Monk Mode for All the Things

This week I have been in monk mode, working on the video tutorial screencasts for All the Things.

Things are coming together (no pun intended), and they’re looking awesome!

I purchased ScreenFlow 7 from the Mac App Store on Monday and have already spent a solid 50+ hours in the app. If you do any sort of screen casting, ScreenFlow is what you want.

At the beginning of the week my screen casting workflow was all sorts of weird. I’ll probably write more about it later, but let’s just say that after 3 days of very slow-going progress, I tried a different approach that literally reduced my creation and production time by 75%.

As I’ve been working my way through every nook and cranny of Things 3, the process has endeared me even more to this app. I’ve been using Things 3 since it was in beta, but this process of teaching people how to use the app has, obviously, caused me to become even more familiar with it than I already was.

That familiarity has given me an increased confidence and joy when using this app day in and day out. Plus, I myself have even learned a handful of new tricks that are pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

All that said, because I have been so heads down doing these video tutorials, I broke the chain of my daily blogging schedule. Alas.

Between November 28 and January 26 I published an item every single day. 59 days; 59 blog posts. I am bummed to have broken the streak, but I will be picking it back up again.

I have quite a few thoughts on the value and importance of writing and publishing daily. But, these past two weeks I’ve been focused on creating something that is currently more important, and so something had to give.

It has been challenging and fun to create all of this. And I love that we are seeing it all start to come together. Can’t wait to share it.

Monk Mode for All the Things

Behind the Scenes: Shooting Video for ‘All the Things’

Yesterday we shot eight of the videos for All the Things.

Many people have asked me about my video recording setup, so I thought it’d be fun to share some behind-the-scenes details from yesterday’s shoot, and also walk you through our process and the gear we use.


First, a bit of context…

These videos are part of my upcoming course, All the Things, which we are on track to launch in a few weeks.

The course will actually have two parts:

  • Part 1 will be in-depth tutorials on how to use the app, Things 3.

  • Part 2 — which is basically a whole other course in and of itself — is where I go into detail about my best practices, templates, personal systems, and more for managing your tasks and being productive (including a very detailed walk-through of my “hybrid productivity method”).

It was yesterday that we recorded all the videos for Part 2.

The Process

Outlining and planning: I spent several days last week and this week going over all the feedback and input from our survey responses, making sure that I was addressing all the most important topics and questions.

Writing: Then I outline and write all my course scripts in Ulysses (of course). Once written, I read through each script out loud and adjust the language so it sounds natural as I speak it.

Recording: Once the course video scripts are ready, I transfer them onto my TelePrompTer app (more on that below), and we transform the office into a recording studio.

Personal, side-note abut using a Teleprompter… When I first did video shoots like this for The Focus Course, I felt somewhat disingenuous using a Teleprompter. It felt like having pre-scripted talking points took away from the genuineness of the video. But in reality, using a TelePrompTer is just smart. It means I can stay on topic and communicate more clearly. If anything, using a telemprompter is more genuine because it allows me to spend time beforehand carefully considering what it is I want to say, and then ensure I say those things.

With everything set up, we are ready to record. Some videos I’m able to knock out in one take. And some take a few tries.

Yesterday we were in a groove, and we recorded every single video in one take…. except, for one… For the audio, we use a lav mic plugged into my iPhone. And though I had my phone on Do Not Disturb, my mom called me toward the end of one of the video shoots. Since she’s a Favorite her calls go through, and even though I didn’t answer the incoming call caused my recording app to stop its background recording, and thus we had to re-shoot the final 5 minutes of one video. (Hi, mom! 👋)

Gear List

Okay, if you’re interested in the nerdy details, here they are:

  • I use Ulysses to write and plan all the video scripts.
  • This Teleprompter app paired with my Apple bluetooth keyboard. The keyboard is kept by my foot and I tap the space bar to start and stop the scrolling words. This allows me to move through the script at my own pace, which is so nice.
  • This Teleprompter rig is how I set my iPad Pro up to function as the teleprompter.
  • For recording audio, we use this Lavalier Microphone plugged into my iPhone with Røde iPhone app.
  • Camera: Canon 6D with either the 50mm f/1.4 or the 20-70mm f/2.8 that we borrowed from a friend.
  • These umbrella lights.
  • This Tripod, that has an adjustable telescoping extension so we could shoot the overhead video where I walk through exactly how I use my notebook and set up the different pages for my weekly and daily planning, etc.

If you have questions, or suggestions, hit me up on Twitter: @shawnblanc.

Behind the Scenes: Shooting Video for ‘All the Things’

Ryan Holiday defines a commonplace book thusly:

A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits.

More or less, my commonplace book exists within both Ulysses and Day One. With the former holding my ideas and quotes, and the latter holding my observations and information.

Over on The Sweet Setup, my friend Chris Bowler wrote a three-part series on keeping a commonplace book. Part One gets in to the what and why, and parts two and three get in to the details of how to toss all that stuff in to Day One.

Keeping a Commonplace Book with Ulysses or Day One

After considerable deliberation, over on The Sweet Setup, Things 3 has become our new pick for the best productivity app.

I was an avid Things user way back in the day, but then switched to OmniFocus because of over-the-air sync. About a year ago I switched to Todoist for a few months, and then back to Things when version 3 shipped in the spring of 2017.

As I wrote back in December, Things 3 has been getting consistent updates since it shipped. And many of those updates have been some of the most commonly requested features that I’ve seen — such as adding in the ability to have repeating to-dos within projects, keyboard shortcuts to iPad (basic, but still better than none at all), iOS drag and drop support, and the Send to Things email feature.

Things has been around for quite a while, and over the years Cultured Code had developed somewhat of a reputation for shipping awesome updates and then going silent and letting their product begin to stagnate. But from where I’m sitting, that is no longer the case.

You can read the full review here (were we also casually announce something brand new that is in the works).

The Best Task-Management App

Over on The Sweet Setup, Marius Masalar wrote an epic article detailing how to use an iPad for your photography workflows.

I’m still loving and using my Olympus gear, but I can’t remember the last time I opened up Lightroom on my Mac. These days I import, edit, save, and share photos from my camera almost exclusively on my iPhone or iPad. And Marius’ article has shown me some awesome new tricks.

For one: I just downloaded Cascable, as an alternative to the “official” Oi. Share app. With Cascable you can remotely control your camera and wirelessly import photos. The interface is about a million times better. Though it does seem to be a bit slower at importing photos over the WiFi connection.

Using an iPad for photography workflows

Speaking of notebooks, if you like the idea of using an analog notebook but you do not like the idea of filling in all the details on your own, you should definitely check out Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner.

In my office I’ve got one each of the Freedom Journal, Mastery Journal, Best Self Journal, Passion Planner, and a Cultivate What Matters planner.

Of all of these, I think the the Full Focus Planner is the best one. Though I don’t use it personally — I prefer the blank pages of my Baron Fig — the Full Focus planner emphasizes the things that matter most for managing your day and doing the things that matter. I basically follow a very similar structure in my own notebook, but I fill it in myself.

The Full Focus Planner

Matt Ragland’s Minimalist Bullet Journal for Productivity

A few weeks ago my friend, Matt Ragland, posted this video showcasing how he uses his notebook for planning out his day, week, and month.

There are two things I like about this video. For one, Matt’s journal is not a picturesque scrapbook. While I love the gorgeous lettering and sketches that so many people do with their notebooks, for me, I need something more basic and pragmatic.

Secondly, and most importantly, I found many really interesting ideas in here. Particularly, I love how Matt maps out his week with 10 time blocks of 4 hours each (see below and at the 08:29 mark in the video). These time blocks help him gauge if he is spending too much time in one are (such as meetings) and not enough time in another area (such as reading).

Matt Ragland Minimalist Bullet Journal for Productivity

If you’ve never taken a week to track how you are spending your time, you should try it. If you dare.


Anyway, speaking of notebooks, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Baron Fig Confidant notebook. I’ve been using one to plan my day for almost four years now, and I have some thoughts on the analog planning approach that I want to share about, particularly as it relates to the seeming tediousness of it.

In the next few weeks you can expect me to dive in to the nerdy details of how I use my notebook to take action and keep moving forward.

Matt Ragland’s Minimalist Bullet Journal for Productivity

The Law of Diminishing Intent

This is a principle that Jim Rohn taught. It goes like this:

The longer you wait to take action, the less likely you are to take action.

Meaning, when you get clarity about something because of a lightbulb moment when in the shower, or you get advice from someone that just makes sense, that’s when you have the most energy to take action.

Thus, whatever it is, you should take action as quickly as possible. Immediately if possible. Why? Because, over time, your intention and motivation for taking action will diminish.

Michael Hyatt, whom I first learned this from, says to “never leave the scene of clarity without taking action.”

For the sake of taking action, the best thing you can do is act now. If, for some reason, you cannot act now, make a note to yourself about what you need to do and then follow your own advice as soon as possible.

Many folks, for whatever reason, are prone to waiting. Why? What purpose does it serve to sit on it?

Often we delay because of fear or doubt. In his book, The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday writes:

Life can be frustrating. Oftentimes we know wha our problems are. We may even know what to do about them. But we fear that taking action is too risky, that we don’t have the experience or that it’s not how we pictured it or because it’s too expensive, because it’s too soon, because we think something better might come along, because it might now work.

And you know what happens as a result? Nothing. We do nothing.

Choosing not to move forward has the same result as being stuck, unable to move forward at all.

Holiday continues to say that courage, at its most basic level, is really just taking action.

Once you are clear on what needs to be done, there is no advantage in procrastination. Take action and move on.

The Law of Diminishing Intent

Okay, this is going to be a lot of fun.

In about a month from now, on February 14, I’m hosting a live, interactive, virtual workshop. (i.e. the whole thing will be online, and it’s not a webinar).

During the workshop, we’ll be going through a good amount of the material from The Focus Course, with an emphasis on getting clarity about the things that are important to you right now and taking ownership of your time.

A few things you should know:

  • The cost is $20.
  • It is limited to the first 50 people.
  • There will be no replay.
  • 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Operation Broken Silence, which is an awesome non-profit that serving the people of Sudan.

Sign up here.

Live, Interactive Workshop with Yours Truly

Jordan Critz Playlist on Apple Music

A few weeks ago, thanks to the “Pure Focus” playlist put together by Apple Music editors, I discovered some new music by Jordan Critz.

Critz is a composer and has done quite a bit of work for movies and television. But last year he stopped writing for licensing and began to write his own music.

(The MusicBed blog has a great behind-the-scenes look with photos and information about the recording and production of his most recent EP, which was done at a church-turned-studio with a 30-piece orchestra.)

On iTunes there are now several of his original works in the form of singles and EPs. And they are all just fantastic.

I’ve complied everything he’s put up on iTunes into a single playlist and it’s what I’ve been writing to lately.

Loving This Music by Jordan Critz

Just wanted to give you all a heads up that right now is your last chance day to get access to Plan Your Year. This evening I will be closing the doors and you’ll have to wait until 2019.

What makes Plan Your Year so cool is that it’s a “done for you” approach to mapping out your upcoming year. It is quite a bit more than just putting events on a calendar and making an unordered list of hopes and dreams.

The Plan Your Year workbook has nine sections. And through them I’ve removed all the guesswork for you — all you have left to do is fill in the blanks. (I even recorded a video that walks you through every single section of the workbook, explaining in more detail what that section is for and how to fill it out.)

Through the workbook, I help you write out goals that are actually achievable and that align with the areas of life that matter to you. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever set a goal because you felt obligated to, and then it was like an annoying woodpecker on your shoulder constantly nagging at you.)

This is the exact same process my wife and I have been going through every January since about 2011. In fact, we’ll be sitting down to do our own 2018 Plan Your Year session later this week. (See? It’s not too late!)

I think you’ll be surprised at how liberating it is to write down your goals for the year. Not to mention, once you have your goals written down, you are significantly more likely to accomplish them.

All that said, if you’ve been on the fence, today is your last chance to get the Plan Your Year workbook. After tonight I will be shutting down access until 2019.

thefocuscourse.com/plan-your-year/

Last Call for Plan Your Year Access

David Heinemeier Hansson writing for the Basecamp blog:

You’re not very likely to find that key insight or breakthrough idea north of the 14th hour. Creativity, progress, and impact does not yield easily or commonly to brute force.

I love that last line. Which is why I emphasized it.

Coming back to yesterday’s link about the Warren Buffett documentary, one of the things Buffett said was that he enjoyed spending time to just sit and think:

Many people would see [sitting and thinking] as totally unproductive. But many of my best business solutions and money-problem answers have come from periods of just sitting and thinking.”*  Some folks do need to be told to get off their butts and get moving. But some folks need to be told the opposite — to take a break, to sit down, go take a walk or go to bed. I have to tell myself the latter almost every day, because I’m an “all-in” sort of person and so my tendancy can be to work all the time.

Creativity, progress, inspiration, and impact are things which require action as well as inaction. Give yourself time to think and rest, as well as time to do to work.

Let’s bury the hustle

An excellent list of things to consider and think about and nod your head in agreement of. I haven’t even seen the documentary yet, but it sounds excellent.

You can watch the whole documentary on YouTube here.

Here are a couple of excerpts from Bourke’s list that especially stuck out to me.

15. On Focus:

One time Warren was at Bill’s house for dinner and Bills dad asked them to write down on a piece of paper what was one word to describe their success.

“Focus.”

They both wrote down the exact same word.

Amen to that.

5. On Investing:

[Buffett] learned the two rules of investing from the same Benjamin Graham mentioned above.


  1. Never lose money.
  2. Never forget rule number one.


These two rules can be applied to many aspects outside of investing. Set the system up so you always win. Whatever your goals may be, alter the first rule to suit you.

Nearly seven years ago I started writing full-time. And since that time I’ve created a handful of other websites and products. My rule has always been to spend less on the creation of the product than what I was confident I could earn back. As a result, everything I’ve ever done has been profitable. The investments I’ve made back into my business have been the best investments I’ve made.

Points 7, 8, 9, and 13 are also brilliant.

(Thanks Mike, and Dan, and Jason)

21 Things Daniel Bourke Learned From Watching ‘Becoming Warren Buffett’