Creativity and Focus with Shawn Blanc

Shawn Blanc is a writer I constantly learn and indulge information from. What I personally like is the simplification and boiled down method of his main topics, Creativity and Focus.

His work makes it easy for you to read and consume in bite-size chunks. (If you’d like something chunkier, you can always sign up to one of his courses).

Most people know him of the brains behind The Sweet Setup and his courses for Ulysses, Day One and more.

For me, the most interesting part of his work is his online blog (https://shawnblanc.net/). Reading each post in many ways provides a little motivational boost of energy. While his blogs aren’t daily, (less is more) seeing them pop up in my RSS feed is a delight.

I’ve compiled some of my favourites from Shawn Blanc, with quotes and links to his blog posts.

Some personal highlights from Shawn Blanc

17th April 2020 - 6am Writing

This post focuses on his daily routine (and a little OK-To-Wake Clock advert for good measure). Shawn details how he usually gets up just after 6am which gives him an hour to himself before parenting kicks in.

Shawn spends the ‘early hour’ before 7:15am making coffee and writing for 30 to 45 minutes. He picks up on the fact that he hasn’t been very productive lately, which focuses on self reflection, something that I definitely need to do more often!

Shawn talks about the distractions he has during his work day such as busywork around the house, which he’s collated into a handy task list. This refers to a methodology I use all the time.

When I suddenly feel overwhelmed or stressed in work, writing tasks down with physical paper and pen is the way forward! It’s like laying out your tasks onto the table and then deciding which ones are the important or ‘key’ tasks I should be doing first.

Shawn touches on routines becoming so much more important. This is especially key now when everyone is staying at home. It made me realise, routine is what keeps me going, no doubt.

Shawn then references Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule. This shows you a simple idea of having large chunks of your day blocked out for certain tasks. He talks about the simplicity of it and how ‘diversions’ such as reading and admin work is accounted for.

Shawn finishes by discussing time blocking and how he constantly reviews his daily schedule. If you’re mid-transition of working from home now with additional distractions, time blocking is the best way to combat that. It lets you regain control of your day and can help you make sure you’re spending your time effectively doing what’s most important.

I don’t know if this early wake and write will be my new normal. But it’s working right now and that is what matters’.


25th November 2019 - A Blank iPhone First Home Screen

Shawn references the book Make Time By Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky (this book is next on my reading list). The book goes in-depth about reclaiming time and improving focus. One of these methods is to move all the apps from your Home Screen.

His screenshot shows his iPhone Home Screen after re-shuffling with only his essential apps in the dock. Bear, Messages and Apple Music and nothing else on the Home Screen.

The reasoning behind this is to add friction to unnecessary apps (which is almost all of them).

‘…a small little meteor rock can strike the earth and create a huge crater - so too can small little interactions with our phones end up creating huge craters of time in our day’

In summary, genuinely sit down and look at your phone’s Home Screen. Spend 15 minutes just deciding what’s actually important. I was trying to justify a couple of apps such as the Camera app, Calendar, Email etc. No excuses for Camera - just access it from the lock screen, Calendar I can swipe down and search if I need it.

Emails, I should only be diving in if I’m on a mission such as clearing out the inbox or replying to an email, that’s it.

‘I always swipe up and up in order to exit out of the app I’m using and then exit back to my first Home screen. And so now when I do that, I end up back at the empty Home screen. And for some reason, that brings a sense of closure.’


4th November 2019 - Start Your Near Year’s Goals Now

This subject is often discussed around the November/December time by most bloggers. Within the productivity world, it’s a constant discussion with all sorts of opinions that are constantly flown around. Shawn Blanc discusses it perfectly in this post.

Shawn starts off by saying New Years is both a good and bad time to start a new habit. With the new Year bringing a momentum for most people to get stuff done, it feels like the right time, but the majority of these don’t stick.

When you start on a new habit or routine, it takes a certain amount of activation energy to get going and build momentum.’

It’s true. Keeping things simple is key. For example, he completed an achievement of doing 365 days in a row of perfect activity on his Apple Watch. That’s 15 minutes of workout every day.

That’s quite an achievement, but imagine setting yourself that goal, but for an hour or two a day instead. It definitely wouldn’t stick as easily.

Shawn lists a couple of examples, such as writing for 20 minutes every day, exercising on a 30 minute workout, or reading a chapter of a book one day a week.

All of these are simple steps which can move you leaps and bounds ahead of those who set larger goals, which don’t ever go anywhere.

‘By starting small now then it will help you build momentum and confidence heading into the New Year.’


19th July 2019 - How to Restore Margin

While I don’t have a lot to add to this post, I think it’s one that’s worth highlighting, as it’s great advice.

This post is about breathing space. The first is a basic principle, Limit, Margin and Load.

  • Margin and Load fit as part of your total capacity

Shawn starts off by saying, if you don’t have a margin in an area of your life, you’ll likely burnout pretty quickly.

To overcome this you can either increase your limit or decrease your load.

‘Increasing your limit means expanding what you are capable of. Decreasing your load means reducing what you are responsible for.‘

He splits these by exampling five key areas of everyone’s life:

  • Physical, Time, Financial, Emotional and Mental

He talks about thinking about those key areas and making each area of your life workable so that you have space for Margin.

‘Stop cramming in more stuff. Let your life have breathing room.’

Shawn’s totally hit the nail on the head here. There have been plenty of times where I justify spending extra time outside of work to do more work, but actually, what’s the rush?

Shawn goes on to say that our focus should be on efficiency, intentionality and meaning. Not trying to cram work into our personal hours or do that ‘little bit extra’.

In theory, if you perfect efficiency, intentionality and meaning, you shouldn’t have to add extra work hours, because your switching your focus.


Thanks for having a read through with me on Shawn Blanc’s posts. As you can tell, his work is a great inspiration and genuinely helps me kickstart my day.

I hope some of my comments and feedback has been useful for you. Drop me an email, using the email button if you want to get in contact or have a chat!

Thanks for reading!

Rob


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