If you’d like to get a little more organized and focused in your life, then check this out…

Next week I’m teaching a free, one-hour class that goes behind the scenes with my two personal productivity frameworks.

This is great even for folks who hate productivity and organization. (Seriously!)

When I taught this class about 6 weeks ago, it had the most registrations of any workshop we’ve hosted before.

You don’t want to miss this.

What we’ll cover at the workshop

  • How to eliminate 90% of the busywork, urgency, and procrastination from your week.
  • How to get more breathing room in your schedule (even if it feels impossible).
  • How everyone in my company is able to take off two months (paid) every year.
  • Our two productivity frameworks: The 5 Components of a Focused Life and the 4-Focus Method
  • BONUS: Free “Productivity Flywheel” cheat sheet.
  • BONUS: Productivity Templates: Get a free copy of our daily, weekly, monthly planning templates.

RSVP here for your link to join us live (or to get replay access).

How to (mostly) eliminate busywork and procrastination

The Apple Watch Apps I Use

Getting the Apple Watch, I didn’t know what to expect.

I’ve worn a watch for years. In part because I often want to know what time it is, but also because it’s one more “barrier” to keep me from pulling out my iPhone.

Do you ever do this? Do you pull your iPhone out of your pocket in order to check the time. But before you know it, you’ve already unlocked the thing and you’re half-way through your Twitter timeline before you realize what you’re doing? And then you don’t even remember what time it is (which was the whole reason you got your phone out in the first place)?

I used to (still often do, alas) do that all the time. And it drives me nuts. I want to be more intentional about when I’m going to mindlessly check twitter.

Earlier this spring, after having the Apple Watch for just a week, I wrote about how it was Just Smart Enough.

So, several months in with the Apple Watch. Do I still wear it? Is it still “just smart enough?” How do I use it? Has Apple Watch changed my life and will I ever be the same?

The short answer to those questions is that yes, I still wear my Watch every day, and I think it’s fantastic and convenient and helpful. But if I didn’t have it, I would still get by just fine.

The longer answer to those questions is below…

The Main Complications

The vast majority of how I use my watch is to tell time, check the current temperature, or set a timer.

In fact, being able to see the weather on my wrist at a glance is awesome. It sounds so simple, but, it’s the little things in life, you know?

The Apps I Don’t Use

I thought I’d start off by sharing the apps I don’t use.

The promise of being able to check email, calendars, and stocks, and to answer phone calls from your watch are cool. But for me, I don’t want the Watch to replace my iPhone. I want the Watch to help me stay connected in the ways that are important to me, and allow me to use my phone less frequently.

Some of the apps I don’t use include email, the phone, (tip) calculator, podcasts, the Camera, OmniFocus, and Twitter.

Of course, now that I’ve got the iPhone 6s Plus (a.k.a. the Airplane Wing), I may start putting my shopping list on my watch.

The Apps I Do Use

Aside from the timer and the weather apps/complications, these are the other apps I use on a regular basis:

  • Fitness + Activity: I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve gotten out of my running regimen. Ironically, building and launching The Focus Course, followed by a long vacation to Colorado, a trip to Atlanta, another to Dallas, and then the building and launching of a new product (announcement about that coming soon), has all accumulated into a wrench being thrown into my daily fitness routine.

  • Remote: The remote to our Apple TV just stopped working about one week before the new Apple TV was announced. Instead of replacing the remote, we’re waiting to replace the whole box. And in the meantime, the Remote app on my Apple Watch has gotten much more use.

  • Alarm: With “nightstand mode” in WatchOS 2.0, I started using the alarm on my Watch instead of my iPhone. And I discovered that the Watch’s alarm is night-and-day less obnoxious than the iPhone’s. So now I use the Watch alarm to wake in the morning instead.

  • Messages: Getting incoming text messages on the Watch is one of my favorite features. Not only does it serve as an additional reason not to get my phone out all the time, but it also means that I can leave my iPhone on the mantle in our kitchen and still be reachable via text / phone call.

This is great for two reasons: (1) the iPhone 6s Plus isn’t as pocketable as my previous phones have been; and (2) it means my boys see me using my iPhone less frequently.

  • Slack: I also get notifications on my Watch for Slack messages. Since this is how the Blanc Media team communicates, it’s important for me to be reachable through private messages or mentions.

  • Music remote control: When using the iPhone to play music through a bluetooth speaker or to my bluetooth earbuds, the watch makes a very convenient remote control.

  • Apple Pay: Once you’ve used your Watch to pay for something, it’s hard to go back. So easy, so quick, so awesome.

* * *

After five months, the Watch gets far less “nerdy” usage than I originally thought it would get. And yet, at the same time, it has proven to be far more useful — and fun! — than I expected.

It’s an expensive little gadget, but I think it’s worth it. I’m excited to see what the future holds for the Watch.

The Apple Watch Apps I Use

Apple Watch Tips, Tricks, and Other Miscellany

Wearing the Apple Watch

Deleting Watch Faces

As you know, force pressing on your Watch face from the watch face screen gives you the option to change and customize your Watch’s watch face.

Stephen Hackett has written a rundown of each face, and Jason Snell has slowly been reviewing them one by one.

But I have a few additional tips I haven’t seen around:

First off, as you scroll through the list of faces, you can remove any face from this list that you don’t want in there.

Swipe up on the face and you’ll get the option to delete it. Note that you’re not actually deleting that face from your Watch, you’re simply removing it from the list of quick-access watch faces.

At the end of the watch face list is the option to add a new face. From here you can add a new instance of any one of the watch face types. So, if you deleted your previous instance of the Mickey Mouse face, you can bring him back.

Adding and Saving Watch Faces

Now, what’s especially great about the ability to add new faces isn’t to bring back ones you’ve deleted, but because you can have more than one customized version of a face.

In short, your list of watch faces can be a customized collection of various face designs and functionality to suit your needs. This is one of the main advantages of a digital smart watch.

As seen in the photo at the top of this article, my most-frequently-used Watch face is Utility. I have the dial set to show the least amount of detail as possible with day and date at 3 o’clock. The top-right corner tells me the outside temperature, and the top left corner shows my activity rings.

However, last weekend I was at a wedding and wanted something a bit more simple and classy to go with my suit. So I created a customized version of the Simple watch face with no dial at all, and no complications other than the weather in the top right corner. Furthermore, the second hand color was set to match my pocket square (I mean, why not?).

Another favorite watch face is Modular. Over a regular weekend, when chances are I’m outside, I often use Modular with all sorts of complications enabled: weather, timer, when sunset is, etc. These are all the things that are especially relevant and helpful to me if I’m doing yard work.

While Modular certainly lends itself to being filled up with data, it also can make for an extremely simple face design — just turn off all or most of the complications.

Lastly, I have an alternate version of Utility that is just like the one mentioned above but with the Timer complication enabled in the bottom center. This is handy for when I’m cooking on the backyard grill and need to set (and see) repeating timers for checking the chicken, etc.

The watch face is the main “Home screen” of Apple Watch. And therefore the design and complications in use play a huge role in how you use and interact with your Apple Watch. Having a few different faces saved for quick-access is pretty helpful.

Read the Manual

In the box that your Apple Watch came in, there’s a small user’s guide. It outlines just a few of the basic interactions and functions of your Watch. If, like me, you ignored it when your Watch first came, take a moment to read over it. You’ll probably learn something new — I did.

(This tip, along with the next one, I picked up from John Gruber during his episode of The Talk Show with David Sparks.)

Set Text to Bold

This one is a non-obvious tip, and some may not like it, but you should at least give it a shot.

Go to the settings app within your Watch, tap on “Brightness and Text Size” and set Bold Text to be on. It will require your Watch to reboot (takes just a minute).

Here are a few examples of how bold (top) and non-bold (bottom) look:

Apple Watch with bold and unbold text

As you can see in the screenshots, it’s not truly bold — it’s more like semi-bold, or medium. It makes certain text elements on your Watch ever so slightly readable, and on such a tiny computer screen that’s something that can be a nice change.

Try Force Pressing on Every Screen

One of the slightly non-obvious interaction methods with your Watch is to force press on various screens.

Force pressing on the watch face is how you’re able to switch and customize different face designs.

Force pressing in an iMessage thread with someone gives you the options to reply to that person, see their contact details, or send your location to them.

Force pressing on an activity ring screen (Stand, Move, Exercise) gives you the option to change your move goal.

And many 3rd-party apps implement force pressing as well. You never know where it will present something useful.

Disable the Option Prompt for Sending Audio or Dictation

If you’ve ever tried dictating a text message to your Watch, you probably know it’s a bit of a hassle. Cool, yes. Super seamless, not always.

For me, one thing that was an extra step was that after dictating the message to my Watch and waiting for Siri to roundtrip with my iPhone in order to translate, I then had to tap “Done” and then had to choose if I wanted to send the audio recording of my dictation or the actual text.

I always sent the text, never the audio. If you’re in the same boat, there’s a setting that will save you a step. Simply do this:

Launch the Apple Watch app on your phone, scroll down to “Messages” and then tap on “Audio Messages”. From there you have the option to always do just Dictation or just the audio recording of your voice.

Customize Your Default Text Message Replies

From the same settings screen as above (Apple Watch app on your iPhone → Messages), you can also set your own default replies.

Customize your default text message replies on Apple Watch

There are six slots available for you to customize. And these default replies are what you see when you go to compose a new text message to someone from your Watch.

You also see these replies at the end of the list when you are replying to an incoming message. Apple Watch does a pretty good job at thinking for you about what you may want to say in certain situations, and so those canned responses are at the top. If you don’t like any of them, you can keep scrolling to get to your six default replies.

Locking the Screen

Did you know that if you put your hand over the entire Watch face it will lock the screen? Yes, you could lower your wrist. But if you need some closure and want to see that the screen has locked, simply cover the whole face.

Reverse Crown

Though I personally prefer the standard crown placement, if you’d prefer to have the crown on the left side instead of the right, there’s a setting for that.

Craig Hockenberry calls it the Reverse Crown and he highly recommends it.

Go to the settings app on your Watch → General → Orientation → and then tap “Left” for Crown placement.

This is also where you can tell your Apple Watch that you are left handed.

Siri Tips

Over on iMore, Rene Ritchie has, naturally, put together a comprehensive rundown of what Siri can do on your Apple Watch. And it’s quite a bit, actually: set reminders, alarms, and timers; send messages; launch apps; show the weather or time for anywhere.

The things I most often use Siri for are setting timers and sending messages. Because Siri on your Watch has to go through your iPhone in order to parse what it is you’re saying and fetch results, it’s not always the fastest option.

I’ve tried setting location-based reminders — “When I get home, remind me to upload the files for Josh” — but they rarely work.

As you probably know, you can bring Siri up in one of two ways: either pressing and holding on the Digital Crown, or else raising your wrist and saying “Hey Siri…”

And so, my biggest tip for how to use Siri is this: when you bring up Siri by talking — “Hey Siri…” — keep on talking. Especially if you have a multi-layered command. Such as sending a message to someone.

So, for example, if you’re sending a message, say the whole command and the text message all at once: “Hey Siri, send a message to my wife I’m on my way.” Saying it all at once will bring up Siri, translate your message, and then put you into the Messages app with the text ready to send. From there you can say “Hey Siri, Send.” (Thanks, Jason!)

For the situations where you need hands free but can’t get Siri to work, fortunately Apple Watch recognizes touch input from your nose.

Apple Watch Tips, Tricks, and Other Miscellany

Just Smart Enough

Apple Watch

Does this sound familiar? You pull your iPhone out to check the time, and the next thing you know you’ve been scrolling through Twitter for 6 minutes and now you’re reading about the migration patterns of cats. You don’t even like cats.

I’ve worn a wristwatch for years. For one, I like to know what time it is. But also, wearing a watch is an excellent solution to passively checking Twitter and Instagram when all I wanted to know was the time.

Last year I wrote an article in praise of my analog watch. In short it was about how my analog watch does one thing well: tell time.

Now, my affinity for analog watches doesn’t mean I’m against the concept of the smartwatch. But after 8 years of having an iPhone within arm’s reach, my experience has taught me that the promise of convenient notifications and relevant information at your fingertips is almost always paired with the reality of distractions, tugs for attention, and perhaps even an addiction to the “just checks”.

Having the Internet in your pocket isn’t always roses and ice cream.

* * *

Naturally, I pre-ordered my Apple Watch the morning it went on sale. The little critter arrived just over a week ago.

As a gadget geek, I think Apple Watch is awesome. It looks great, it has some gorgeous watch faces, the fitness tracking and goals are fantastic and healthily addictive, and it pairs so well with my iPhone.

But just because it’s an awesome and fun gadget doesn’t guarantee it’s helpfulness. As I wrote at the beginning of this article, one of the reasons I wear a watch is so I can check the time without using my iPhone.

Not to be all philosophical, but one of the big question that’s been looming in my mind regarding Apple Watch is this: For those who want to spend less time staring at their iPhone, will Apple Watch make that easier?

After a week — which, admittedly, is a very short amount of time — my answer to the above question is yes: Apple Watch makes it easier to leave my iPhone alone.

Apple Watch fits, appropriately, right between a smartphone and a dumb watch. Apple Watch is certainly more feature-rich and “connected” than my analog watches ever were, yet it’s not anywhere near an “iPhone 2.0” type of product.

In other words, Apple Watch is just powerful enough to be useful and fun, but not so powerful that it’s distracting or frustrating.

Apple Watch certainly could be distracting if you let it. But that’s easily avoided by not installing too many apps or allowing too many types of incoming notifications. Where Watch differs from iPhone is that the former is not very good at being a passive entertainment device.

While you can install apps such as Instagram and Twitterrific on your Watch, using them is like reading the news on a postage stamp. Doable but not delightful.

Just Smart Enough

For me, there are three things that make Apple Watch great so far: Notifications that matter, activity tracking, and Complications.


On my phone I already get only the most sacred of notifications: text messages, Twitter DMs, Slack Mentions and PMs, emails from VIPs, event reminders, Reminder reminders, new calendar events added to my shared calendars, Vigil alerts, Dark Sky weather alerts.

It sounds like a lot when listed out all at once, but aside from text messages, the vast majority of those things rarely ever fire. In fact, I take pride in how infrequently my iPhone beeps or buzzes.

And on my watch, I get tapped even less: text messages, event reminders, and Dark Sky weather alerts only.

We’ll see how this pans out over time, but so far getting just these few types of notifications on my wrist have proven to be immensely helpful and not the least bit annoying.

And using the Watch for messages is usually great. For the vast majority of the friends and family whom I text message with throughout the day, we communicate with emojis and short quips — something the Watch is perfectly suited for.


The activity tracking has is great. Too great, perhaps…

Getting those rings filled every day has become so compelling. It’s too soon to tell if it’s simply the fun of a new “game” that will soon wear off, or if the awareness of my activity along with the daily goals will bring about an improvement in my healthy activity and behavior.


As for the Watch face, I’ve settled in on Utility. I have the detail dialed down to the most simple possible. And I’ve three complications set up: activity rings in the upper left corner, current temperature in the upper right corner, and day + date on the face. Each morning I change the accent color, usually to match my shirt, because why not?

Apple Watch

At a glance I can see the time and the current temp, which is so nice. I’m getting ready to go for a run, should I plan to go to the gym or is it nice enough to run outside? … We’re about to load the kids up in the car, do they need jackets right now?

I have a secondary version my Utility watch face saved that has the timer complication at the bottom center. When grilling (which we do about 3 times a week now that the weather is warming up), it is great to have the timer just one tap away on my wrist.

As Ben Thompson wrote yesterday:

Complications are invaluable, and the delta between pulling out your phone to check your calendar, or the weather, versus looking at your wrist is massive.

Agreed. It’s the complications and the basic notifications that make Apple Watch just smart enough. Taking a little bit of time to set up what I do and don’t want on my watch has already paid dividends.

There is still much to be improved about the Watch’s core functionality (such as improvements with Siri dictation (editing, anyone?), and 3rd-party apps that don’t have to round trip to the iPhone). However, my first impression of the Apple Watch has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s attractive, useful, and, most of all, fun.

Just Smart Enough

Speaking of Watch faces, Ben Brooks makes the case for how the Watch is an ideal gadget for nice events. It looks great when dressed up, you can customize the watch face to suit your outfit, and because of the discretion of notifications on the Watch, you’re not pulling your phone out all the time when at a social event. That’s pretty much exactly why I got a Watch — less reason to use my iPhone when out and about.

And speaking of customize the watch face to suit your outfit, one thing I love about Apple Watch is that you can save your various customized faces.

At first I thought you could only have one customized face of each type, and if you wanted to change that Watch face up you had to dive in and customize it again. But that’s not true, you can add as many custom Watch faces as you like and then have the handful of your favorites all at your fingertips. So you can have your go-to everyday Watch face, your work-out Watch face, etc.

The Discreet Watch

Stephen Hackett gives a rundown of the 10 different Watch faces:

While having so many options is great, many of the faces have frustrating limitations in the ways they can be customized or used.

Agreed: I’d love to get more ability to customize / swap-out different elements from different faces. But that’s just a minor quibble, really. About five days in with my Watch, and the faces are hands down one of my favorite features.

I’ve been mostly using the Utility face with the most basic detail allowable, activity rings in the upper left and current temp in the upper right. Then I’ll customize the color of the second hand and the date depending on what I’m wearing. Kinda dorky? Sure. But why not have fun with it?

The Modular and X-Large faces are also pretty fantastic. And I had no idea about just how interactive and cool the Astronomy face is.

Stephen Hackett On Apple Watch faces