links to random, interesting, and/or hilarious stuff all the time. This week, instead of sending links and commentary to me through email, I’ve given Nate the keys to the site so he can post things here for you instead. Also, Nate is a great thinker and storyteller, so who knows what he’s got in store for the site.

See You Next Week

Last Call for the Membership Drive Giveaway

Today is the last day of the 2013 Membership Drive. The window of opportunity to win something from the more than $3,000 in prizes in the giveaway closes tonight at Midnight CST.

Update: The giveaway drive is now over and winners will be contacted during the first week of March. The ability to sign up for a Membership to and all the perks that includes, of course, always open.

As a member, you get access to the Shawn Today daily podcast, the new Coffee Methods section of the site, and The Members Journal.

You can sign up for your awesome membership right here.

As a reminder for the giveaway, all active members (new or longstanding) are eligible to win — it’s not just for the new members. If you want to toss your name in the hat for a specific prize from the list please fill out this form. If you end up winning something I’ll do my best to hook you up with the prize you’re interested in.

I am so incredibly grateful and honored by all the friends of the site who’ve generously donated something to to the giveaway. And thanks to all the members who have signed up already over the past two weeks. Without an ounce of hyperbole, I mean it when I say I could not do what I do without your support.

I tend to enter into these drives with two expectations: a low-end expectation of how many people will “probably” sign up, and an optimistic goal of how many people I “hope” will sign up. This year, my low-end expectation was for 100 new members to join. And my hope was for 250 because, well, my wife and I have our second kid on the way and she’ll be quitting her part-time job this fall.

There is still a half-day to go, but already this year’s membership drive has been a success. As of this writing, there have been 115 new member signups. Which means the future of this site continues to look bright. Thank you!

Moreover, quite a few members who were on the PayPal system have migrated their membership over to the new Stripe system. (To those still on the fence about if it’s worth it to migrate your membership, I say go for it. Everything about the Stripe system is just better and easier.)

Something that’s interesting to me is the ratio of Annual Membership signups versus the month-to-month signups. For the previous PayPal-based membership system, about 10-percent of new signups were for the annual membership plan. But on the Stripe-based system, it’s just over 20-percent. I can only attribute this change to the fact that the Annual Membership plan is much more visible on the new signup page.

On the old sign-up page, there was just one button and it was for the standard $3-month plan. And down the page were some text-link options for the Executive Membership and the Annual Memberships. When building the new signup page I was very concerned that showing all 4 membership plans so prominently would actually dissuade people away from signing up at all. But, so far as I can tell, that has not been the case.

Another concern I had was with the price increase. I effectively raised the cost of a membership by 33-percent, from $3/month to $4. But I have not received a single complaint that $4 is too much. Not even from the longstanding members who voluntarily migrated their membership from the $3 PayPal subscription to the new $4 Stripe subscription.

All this to say, I am once again blown away at the generosity of this site’s readership. The membership continues to be the primary source of income allowing me to write here full time. Thanks to everyone who has supported this site over the years through a membership or through simply showing up to read. It means the world to me.

And, though I wanted to, I decided not to post any cute pictures of my 1-year-old son announcing his unborn sibling as a way to tug on your heartstrings and maybe guilt you into becoming a member. I mean, come on. Who would do a thing like that?

Noah is going to be a big brother

Last Call for the Membership Drive Giveaway

The Membership Giveaway

Yesterday was the kickoff to the 2013 membership drive. As mentioned in that post, there is a new membership system which is now based on Stripe. Also, I announced a new, members-only perk: the Coffee Methods section to the website.

Today, I aim to make things even more fun through the giveaway.

But first things first: my sincere thanks to all the new members who’ve signed up in the past 24 hours. Welcome!

Also, thanks to all the current members who have chosen to migrate their membership over to Stripe. For those of you who aren’t sure if you should migrate over to the new system, I hope you will. Unfortunately, I cannot port your membership for you, nor can I merge the two — which means there are two unique systems in place. Those who wish to stay with PayPal will continue to get access to the membership benefits just as they always have. But new Stripe-based system is leaps and bounds better than the PayPal system, removing nearly all of the frustrations and shortcomings of the latter. I apologize for asking you take this extra step, but I think it’s worth it and the feedback I’ve heard from all the members who have migrated so far has been great. Everyone gives Stripe two thumbs up.

For those who haven’t yet signed up for a membership, well, like they say: there’s no time like the present.

Members contribute nearly half of this site’s income. Which means there is no way I could be writing here as my full-time gig without the generous support of the members.

The Giveaway

Ideally, you are signing up to become a member because the value and enjoyment you get from the writing on this site is worth it to you. But, modesty aside, the members-only perks are a sweet bonus as well, if I do say so myself. But that’s not all.

During the next two weeks of this membership drive my chief aim is to try and sweeten the deal as much as possible. Therefore, I’ve arranged for some sweet prizes to give away to all members who are currently active, or who sign up for a membership on or before March 1.

Anyone who signs up for a membership before 11:59 pm CST on Friday night, March 1 is eligible to win. And all members who already have an active membership are automatically eligible as well. In short, if you’re an active member as of Friday night, March 1, then you’re entered to win.

There are a slew of top-notch prizes donated by friends of the site, with an aggregate value of $3,150.

The List of Prizes

How to Win and Other Rules

  • Anyone who signs up for a membership before 11:59 pm CST on Friday, March 1 will automatically be in the runnings to win something.

  • If you are already a member with an active membership, you are eligible to win.

  • You do not have to live in the United States to win — international members are most welcome and most eligible.

  • The drive ends at 11:59 pm CST on March 1, and the drawing will be held sometime the following week. It will be random and I will contact the winners via their PayPal or Stripe email address.

  • If there is a certain prize in particular that you’d like to win over another, please fill out this form. I will check it once the winners are drawn to try and get people a prize they prefer. You do not have to fill out the form to win, only to request a particular prize.

The Membership Giveaway

The 2013 Membership Drive

Welcome to the kickoff of the 3rd Annual Membership Drive.

This is always a fun time of year for me because not only do I get to give away some awesome stuff (check back tomorrow for the giveaway), but I also get to brag on the current members a bit as well as try my best to persuade any and all non-members to sign up.

It’s been two years since I quit my job and began writing as my full-time gig. It’s amazing how vividly I remember being scared out of my wits the morning I announced my intentions to take this site full time. It’s worked out well so far, and I have every intention of continuing.

What’s New This Year?

This year there are some new and fancy things to take note of. For one, the membership system now uses Stripe for processing payments. Secondly, there is a new member’s only section to the site.

Stripe for Payment Processing

The entire membership subscription system has been completely redone. I’ve abandoned PayPal for Stripe, and I’ve integrated the members-only sections into the site in a far more easy-to-use manner.

The new Stripe-based membership system is just fantastic. I switched because Stripe allows for several advantages, including: (a) more reliable billing (many members’ subscriptions have been suspended for no reason, other than a bug in PayPal), (b) easier way to find and access Shawn Today, along with overall better integration with the content on, and (c) easier membership management and administration for me.

It really is a significant upgrade the the entire membership system. If you’ve been waiting to become a member, there is no better time than now.

Note to current members who signed up using PayPal: If you wish to move to the new Stripe system, you will have to migrate yourself. I wish I could port your membership for you but I cannot. I apologize for asking you take this extra step, but I think it’s worth it.

Current members have two options:

  1. You can keep your current PayPal membership subscription active and continue enjoying the membership benefits as you have. Nothing will change for those who stay with PayPal.
  2. Or you can move to the new Stripe system and cancel your PayPal subscription.

To migrate your membership from PayPal to Stripe, here’s what to do:

  • Sign up for the new Stripe-based membership here.
  • Cancel your PayPal Membership via this link

If you have any trouble, any questions, or if you need a refund for a recent PayPal billing, please do not hesitate to email me.

Coffee Methods: The New, Members-Only Perk

I’m introducing a new content section to the site: Coffee Methods. This new members-only section is filled with my favorite recipes for AeroPress, French Press, Siphon Vacuum Pot, and Clever dripper. It also includes gear recommendations (such as grinders, brewing contraptions, coffee storage, etc.), and videos (gear overview and how-tos). All for the express purpose of brewing and enjoying good coffee.

My Humble Request

Over the years, this site’s membership base has continued to be the primary source of income allowing me to write here full time. Moreover, the feedback I get regarding Shawn Today proves to me that the perks alone are worth the price of admission.

If the value and enjoyment you get from this site is worth $4/month, then I would be humbled and honored to have your support as a subscribing member. Thank you.

The 2013 Membership Drive