Focused

Focused

www.relay.fm/focused
David Sparks and Mike Schmitz are not nearly as productive as they’d like to be. Join these fellow travelers (and a bunch of special guests) as they share the best ways to get focused, and talk though their successes and failures along the way. Hosted by David Sparks and Mike Schmitz.


88: Annual Check-Ins
Dec 10 • 92 min
As we approach the end of the year, Mike and David check in on their own Focus journeys. Also, David has a secret life as a Jedi and Mike is using coffee to hack focus.
87: Nerds Like Us, with Myke Hurley
Nov 26 • 81 min
Relay co-founder Myke Hurley joins us to talk about the power of yearly themes, becoming more intentional, and working with other humans.
86: Rest is a Weapon
Nov 12 • 89 min
In this episode, Mike and David tackle sleep, napping, and how important they are to Focus.
85: The Depth of Our Madness
Oct 29 • 103 min
David and Mike reveal their obsession with calendars. They discuss time and tasks, maintaining motivation, and their own calendaring workflows for how they plan their day.
84: Focus is a Super Power
Oct 15 • 82 min
In this episode, Mike and David dive deep on why Focus is so important. They also share thoughts about Ultralearning and why sometimes survival alone is good enough.
83: Ideas Over Art, with Mike Rohde
Oct 1 • 71 min
Author and Designer Mike Rohde joins us to discuss the practice and process of sketchnoting. We talk about choosing the right tools, the benefits and drawbacks of analog vs. digital, and why sketchnoting is for everyone.
82: The Hustle
Sep 17 • 82 min
In this episode, Mike and David tackle The Hustle. Is that a good thing or bad thing? The hosts also get around to gratitude and virtual help.
81: Breaking the Twitch, with Anthony Ongaro
Sep 3 • 70 min
Anthony Ongaro joins us to talk about practical minimalism, designing an intentional life, and his multipotentialite resume which covers everything from musician to log roller.
80: The Power of “No”
Aug 20 • 66 min
Mike and David tackle the challenges that come with saying “No” and why a well-intentioned “no” can make all the difference.
79: Reclaiming Margin, with Shawn Blanc
Aug 6 • 65 min
The Focus Course founder Shawn Blanc is back to talk about the importance of margin, how it gave him the space he needed to work through a personal crisis, and life lessons learned from his orange 1984 Jeep CJ-7.
78: Changing Defaults with John Zeratsky
Jul 23 • 62 min
John Zeratsky had the dream job at Google but left it all to write a book, Make Time, and reset his defaults. Learn about John’s journey and how resetting your own defaults can make all the difference.
77: You Can’t Hack the System
Jul 9 • 71 min
David and Mike share some things they’ve learned about managing energy. They discuss staying positive, Mike continues his digital Bullet Journal experiment, and David spends some time “reseaching” the perfect notebook.
76: A Failure Across the Board
Jun 25 • 86 min
In this episode, David and Mike dispel a myth about their feelings toward time tracking and David outs himself about exactly how unproductive he was on his last trip. Also, Mike’s getting serious about bullet journaling.
75: Intentional Constraints
Jun 11 • 89 min
The conversation on moving the needle continues as David and Mike talk about intentional constraints. Mike embarks on a task management spirit quest, David shares his Bullet Journal advice, and together they consider the balance of process and results.
74: Moving the Needle
May 28 • 79 min
David & Mike unpack David’s new system to help focus on important work, talk about stepping off the hamster wheel of efficiency, and discuss what to do about productivity shame.
73: Productivity and Art with Bob Reynolds
May 14 • 101 min
David and Mike interview professional Saxophonist Bob Reynolds to talk about the importance of productivity when creating art.
72: Heart-Centered Productivity, with Jocelyn K. Glei
Apr 30 • 83 min
The host of Hurry Slowly joins David & Mike to talk about avoiding burnout, percolating ideas, intentionality for introverts, and what it means to do truly productive work.
71: Hyper-Scheduling
Apr 16 • 81 min
This episode focuses on hyper-scheduling and how to turn your calendar into a productivity weapon. Mike and David also continue the conversation about digital minimalism and share a few of their favorite books.
70: Digital Decluttering, with Shahid Kamal Ahmad
Apr 2 • 85 min
Video game developer Shahid Kamal Ahmad is back to talk about his digital declutter, staying present, and quieting the voices in your head with an intentional approach to managing your technology.
69: The Intentional Life
Mar 19 • 74 min
David and Mike continue to explore intentionality and the role it has in every area of your life. David gets ready for a work trip, Mike answers questions about Masterminds, and they discuss the importance of space in living the life you want to live.
68: Getting Productive with an Unproductive Boss
Mar 5 • 73 min
In this episode, David and Mike talk about getting intentional and getting productive with an unproductive boss. Finally, they cover productive Italians.
67: Staying Motivated with Laura McClellan
Feb 19 • 67 min
On this episode, Laura McClellan, The Productive Woman, joins to talk about her perfectly scheduled day (and what happens when that goes wrong), habits, mastermind groups, and staying motivated.
66: Putting Email in its Place
Feb 5 • 82 min
David and Mike navigate the minefield of email, sharing strategies and workflow tips to help you curb inbox addiction and reclaim your focus.
65: Hyperfocused with Chris Bailey
Jan 22 • 83 min
Author and productivity experimenter Chris Bailey joins us to share ideas and strategies for getting your focus on.
64: The Power of Habits
Jan 8 • 80 min
David and Mike kick off Focused with an in-depth look at why New Year’s resolutions usually fail. They discuss the power of tiny gains, why systems are more important than goals, and how you can change your identity by implementing better habits.
63: Lessons Learned
Dec 26, 2018 • 64 min
Mike and David wrap up the Free Agents run with a discussion of depression and Free Agency and David has some overall thoughts on free agency as they transition the show to “Focused”.
62: The Year End Audit
Dec 11, 2018 • 51 min
David and Mike do a year end audit of their own Free Agency to figure out where they spent their time and money. They talk about fixing broken systems, when to try something new, and make a big announcement about the future of the show.
61: The Morning Routine
Nov 27, 2018 • 61 min
Mike and David dig in on their morning routines. Mike finds himself entering the Free Agent arena like never before and David wants to start year-end planning.
60: Be Strategic About It, with Mike Vardy
Nov 13, 2018 • 48 min
Productivityist founder Mike Vardy tells his free agent story, from Costco to comedian to productivity strategist. He shares how he learned to think outside the box, the importance of systems, and how to create time and freedom for what’s important.
59: Kaizen
Oct 30, 2018 • 64 min
In this episode, David and Mike look at the concept of Kaizen and how little changes can add up to big results. They also cover breaking free, virtual assistants, music to work by and having fun.
58: A Better Path, with Joe Buhlig
Oct 16, 2018 • 71 min
Podcaster and programmer Joe Buhlig shares his free agent journey, from bean field to office to family room. He joins David and Mike to talk about his experience solving problems, how to let things go, and finding your own definition of success.
57: Chef = Boss
Oct 2, 2018 • 61 min
This episode is all about space. Mike and David discuss the role of Mise-en-place (“Everything in its place”) with a successful free agency. Also, David talks about the effect of dedicated spaces on production.
56: Iterate in Public, with Sean McCabe
Sep 18, 2018 • 79 min
Sean McCabe has built a successful online business through teaching what he knows. He joins David and Mike to talk about the lessons he’s learned along the way, including the power of rest and why he takes a sabbatical every 7 weeks.
55: The Math Works
Sep 4, 2018 • 84 min
Mike and David cover a variety of Free Agent topics including getting enough sleep, staying motivated, and David makes a big decision about his transportation.
54: I Have to Try It, with Casey Liss
Aug 21, 2018 • 85 min
Podcaster and programmer Casey Liss joins David and Mike to talk about his Free Agent journey, what caused him to take the leap, the tendency to do too much, and his desire to pull the thread which has led to him becoming an Accidental YouTuber.
53: The Value of Your Time
Aug 7, 2018 • 72 min
David and Mike talk about protecting your most valuable resource - your time. Mike gets inspired during his personal retreat and learns how to say “no.” David learns the hard way from his recent travels but has a plan for what to do differently next time.
52: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See with Ann Shen
Jul 24, 2018 • 60 min
Artist and businesswoman Ann Shen joins the Free Agents to share her journey from grant writer to successful artist to successful author.
51: Freedom Frogs
Jul 10, 2018 • 54 min
David and Mike talk about why “eating your frog” is an important Free Agent survival skill. David talks through a pivot in his approach to book publishing. Mike shares his struggles with “Imposter Syndrome” and how he overcomes it.
50: Bet on Yourself
Jun 26, 2018 • 44 min
Mike Schmitz joins as the new Free Agents co-host. In this episode, we get to know Mike better, learn about his journey, and discuss the show format going forward.
49: Panting to the Finish Line
Jun 12, 2018 • 48 min
Family members with employment issues remind Jason about just how far he’s come; David grapples with letting go of control and working with an assistant; and Jason hands in his resignation and participates in an “exit interview” with David.
48: Lousy With the Stink of Freedom, with Merlin Mann
May 29, 2018 • 55 min
47: Personal Floating Holiday
May 15, 2018 • 47 min
David needs to deal with some clients who aren’t paying him; Jason thinks about taking a personal day; David ponders creating a mission statement for himself; Jason questions whether he’s unable to give himself credit for doing certain kinds of work.
46: Being Comfortable Is Not an Option, with Jaimee Newberry
May 1, 2018 • 48 min
Longtime web developer, tech executive, startup co-founder, inspirational speaker, and coach Jaimee Newberry joins us to discuss her own journey, when to go out on your own, when to walk way from projects, and how to deal with unexpected success.
45: Like Going Back to High School
Apr 17, 2018 • 41 min
David’s home workspace gets invaded by teenagers, Jason reprises his old commute and learns to appreciate the ability to work from anyplace, and a listener reminds us of a classic technique: making promises that your future self has to keep.
44: Maybe You’ll Get a Real Job, with David Wain
Apr 3, 2018 • 54 min
You might not realize it, but creative professionals in the entertainment industry are also free agents. In this episode we talk to writer/actor/director David Wain of “Wet Hot American Summer” and “The State.”
43: Don’t Ask Us Permission
Mar 20, 2018 • 48 min
David attended a conference and was asked for advice (or was it permission?) from many potential free agents. When he got home, his professional life was in disarray. What are the lessons to take from that?
42: Learning Your Creative Rhythms, with Shawn Blanc
Mar 6, 2018 • 58 min
David and Jason go through the Free Agents Mailbag and welcome Shawn Blanc to discuss building an independent business with collaborators, solid project planning, and sensible work hours.
41: A Walk on the Beach
Feb 20, 2018 • 47 min
David has a big birthday and joins Jason in discovering the value of embracing a lull; David’s wife gets a new job, leading to changes in working at home; and Team Sparky expands as David gets some help with his business.
40: Like Being in a Boat, with Kourosh Dini
Feb 6, 2018 • 53 min
Psychiatrist, writer and musician Kourosh Dini joins us to discuss his long journey to being an independent worker, mixing his various jobs, dealing with the stress of being on your own, and much more.
39: Quality Time with a Sledgehammer
Jan 23, 2018 • 61 min
38: Knit Your Parachute on the Way Down, with Thom Zahler
Jan 9, 2018 • 63 min
David and Jason talk to artist and writer Thom Zahler, an independent creator for 15 years in independent comics, licensed comics, and animated television, about his journey from art school to freelancer to full-on free agent.
37: The Twelve-Week Year
Dec 26, 2017 • 54 min
We wrap up the year with a discussion of navigating holidays and vacations, David’s thoughts about getting projects to completion in the new year, Jason’s update to his Not-To-Do List, end-of-year appreciation gifts for clients, and more.
36: My App Story, with John Voorhees
Dec 12, 2017 • 40 min
John Voorhees of MacStories is a brand-new free agent, a lawyer who left his job in Chicago to set out on his own as a writer and app developer. He tells us how he decided to leave the legal profession and go full time as an independent worker.
35: I Guess I’m Felix Unger
Nov 28, 2017 • 59 min
David and Jason discuss the importance of prep time, resetting your balance, gauging the value of your work, time tracking, managing ongoing commitments, getting sick and keeping clients happy, and the value of uncluttered office space.
34: I Think I Just Got Fired, with Marco Arment
Nov 14, 2017 • 50 min
App developer, podcaster, analyst, and secret entrepreneur Marco Arment joins us to discuss his journey from college to Tumblr, building Instapaper, getting quit-fired, setting out on his own, and working in bursts of productivity.
33: When You Say Yes to Everything
Oct 31, 2017 • 54 min
David struggles with time management. Jason gets a better perspective on how his business is performing.
32: It’s Scary, Dude! with Kathy Campbell
Oct 17, 2017 • 47 min
Unicorn Sidekick Kathy Campbell joins us to discuss how she ended up becoming a Free Agent while behind a desk at her “real job,” when having her new career discovered her.
31: Being Selective About Clients, with Aleen Simms
Oct 3, 2017 • 37 min
Relay FM Host and App Launch Map founder Aleen Simms joins us to talk about her accidental fall into freelance work and setting high standards for her clients.
30: Tito Needs to Pay the Rent
Sep 19, 2017 • 46 min
So you’re working in a house full of kids. Or a partner who is there all the time. It can make working from home difficult to say the least. We discuss the good and bad of working around kids (and others) who are in your house with you.
29: The Spreadsheet
Sep 5, 2017 • 40 min
So you’re thinking about going out on your own. It’s time to build The Spreadsheet, a tool to let you gauge your potential income and expenses and give you a realistic view of what it will take to succeed.
28: David’s Origin Story
Aug 22, 2017 • 47 min
Jason asks David to explain where he came from, the background of his career, and what the circumstances were that led him to become an independent worker, and then asks him to reflect on his two-plus years no longer being employed by a law firm.
27: Bird in the Bush
Aug 8, 2017 • 43 min
Passion projects can be an enjoyable outlet. But how do you balance the work that pays the bills with the work that feeds the soul?
26: A Batphone to My Heart
Jul 25, 2017 • 58 min
While Jason leaves the phone off the hook, David describes his trial of Google Voice and ultimate decision to use a live receptionist service.
25: Breadcrumb of My Life, with Stephen Hackett
Jul 11, 2017 • 56 min
Relay FM co-founder Stephen Hackett discusses his origin story, including the personal challenges he first encountered when he went independent.
24: Take Care of Yourself
Jun 27, 2017 • 43 min
What happens if you’re a lone-wolf independent operator, and then you get sick? We discuss staying healthy, getting help, and buying insurance.
23: It’s Hard To Get on a Different Train
Jun 13, 2017 • 40 min
When should you form a corporation, and if so, what kind? David has some broad advice, though you should be sure to consult with a local attorney and your accountant before making any final decisions.
22: Staying Agile
May 30, 2017 • 27 min
One of your great advantages as an independent worker is your agility. While larger companies have more resources, they can be much slower to react to change. David and Jason swap war stories about adapting and changing.
21: The Second Feedback Episode
May 16, 2017 • 57 min
We’re once again answering your letters and tweets In a wide-ranging episode covering all sorts of aspects of being an independent worker.
20: Jason’s Origin Story
May 3, 2017 • 59 min
David asks Jason to explain where he came from, the background of his career, and what the circumstances were that led him to become an independent worker, and then asks him to reflect on his two-plus years no longer being employed by a big corporation.
19: Nobody Grades You on the Scaffolding
Apr 18, 2017 • 59 min
Should you adopt an organizational system? How can these systems help you, and are they worth the investment? Jason and David detail their own personal organization systems and discuss approaches to getting more organized.
18: A Series of Logical Decisions, with Greg Pierce
Apr 4, 2017 • 44 min
Agile Tortoise’s Greg Pierce discusses what he’s learned in a decade as an independent developer and consultant.
17: Stop Digging
Mar 21, 2017 • 28 min
Not all clients are good clients. If you don’t manage the herd, you could lose the farm. This is why it’s important to consider the right time, and right way, to fire a client.
16: R2-D2 on My Desk
Mar 7, 2017 • 53 min
Jason and David discuss their home-office set-ups and the challenges they face when working in a house they share with other people.
15: Put on the Business Hat
Feb 21, 2017 • 41 min
You can’t earn a living as a Free Agent if you don’t get paid. In this episode we discuss why true professionals ensuring they’re being compensated. When you’re on your own, you’re the one who has to make sure that the money is flowing in.
14: Putting Numbers in Boxes, with Andrew Carroll
Feb 7, 2017 • 38 min
A new year brings accounting and tax challenges for independent workers, so we asked accountant and financial advisor Andrew Carroll to join us.
13: Promotion Can Feel Gross
Jan 24, 2017 • 39 min
Being good at what you do isn’t enough. You also need customers, clients, or whatever else you need to pay for shoes. That means you need to promote yourself. But you can be really great at what you do and still be terrible at self-promotion.
12: Right Now It’s Only Me, with Katie Floyd
Jan 10, 2017 • 43 min
David’s Mac Power Users co-host Katie Floyd, a very recent Free Agent herself, tells us about the early days of her independent life.
11: Balancing Dollars and Delight
Dec 14, 2016 • 23 min
We discuss cultivating and managing multiple income streams, why it’s so important to do so, and both the risks and benefits of getting your money from a bunch of different places.
10: Indie Vacation
Nov 29, 2016 • 37 min
Planning and taking vacations as an independent worker.
9: The Feedback Episode
Nov 15, 2016 • 52 min
In a wide-ranging episode, David and Jason answer your letters and tweets.
8: Email Is Not Your Job
Nov 1, 2016 • 27 min
Managing email and setting rules about how you use it.
7: Be Like a Duck
Oct 18, 2016 • 40 min
So you’ve decided to leave the nest. What can you do to prepare while you’re still working for the man? What’s the right way to give notice, and prepare for the aftermath?
6: The Shawshank Redemption, with Shahid Kamal Ahmad
Oct 4, 2016 • 48 min
PlayStation veteran Shahid Kamal Ahmad left Sony to become an independent game developer. We discuss why he left and how he schedules his workday in his garden shed, the ShaShed.
5: Envision a Bonfire
Sep 21, 2016 • 31 min
4: Location, Location, Location
Sep 6, 2016 • 39 min
Deciding where to get your work done can be a difficult challenge for an independent worker. Can you work out of the house? Does renting office space make sense? What about co-working spaces, or that long wooden table at your neighborhood Starbucks?
3: My Curse and My Reward, with Myke Hurley
Aug 25, 2016 • 42 min
Myke Hurley, co-founder of Relay FM, discusses transitioning from his bank job to a full-time podcaster, including the inherent contradictions in working a dream job that never lets you take a vacation.
2: Booked Up With Myself
Aug 9, 2016 • 25 min
Just because you’re independent doesn’t mean you don’t need a schedule. This episode is about building (and breaking) routines.
1: The Temptation of Yes
Jul 26, 2016 • 35 min
In our very first episode, David and Jason discuss narrowing scope and taking on too much work.