The Calm Inbox course: only for beginners

After all the hype, I was very excited for the Calm Inbox course by the Sweet Setup and hoping there would finally be great and new answers to the ever growing problem of email. So I bought it… skimmed through it, and asked for my refund.

It is (I’m starting to think this is the case of all the Sweet Setup courses) extremely basic. There is nothing new in there that hasn’t been repeated in productivity circles for years: unsubscribe, automate, file what you won’t do right now to your task manager (I remember hearing those axioms 5 years ago at a free Asian Efficiency webinar…)

As always with TSS, it is nicely packaged, friendly, not frightening to non-tech people and will probably help those who encounter those ideas for the first time: if you have no idea what I just said in the previous paragraph, then the course might well be for you.

But if you do, despite the promise of bringing something new even if you are a seasoned email veteran, there is nothing new in there. If you already know about the ideal workflows you should put in place, don’t bother taking that course, it won’t teach you differently. I have learned way more on email through the podcasts here. Spend that time to think more about your implementation of that ideal workflow instead (and save money).

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I’m inclined to agree with you about their courses. I ordered their course on Things and asked for a refund within 10 minutes of starting it. I haven’t been back to their website since.

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My own view - there’s a limited set of things you can do to improve your email management (and time management in general) and most, if not all, of the programmes being offered are basically repackaging those things. Apart from the (obviously major) move to electronic, I’m seeing the same things I was seeing in the 1980s.

That’s not to say they don’t have value - sometimes it’s helpful to try a different strategy - but I don’t see anything that’s radically new. The nearest I’ve come in recent years was the Bullet Journal - not radical, but very helpful.

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Thanks for sharing this, @KillerWhale. I was on the fence about buying this course since I have been disappointed with the level of other TSS courses in the past. Your review confirms my suspicion, so I’ll confidently skip this course.

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+1.

I tried their Ulysses course and resulted in a Refund in 5 mins.

I tried their Photography course and resulted in a Refund in 5 mins.

At this point I just take anything with TSS as a site To Be Ignored.

Glad that it’s just not me alone who felt this way. :grinning:

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@MacSparky’s courses and books, books by @Kourosh, and others have a lot more to offer. Another option (which also includes some of David’s work) is Lynda. Lynda subscriptions are not cheap, but many U.S.-based or academic libraries offer free access to Lynda’s content via the library’s digital resources portal.

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Wholly agree with your endorsement of @macsparky and @kourosh. Now that’s deep, thoughtful and innovative content and everything they publish is not only an instant purchase, but I know it will get me thinking for months if not years. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I view TSS as a financial commitment strategy to follow through on a resolution. That means they would be more valuable courses if they didn’t offer easy refunds. :wink:

Edit. This wasn’t meant to be insulting. Sorry about that.

As Executive Editor at TSS and someone who put a lot of work into Calm Inbox, I’m obviously disappointed to hear all this. Personally, I learned quite a bit in researching the course - like silencing my entire inbox on a schedule using SaneDND, saving email highlights using the Clips feature in Hey, and using bulk swipe actions for triage in Airmail. Maybe that stuff is too buried for power users (the focus is definitely on the mindset stuff in the first 3 modules when you log in), or maybe that stuff just isn’t as cool as I thought it was when I discovered it and a lot of people knew it all already. Either way, I apologize Calm Inbox obviously didn’t hit the mark for the power users on this forum and am genuinely interested in knowing how it can be improved.

If anyone cares to share what would have made the course more valuable for you, I’d love to hear it - please send me a message.

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@mikeschmitz I have no experience with your courses so I can’t speak to that but I suspect they are helpful to many.

That said, from my personal perspective I don’t think managing email is that hard, at least for those who have some experience and are intentional about creating good processes. Here is what I recently posted in this forum.

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Sending you a PM, @mikeschmitz.

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I have no experience with this particular “course” nor with any other materials on the Sweet Setup, but I have a feeling it’s not much different from what they say about 99% of the self-help books: they use 200+ pages to explain an idea, where 2 pages would have been sufficient.
It’s a business model, like so many other things these days. And apparently there’s a market for it too.

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@KillerWhale ignore the private message I just sent to you. I misread your post to @mikeschmitz.

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I have the feeling that there is an audience mismatch. My impression is that Sweet Set-Up always promotes its courses etc. quite heavily and to a power user auditorium. The courses and articles on the other side, often speak to more novice users which is totally fine and a huge market. However, some power users are disappointed because of this miscommunication. Maybe Sweet Set-Up should refocus its marketing efforts and put a huge disclaimer on its products when talking about it to audiences like MPU.

As I’ve never bought a Sweet Set-Up course it’s just a guess but I hope it helps nonetheless.

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Spot-on, I think, he said in twenty characters.

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I want to clarify earlier because it was too glib and a crappy comment in light of Mike and other course authors reading the thread, which I should have realized would happen.

I think the courses are excellent at accomplishing their goals. They are particularly effective, in my opinion, at aiding a change in mindset or approach. That is why I said they are financial commitment strategies: you want to change your approach, and so you spend money on well packaged advice. The cost of the course motivates you to use it and make the desired change to how you work.

The specific advice in the courses is also good, and benefit from the editors’ curation. That they present that knowledge in the right philosophical context is a good thing. Given that, returning a course within a few minutes seems unfair. If a diligent power user buys a course only for the specific, practical knowledge, I understand why they wouldn’t learn much, but I also would ask them to consider broadening their view of the course’s potential benefits.

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Appreciate the clarification @cornchip, but I can take it :slight_smile: I posted my comment not to stop people from sharing their opinions, but to understand what we can do better. The MPU community is one of the nicest I’ve found, but also honest - which is a good thing!

A moment of candidness: one of my biggest fears is in being disingenuous. I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not. One of the insights I’ve gotten from this conversation is that while I have considered myself a “power user” in the past, that’s aspirational to some degree and I’ve honestly still got a lot to learn. There are people here who fit that description much better than I do. So my goal in all of this is to figure out what my own skills are, where I need to grow, and who I am best positioned to help.

Re: the refund policy, I’m ok with people returning it if it doesn’t meet expectation. It’s not the customer’s job to find value in the thing they bought from me - it’s mine. So while some people may use the return window as way to trick you into buying, we honestly want people to be happy with what they purchased. You don’t have to send us screenshots or prove that you went through all the steps. If it’s not for you, that’s fine.

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I must say that I’m impressed by, and grateful for, the responses I’m reading in this thread. The respect shown and the honesty, humility and thoughtfulness in this forum stand out in sharp relief from the mean-spirited, self-satisfied and argumentative “dialog” that has swamped (pun intended) most of today’s media and social-media. It is refreshing to be a part of the MPU community.

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@mikeschmitz I always love watching your ScreenCastsOnline Videos. They have enough depth and something new to learn in each of them. It’s more structured. I think your videos are far more appealing to anyone who watches them.

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Appreciate that! Unfortunately I’m not doing those videos for SCO anymore as I felt there was a conflict of interest with my work at The Sweet Setup. Don and his team are great to work with, and I learned a lot from the experience.