It’s so great to have you on board! You’ll hear from me on Tuesdays. As promised, here is your cut of the legendary loot.

Mini Habits (Part One)

400px wideA new gift I’m offering subscribers is free access to the first part of my international bestselling book, Mini Habits, and it’s just below as a PDF. This book means the world to me. Not only did the strategy change my life, but the success of the book changed my life again! It changes others’ lives too, which is why it succeeded. 

Click Here to Read Part 1 of Mini Habits (To download PDF, right click and “Save Link As…”)

 

2. Stress Management Redefined

stress copy 3This was my first book. It’s not as polished as my published books, but it’s packed with plenty of humor, insights, and fascinating information about stress. To give you an idea, inside you’ll find a picture of a bear chasing me. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.)

Click Here to Read SMR (To download PDF, right click and “Save Link As…”)

 

3. Focus Wallpaper Set (40 Count)

Sized at 1920 x 1080, these 40 carefully selected focus quotes & pictures will help you to stay focused and motivated throughout your day. Need a boost? Just go to your desktop and see a new quote!  I put up a tutorial for how to set the wallpaper to rotate automatically every few minutes or hour. Here is a video showing the different wallpapers in this set:

Click Here to Download Wallpaper (.ZIP)

 



The Focus Toolbox

Section 1: The Best Focus Music

Music can help us focus better. In a study conducted by Dr. Lesiuk from the University of Miami, those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas than those who didn’t, because the music improved their mood.

“When you’re stressed, you might make a decision more hastily; you have a very narrow focus of attention. When you’re in a positive mood, you’re able to take in more options,” says Dr. Lesiuk.

Here is my favorite focus music! It’s almost all instrumental, because that is less distracting. Numbers 1-3 are on Youtube (tip: install adblock plus to never see a Youtube video commercial again!). These aren’t in order. The first one below is the playlist I like to listen to for focusing. Then I’ll discuss a few specific artists. 1. My Focusing Playlist These are my favorites for focusing. This is public youtube playlist, so feel free to use it!

2. Andy McKee Playlist (Acoustic Guitar) Andy McKee’s music is great for focusing. It’s very serene, but not too boring. He’ll tap and smack on the guitar for percussion in some songs and it sounds really good. For another talented Acoustic guitar player, check out Craig D’Andrea. His music is a bit more energetic than Andy’s, so it may not be as ideal for focusing (favorites – Morrison County, Girls Longer Hair). Also, this guy is ridiculous (as one commenter said, “this makes my ears feel good.”).

3. Nujabes & Others This music is more “trance-like” and really smooth. It’s a good choice if you want to groove and bob a little bit in your chair. 🙂 It’s sad, but Jun Seba, a.k.a. Nujabes, was killed in a car crash in 2010. His music lives. I actually only like a few of his instrumental pieces. Favorites are World Without Words and Counting Stars. I don’t like all of the songs on this list, but it includes other artists of the same style (Emancipator is recommended).

4. The Lord Of The Rings Soundtrack Even if you’re not a big fan of the movies (I am!), Howard Shore’s soundtrack is really really really really amazing, and almost 100% instrumental. This is epic music, so it would pair well with an epic project. Here’s a video with the entire soundtrack (3.5 hours long!). My favorite song might be the one that starts at 3:55. It makes me happy. 🙂

5. Ambient Noise & Focus Music Websites Sometimes, a little bit of ambient noise is perfect. Here are my favorite ones.

  • Rainymood – A well known simple website that simulates the sound of a thunderstorm. It’s soothing. As a kid, I loved sleeping during rainy nights. 🙂
  • Coffivity – This simulates the sounds of a coffee shop. It has three different levels – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You know, because breakfast has that subdued tone as everyone is still waking up. Pretty neat! I’ve used it some and liked it.
  • Focus At Will – This website claims to have music that scientifically enhances your focus. Either way, they have some good instrumental music and some categories include uptempo (favorite), classical, ambient, alpha chill, acoustic, and cinematic. You now have to sign up for a free account to access the music.
  • White Noise 24/7 – If you’re looking for a lot of variety of white noise sounds, this one is for you. Sound quality varies, however. For example, rainymood’s rain sounds 100x better than theirs. But again, there’s a wide variety of sounds here (even things like a dishwasher, lol). Also, if you’re going to be without internet at some point, a few of their sounds are downloadable.
  • Comfytube – This is a wonderful combination of rain, fireplace cracklin’, and smooth jazz. Like the name suggests, it’s a pretty comfy and relaxing combination of sounds! Also, if you lack a fireplace, but want a cozy atmosphere for a party, set this up on your laptop!

FINAL TIP: Mix and match! I really like pairing rain with some sort of instrumental music, for example. Comfytube does this for you, but you can experiment with your own combinations.

Section 2: The Best Focus Tools On The Web

MacFreedom (Mac, Windows, Android) – Shut down your internet access (by choice) for up to eight hours at a time. $10 This clever application shuts down your internet access when you tell it to, and to get your internet back before the timer runs out, you’ll actually have to reboot your computer! If you struggle with discipline because of the internet’s endless entertainment offerings, this is worth a shot. They have a free trial. I haven’t personally tried this out, but I’m considering it. I have no affiliation with MacFreedom and no incentive to promote them.

WriteOrDie (Mac, Windows, Linux) – Eliminate writer’s block by providing consequences for procrastination or rewards for accomplishment. $20 This is an intriguing idea for writers—especially those who struggle with the dreaded “writers block.” It forces you to continuously type, because if you don’t, it will play an annoying sound until you start writing again (or in the new version, writing triggers serene sounds and nice pictures). I like this because I’m a firm believer that your first draft should be “vomited” out and then cleaned up in revisions. I don’t get writer’s block, so I haven’t bought this, but I wonder if it could spur me on to another level of first draft speed? Perhaps. If you want to try it out, they have a free demonstration on the website. I have no affiliation with WriterOrDie and no incentive to promote them.
Kill News Feed for Facebook (Google chrome) – block the news feed on Facebook.  This browser extension has been wonderful for me, as the Facebook news feed has been a major distraction for me. Instead of showing the news feed, it reminds you not to be distracted by Facebook. Alternatively, check out FB Purity (all browsers) for a more robust customization of how you use Facebook. But if you just want to remove the news feed, check out Kill News Feed. Or if you use Firefox, check out the Hide FB Ticker extension.

Kill News Feed

This is what you’ll be greeted with!

RescueTime (All platforms, affiliate) – track your computer behavior to see and fix your unproductive habits. Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 9.55.18 PM This is perhaps the ultimate focus tool. It monitors your activity on the computer and lets you label productive and unproductive tasks. For example, Facebook is a -2 distraction and my writing software, Notational Velocity, is a +2 productive. It has a detailed stats and charts to help you understand your behavior. Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 9.59.59 PM The pro version has a feature called focused time, which blocks out distracting websites. Unlike strict workflow (see below on this list), it allows you to determine how long to block out distracting websites. And it blocks sites based on your designation of which ones are -2 distracting, which is a nice integration feature. I’ll update this later with more details and intend to write a full review of this software. Update: I don’t like or recommend the Pro Version I recommend sticking with the free version and just using it as a passive way to track your activity. This doesn’t mean you won’t like it though, and I think they offer a trial if you want to try it out. This is the email I sent to them explaining why I didn’t like the pro version.

Hi RescueTime, The pro version isn’t flexible enough. I was most excited about the alerts, until I found out that you could only set it to alert you when you spent X time per day on a category. Why not allow custom alerts? Such as when you spend 20 minutes consecutively on facebook (or maybe 20 minutes in any given hour), you’re alerted with a custom message. “Hey, you’ve been on Facebook 20 minutes this hour! Why don’t you work on your book now?” That is the type of alert functionality I was hoping for. I don’t care about categories at all. I care about specific websites and tasks and want to be able to customize how my interaction with each website is tracked and handled by rescuetime. That isn’t built in, and instead the focus is on categories. The projects feature has potential, but the user interface for it was clunky and I couldn’t get it to track my specific document in Pages. There was no way to connect a specific task with the project. The keyword association idea isn’t effective at all. For example, it counted rescuetime as a part of the project (because the keyword is obviously inside rescuetime) when it has nothing to do with it. The Pages document with the exact title was not picked up. The “you’ve been away” alert only has 6 options. When I clicked on “more options…” because it wasn’t one of the six options I had, instead of being sent to a quick screen or pop-up box for a custom input of what I had done while away, I was taken to a screen with no such option (that seemed completely irrelevant). The tracking features and such are top class and very impressive, but I liked the pro version less than the free one. Focused time seemed to be the best executed portion of the paid version, but I’m not sure if blocking websites like that is the answer for me. Cheers, Stephen Guise

Timer Tab

Because the timer displays in the tab as well as the page, it is very useful for online work.

Timer Tab (website) – Set aside a block of time to focus. This is a simple, effective timer that displays the time left in the browser’s tab. When I use timer tab to focus, I’ll say, “For the next X minutes, I’m going to do Y.” Instructions: Set your time in the left box, and hit start countdown. If you’re working online, you’ll see the time in the tab and it will play an alarm when time is up. When I use this, I forget about it because I’ll be focused (which is the point). It’s a great tool to give yourself a trigger to start working. This is a simple and highly recommended tool for focusing.

Notational Velocity (Mac) – Use for writing notes, ideas, lists, entire books, everything!  

Everything is intuitive and lightning fast.

Everything is intuitive and lightning fast.

This is the best, most intuitive program a writer will ever see. Imagine wanting to write anything from a note to a novel, and having a program that saves everything as you type it, doesn’t make you “open a new blank document.” Switching to this from a word processor resulted in me writing much more. In notational velocity, you click on the top bar and type in a title, press enter, and start typing. It has made me a better writer because it removes all of those tiny, annoying steps that you’re used to taking. You really need to use it to understand all of the great things it does. UPDATE 10/3/13: I now use and love nvALT. nvALT is the same as Notational Velocity with some excellent added features, such as WORD COUNT! Sorry, I get excited about word count because I like to keep track of how much I’m writing per day. Since Notational Velocity is open source, people can make these cool features and share them.

nvALT

You can see the word count in the upper right hand corner. It was a big deal to me because Notational Velocity is my favorite program, but I really missed having the word count from other word processors!

nvALT uses the same folder for notes as the standard notational velocity, so you can install it and have access to your previous notes. Being a separate program, you can even use both of them if you want (but why?). My only complaint is a slightly buggy font modification system. It is the only bug I’ve come across. You can click in the middle of a bolded sentence and start typing and it will be normal (not bold) text. This happens vice versa too. It doesn’t bug me enough to switch back, and the word count feature was something I wanted sooo badly. Anyway, you can download nvALT right here.

F.lux (Mac) – “Wind down” at night and avoid over-stimulating your eyes before bed. F.lux “makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.” I tried it and used it for a little while, but the screen turns a bit orange at night, and sometimes I’m productive at night, so I stopped. It’s a great idea though, and it does fix the problem of staring at an overly bright screen at night. The screen changes very gradually too, which is cool.
Strict Workflow (chrome browser add-on) – block popular websites like Facebook (you can manually set which sites to block) for 25 minutes while you focus (then you get a 5 minute break). I have not used this yet, but I plan to try it soon. At your word, this app “enforces a 25min/5min workflow: 25 minutes of distraction-free work, followed by 5 minutes of break. Repeat as necessary.” This seems like a great idea, and many of the reviews are positive (4 star average). This is an automated version of what I suggest doing with the timer tab. My only possible gripe is that I’d rather set the times myself (i.e. 40 minutes of work and a 10 minute break if I want).