The Focus Course

Everyday Gear for Living a Focused Life

I thought it would be fun to nerd out a bit and share some of my favorite everyday use items for living a focused life.

Now, clearly none of these are actually required for living a focused life, but the heart behind sharing these is the joy and usefulness these gadgets bring. There’s a lot to be said about experiencing little sparks of joy throughout the day.

You don’t need to go out and buy any of these things, but maybe you’ll pick up an idea for a gift or a wishlist.

Coffee Stuff

For me, living a focused life starts with coffee. While a bit dramatic, it’s not all that inaccurate.

I’ve come full circle in my snobbery. From early enthusiast trying straight black coffee to eventually single origin only espresso drinking machine. I’ve now come to peace with the fact that I like good coffee. If it came right down to bad coffee or none, I’d rather not have any.

So making good coffee is part of my morning ritual. Here are a few of the essentials.

Fresh Roasted Beans

Coffee really does have the best flavor when brewed within 2-3 weeks of being roasted. We’re fortunate to have a plethora of awesome coffee roasters right here in Kansas City.

But even if you can’t pop in to your local coffee shop and pick up a bag of beans, there are still some great coffee subscriptions that will deliver to your door as frequently as you’d like.

Fresh coffee really does make the biggest difference when it comes to making a tasty cup of joe.

Grind Matters

Now, before we get to brew method, the way you grind your coffee is going to have the next biggest impact on your coffee experience. Because science.

Making a cup of coffee is nothing more than an extraction process. The size, cut, and consistency of the grounds can dramatically change the uniformity of your extraction, dramatically changing the tastiness of your coffee.

Grinders are one of these weird categories of products where the price seems to jump from reasonable to ridiculous very quickly. The short of it is you need a burr grinder instead of a blade grinder. I recently picked up the Baratza Encore. It’s an excellent grinder for household coffee needs, but if you want to save a few bucks and get your workout in each morning, this little hand grinder also works great and also doubles as a travel or camping grinder.

V60

Brew Method

I’ve gotten a ton of miles out of my ceramic V60. It’s had a chip in it for 3 or 4 years now, but it’s still going strong. More recently, I’ve started using an AeroPress to experiment with different recipes. There’s a sweet little app that AeroPress maintains with recipes and a timer feature.

And of course, you’ve gotta have a trusty coffee cup for daily consumption. I’ve really loved my Hydro Flash Cooler Cup. Fits about 10oz of coffee, hot or cold, and fits in my cup holder in the car. Love this thing. Oh, and it can be used to keep cans or bottles cold. You know, for when the coffee runs out.

Pens and Notebooks

When it comes to tools I use every day, I think first about my pens and notebooks. I’m no anomaly, most of my days are made up of staring at screens, but I love my offline tools.

I spend the last few minutes of every workday planning out my next day in my trusty Baron Fig notebook. By planning my day 12 hours in advance, I’m able to decide what’s most important from a distance. If I leave my planning for the morning, my tendency is to default to what is seemingly urgent. This usually results in me neglecting important things, which is why planning the night before is like a super power.

Mark One

I do my planning using one of two different pens. The Mark One by Studio Neat, or the Clear Habit Squire by Baron Fig. Both of these pens are a delight to use.

Back to my notebooks for a sec. The build quality of the Baron Fig notebooks are fantastic. Dot grid pages, with the perfect thickness of paper. I prefer the larger size. It allows me a little more space so that I don’t have to cram things onto a page. Lots of room to move around. It’s like breathing room for ideas.

The other notebook I use almost daily is the Totebook by Studio Neat for journaling. I only use my Totebook for journaling and I’ve found it to be a perfect size and feel for that purpose. The larger pages of the Baron Fig are a little intimidating to me for some reason. I’ve noticed a huge uptick in my consistency of journaling when I aim to fill half a Totebook page. It’s the right amount.

Bonus tip: pick up a simple non-slip ruler from amazon. Perfect for my need for straight lines. I don’t use it all the time, but it’s nice to have in reach when I want to map things out.

More Random Things

I had a random number of additional items that didn’t really fit in one category. If you pressed me on it, I would have more to say for each of these than stated here. But this is quickly getting out of hand, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Camp Chair

Since COVID-19, I’ve started keeping my camp chair in the back of the car. Working from home full time, every once in a while I need to mix things up. And the truth is, I’m always looking for an excuse to be outdoors.

Weather permitting, I’ve started taking a morning per week to go to a park and find a good spot to work. Thanks to my trusty camp chair.

If I absolutely need internet, I can use my phone as a hotspot. It’s nice to do work that doesn’t require an internet connection and be in nature. And the truth is, it feels nice to be untethered every once in a while. From the internet and my gloomy basement office.

Pocket Knife

My relationship with pocket knives is simple; I like a functional knife that stays out of the way until I need it, in which case I am glad to have it in my pocket.

I am by no means a knife enthusiast. I’m sure there is an entire sub-culture of knife people out there as there are pen people.

I like the Drifter made by CRKT, and this one from Kershaw. Cheap, small, get-the-job-done kind of knives. Nothing fancy. Just a little handy tool for when you need it.

Socks

I recently had a birthday and put socks on my list. I knew socks were a secret pleasure of mine, but I didn’t realize how much I LOVE receiving nice socks as a gift.

I just have a hard time dropping $15 – $20 on a single pair of socks. Not something I can justify spending on myself and maybe that’s why I love getting them as a gift. 🤷‍♂️

Hiking socks, running socks, cycling socks, cold weather socks. I love having nice socks. It feels so indulgent.

House Shoes

This is how I know I’m getting old. I may or may not wear any of those previously mentioned socks with these next everyday essential footwear items. (Who have I become?)

We have hardwoods in our house and I can’t stand the feeling of walking around barefoot. (Another sign of advancing in years). Partially due to it making my feet hurt, equally due to avoiding stepping on endless crumbs from raising three boys. So I’ve taken to wearing house shoes.

Most of the time I’ve got my Birkenstocks on. Once broken in, these live up to all the hype. I put them on and feel like my feet have come home. Like I said, it’s the simple pleasures of life. My Birks are definitely a delight.

Being a big time runner I also just received a pair of the Hoka One One recovery slides. Definitely not going to win any style points for wearing these, but it’s like walking on clouds. I don’t use them all the time, but definitely when my legs and feet are tired after a long run.

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