The Focus Course Changed My Life

Today, June 23, 2015, Shawn Blanc is launching The Focus Course after months and months of working on it. I was a member of the beta program; taking the course starting in late March. The Focus Course mixed with a few other lifestyle alterations have changed my life over these past 3 months. There’s more to say, but this post is about the how and why The Focus Course worked for me.

Why did I take the course

My life is full of distraction. I sit at a desk in front of a computer on the greatest distraction ever made, The Internet. I used to spend hours every day to read all my tweets, RSS feeds, and email newsletter links. Fear of Missing Out was the story of my life online. I saved to the “Read Later” archive, read every retweet, or followed up on every like kept. Checking out this “reddit-thing” was a bad idea. Sometimes I’d procrastinate until noon because I lost track of the time and realized I still needed to get my billable time in.

It doesn’t help that I have a pretty addictive personality, and crave affirmation from others. I know that many others can relate, and I’m not the only one, but even so there is a shame I felt of having such a “stupid simple problem”. I was putting the focus into staying a float in a sea of information that I will never keep up with. And that’s not including coming home to a family of two kids and wife, house projects that never end, and issues within those relationships. Not to mention how the anger and frustration of not getting anything done at work spills over into my home life.

If you need a one sentence reason why I needed this course, here it is:

I bought Getting Things Done by David Allen 4 years ago, and haven’t finished it yet.

Or how about this:

I bought a domain name for my inevitable “Geek’s guide to helping you beat procrastination”. It sat unused for 8 years.

How I Joined the Beta

Shawn has an amazing weekly newsletter called The Fight Spot where he talks about procrastination, focus, attention, and how you can tackle these problems. I had just signed up in late February for an amazing weekly dose of Shawn’s great writing when he announced the Focus Course beta program.

As someone who frequently (this is changing) spends money to fix problems, I signed up immediately. However, something was different about this program. For one, I already knew Shawn’s writing style and voice from years of following his blog. I knew he was able to articulate the problems I was facing, and based on his other writings, I knew he’d be able to articulate a way to solve the problems.

So when the beta program launched at the end of March, I just jumped right in. Except I didn’t. Change is hard. I don’t like hard. After about a week of receiving Shawn’s daily email of what I should be reading, I buckled down and started.

And it’s been the best decision I’ve made this year.

How it helped me

The Focus Course has helped me in a few notable ways. It’s helped me get focused (wow, yeah!) and figure out what tasks really matter, while devising a strategy for becoming the person I want to become, instead of just hoping I’ll wake up someday and be that new person.

It also helped create some structure in a life that was constantly breaking down any attempts at structure. For 2 months I finally had a morning ritual. Get up, go to work, get a coffee, and read my daily lesson while my coffee cools off. As part of the course, this ritual changed, and will likely to continue to change for a while until it really fits. But this course helped start that.

The Focus Course tackles life goals and progress for six categories:

  • Spiritual / Inner Personal Life
  • Physical
  • Relationships
  • Rest & Recreation
  • Vocation
  • Finances

These categories are so intertwined, but it was really helpful to break down each individually, and how I can make progress every day/week/month/year towards the lifelong goals I have in each category. I’ll be following up in each category in future posts.

Finally, it’s helped me start to get my ideas out of my brain, so I’m not juggling so many things in my head. I’ve tried to use software to help that before, but without much purpose or discipline, I fell back into old habits of being a serial procrastinator.

Is this course for you?

If you’re someone who struggles with focus, attention, procrastination, anger, frustration, life goals, or wants to get better in any one or all of those areas, then I feel that this course can be helpful to you. Will it solve all you problems? Nope, but it might help you learn how to avoid some pitfalls in your life, or give you some tools to bring you back out of the pit.

Advise for those taking the course

Ok, so I did the whole course. What did I learn?

  • You’re not alone in your struggles.
  • It doesn’t take a ton of time. 15 minutes per day. Maybe 30 minutes if you’re trying to journal your thoughts as you go.
  • You’ll start to form some new habits. Don’t try to start all of them at once. Try no more than 2 or 3 or suddenly you’ll be overwhelmed with them all.
  • Post to the forum with questions. Feedback from other going through the same thing and reading the same materials is great.

Why did I write this post

I’ve been thinking about writing a post or a few about the Focus Course for a while. I even asked Shawn’s permission for it during the beta. But I didn’t have a habit in place to get me thinking, writing, or even a blog set up at my domain to host that content. I journaled most of my thoughts instead of blogging.

But two things really caused me to write this post:

  1. I wanted to support Shawn publicly launching the course in the best way I know that I can: personal testimony.
  2. My new habit of morning Bible study was in Nehemiah. It talked about how Nehemiah asked God to allow him to be part of the change in something he was passionate about.

As someone who has struggled with Focus and procrastination for years, I feel very passionate about this cause. So, while I might not be leading the charge to rebuild Jersusalem, I’m committing to be part of the community around those taking this course.

So Shawn, thank you for being just as if not more passionate about this cause than I am. I’m grateful for your words and encouragement through the course, the forum, and email to help get me on the right track. I hope and pray that he will do the same for you, if you take the course.

What’s next?

I’m going through the whole course again, this time every day with my wife. I don’t regret going through the course one bit, but there are some long term decisions and goals that I need to revisit with my wife’s perspective in greater focus than it was when I first took the course.

Reducing Distractions

As part of my progress in the Focus Course and creating a better Focused Life, I’ve been jotting down a list of items that have helped me reduce distraction in my life over the past few months. So without any fanfare, here’s the list:

iOS Devices

  • Turn off all iOS Lock Screen notifications except Phone, FaceTime, and Messages.
  • Turn off all notifications on almost every other app.
  • Close my laptop lid when I’m not on a video call.
  • Cover my iPhone and iPad or turn them to face away from me.
  • Turn off almost all badge notifications


  • Remove messages from the Dock
  • Minimize the Dock
  • Disable email client notifications, except for VIPs
  • Disable almost app notifications. I keep calendar events active.
  • Work in full screen mode for as many apps as possible.
  • Set up Divvy to make easy side by side windows
  • Schedule specific times to check your email, RSS, etc.


Yes it needs it’s own section. I found that Slack was replacing Twitter, which was good for information, bad for distractions.

  • Disable all notifications in all rooms except your primary Slack Account
  • Sign out from the Teams you don’t really need to access all the time. You’ll receive an email if anybody pings you.
  • Sign back in when you’re doing things related to that Team.
  • Star your most used channels
  • Disable dock bouncing


I’ve had a problem for a long time about focusing. I forgot who, but I’ll dig up later, that the greatest resource we have is our attention. Hours in the day is fininte. Where we put our focus and attention is what matters. Whether that’s shiny kitty memes or learning a new technology.

I’m awful at it. So, a few weeks ago I finally decided to do something about it. Shawn Blanc’s Focus Course is in private beta, and I’m one of those fancy guys and gals going through it. It’s just getting started in creating some small habits, that lead to bigger habits, and more. I’ll see where it goes, but for now, any new positive habit is a good thing.

Time to make 2015 sing.

Starting Out

I’ve had a presence on the internet for a long time. A domain (several, let’s be honest) that I’ve never used for anything. I like journaling and don’t do it enough. If that’s all this site turns out to be, then I win. If other people like it too, then we all win. This site is and will be a personal dumping group for everything from my faith, family, career, video games, reviews, etc. I like to think I’ll really get into it, but that will only take time.