I often get asked what hardware, software, and I tools I use on a daily basis to make myself as productive and efficient as possible. This page contains contains my favorites.
My favorite gear and hardware
This section lists the hardware I use on a daily basis. I tend to think of myself as a minimalist, so the less hardware I have to use, carry around, or think about, the better.
Minimizing my hardware stack reduces my cognitive load and makes me more productive.
Additionally, by having a small hardware footprint I can afford to spend more money on high quality pieces of hardware that I truly care about and enjoy using.
I’m currently using an iPhone 12 Pro (256GB). I’ve been an iPhone user since the iPhone 3 came out back in June 2008, and a Macintosh user since 2004.
At this point I’m heavily ingrained in the Apple ecosystem. Between my phone, laptop, iMessage, Apple TV, and the fact that Apple’s integrations just seem to work out-of-the-box, I don’t see myself leaving Apple anytime soon.
Also, nothing against Android users, but I’ve tried my friend’s Android devices in the past. They’ve felt slower, clunkier, and I didn’t care for the UX.
My laptop of choice is currently the 13-inch MacBook Pro. My particular model has a 2.3 GHz quad-core processor, 32GB of RAM, and 4TB of storage.
Even though I do a lot of work in artificial intelligence, often having to write code to process massive datasets, 99% of the time I’m logged into a server that is running the computation. For this reason I can get away with a laptop versus a desktop.
Additionally, I use a MacBook Pro since I’m firmly entrenched in Apple’s ecosystem.
I have nothing against other hardware or operating systems, but macOS is by far the most polished OS I have ever used.
Once I become more confident in Apple’s M1 chips I’ll switch over to one of those models.
For productivity reasons I tend not to be an early adopter. There’s nothing worse than getting a new piece of tech only to find that it actually slows you down rather than makes you more efficient.
I don’t see the novelty of being “first” to adopt new hardware/software if it’s not guaranteed to improve (or at least, not harm) your efficiency.
For the time being, my Intel-based MacBook Pro is doing just fine.
Pro-tip: Purchase a pack of microfiber clothes and then place one in between your keyboard and screen when you close it. Doing so will prevent marks on your screen from your the oil/residue on your keyboard. Additionally, whenever you are done using your laptop, you can use the cloth to quickly wipe down your keyboard and screen, ensuring your machine is clean and tidy for the next time you use it.
⌨️ Keyboard and mouse
When I’m at my home workstation I use an external keyboard and mouse, both for productivity and ergonomic reasons.
Again, since nearly all my hardware is Apple, everything just “works” without me having to fight devices to connect to my machine.
🖥️ External monitor
I can’t imagine getting intensive work done without a second display. A small laptop screen just isn’t going to cut it for deep work.
Currently, I have an LG 38″ curved display which I adore. It’s easy on the eyes, and let’s be honest, curved displays are just badass.
Additionally, it’s one of the very few non-Apple pieces of hardware I own.
For what it’s worth, I truly love the Pro Display XDR , but there’s no way in hell that I’m going to spend $6,000+ on it.
📝 iPad Air
My iPad Air (with Magic Keyboard) is one of those weird pieces of technology that I didn’t think I would like but I actually love.
I find that when I’m using my laptop, I’m only thinking about work. So if I have to hop online over the weekend or during non-work hours, my mind immediately starts thinking about work — that sucks from a work/life balance perspective.
Instead, I use my iPad Air for personal tasks. The Magic Keyboard makes the iPad Air function similarly to a laptop and I can get all my personal tasks done on it, without my brain switching over into “work mode”.
Having both a MacBook Pro and iPad Air certainly goes against my “minimalist” tendencies; however, from a mental health perspective I think it’s well worth the tradeoff.
⌚️ Garmin watch
My Garmin Fenix Sapphire watch is also one of the few non-Apple products I own.
I’ve owned multiple Apple Watches in the past, and while they were good, I found they were never great, (unlike most other Apple products which are great).
I workout 8-10x per week and the Garmin does a better job tracking my body metrics.
That said, the new Apple Watch Series 7 has improved sensors so I may buy one of those the next time I need a new watch.
😴 Oura ring
If there is anything in your life that you should optimize, it should be your sleep. Quality sleep improves both your mental health and physical health.
It’s hard to move mountains without good sleep.
And while my Oura ring doesn’t necessarily “improve” my sleep, it allows me to track key sleep metrics, including:
- Deep sleep
- REM sleep
- Light sleep
- Heart rate
- Heart Rate Variability (HRV)
The data I’ve gathered through my Oura ring has allowed me to optimize my sleep and thereby, indirectly, optimize my productivity.
For example, once I saw the impact the impact alcohol had on my sleep I cut it from my life. Alcohol destroys sleep quality — and if you wear a sleep tracker like an Oura ring, Garmin watch, Apple Watch, FitBit, etc., you’ll see that for yourself.
My wife likes to be super warm under the covers, to the point where she sweats. I’m not exaggerating when I say that she’ll have 3-4 separate covers on the bed.
When I sleep, I prefer to be cold. I’ll sleep under a single, thin sheet — that’s more than enough for me.
Instead of fighting over the optimal number of blankets on the bed, we instead purchased two BedJets.
These things are freaking amazing. She can have it super warm on her side and I have it super cold on my side.
Plus, research shows that it’s better to sleep in colder rooms (but don’t tell my wife that…)
Headphones are also where I break my minimalist tendencies.
When I’m lifting weights, going for a run, or otherwise doing errands, I use my AirPod Pros. I love my AirPods. They are the only earbuds I’ve found that actually stay in my ears. Plus, there’s no wires so I don’t have to worry about knocking them out of my ears when I’m moving around.
That said, earbuds, even noise cancelling ones, pale in comparison to their over-ear big brothers.
For that reason I also own Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones. I use my Bose headphones when I need to get deep work done. They are also super helpful when I choose to work from coffee shops where it can get loud and distracting.
I’m super old fashioned when it comes to books. I prefer paper over digital any day.
I like the feel of a physical book in my hands. I also like using a highlighter to annotate passages that resonate with me.
After I finish reading a book I use my phone to snap photos of the highlighted quotes, and then I add them to a Notion document which organizes the quotes for easy reference.
Additionally, books are one of the very few things that I allow myself to collect and accumulate.
My favorite software and apps
Similar to my hardware preferences, I also try to minimize the amount of software and apps I utilize as well.
In order to be efficient, it’s not just about finding the right tools for the trade. It’s also about minimizing your distractions so you can be more productive.
This section details what software, apps, and tools I use daily.
Notion has quickly become my favorite piece of software of all time.
- It’s the best note taking app I have ever used.
- It allows you to seamlessly embed images, video, PDFs, and other file formats directly inside your documents
- It has a drag-and-drop Wiki-like feel to it, making it super easy to construct hierarchical document organizations
I use Notion to manage my business, my personal life, my gratitude journal, my weekly accountability documents, online courses I take, and everything in between.
Previously, I used Evernote to organize my life and business, but over the years I’ve grew discontented with Evernote. Other than Evernotes ability to OCR and index images and PDFs, I don’t see much value in Evernote over Notion these days.
Seriously, if you don’t have a Notion account, you should sign up and give it a try.
🔑 G-Suite, Google Drive, and Google Docs
Like many internet users, I utilize Gmail to manage my inbox. And since I have a custom domain name, I use G-Suite to manage my account.
G-Suite, like Gmail, comes with Google Drive, Google Docs, and the entire set of amazing Google products.
While I love Notion, it cannot compete with Google Sheets or Google Slides for when I need to build a spreadsheet or create a slide deck.
Plus, Google Drive makes file sharing easy.
Trello is my favorite productivity software. I organize my entire personal and business life around Trello.
- I have a Trello board that manages my daily “3 Big Things”. Every day I create a list of three big tasks I’m going to accomplish that will either move my business or personal life forward. Those tasks, come hell or high water, will get done by the end of the day, no exceptions.
- My wife and I have a Trello board for concerts we are attending. We have three columns: “Need to Purchase”, “Going”, and “Gone”. These columns allow us to easily track concerts we need to purchase tickets to, which concerts are coming up (including who purchased the tickets, whether they are printed tickets or mobile), and which shows we’ve been to in the past.
- We have Trello boards for PyImageSearch. Trello is used to track our content marketing, product creation, administration tasks, and just about everything else.
Organizing your life with kanban board software like Trello makes you more productive.
👨💻 PyCharm and Sublime Text
I’m a software developer and artificial intelligence researcher, which often means I spend time writing code.
For small projects I prefer Sublime Text. It’s a lightweight, easy to use IDE that’s easily extendible.
One of my personal favorite extensions is the SFTP for Sublime Text plugin that allows me to easily SFTP into servers and make code edits directly on the remote machine.
For larger projects, I utilize PyCharm. It’s a larger, bulkier editor, similar to Eclipse for Java users.
Music is a huge part of my life. I go to 15-20 concerts per year, typically in the punk, ska, hardcore, and instrumental post-rock scenes.
Furthermore, I use music as a form of “flow trigger” which drops me into a flow state that boosts my productivity sky high.
To do this, I have bands that I listen to only when I’m performing certain tasks.
- When I’m authoring content I listen to a lot of This Will Destroy You, Explosions in the Sky, Red Sparowes, and Russian Circles
- If I’m answering email I listen to If These Trees Could Talk (specifically their The Bones of a Dying World album). Typically my goal is to hit inbox zero before the album is over.
- When writing code, I listen to punk/hardcore music with lyrics. Typical bands I’ll play when coding include The Flatliners, Banner Pilot, Red City Radio, and The Menzingers.
- And when it’s time to workout…then I go a little harder. You’ll hear me blasting Agnostic Front, Minor Threat, Bane, and Bad Brains. I’ll even throw in a little Motorhead if I’m feeling angsty.
I have 100s of gigabytes of music sitting on old external hard drives. I could upload them to Amazon Music…or I could just use Spotify.
One of these days I’ll organize my music collection in the cloud and then stream it directly from Amazon Music, but until then, Spotify is a livesaver.
🎤 Apple Podcasts
I also listen to a good number of educational podcasts, mostly in the business, entrepreneurial, and leadership space.
There are countless podcatcher apps, but my favorites are Apple Podcasts and Downcast.
However, I’ve found myself using Apple Podcasts more and more lately since the UX has gotten so much better (and since it exists directly within the Apple ecosystem).
Believe it or not, I actually think smartphones should be used for more than watching stupid shit on YouTube.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to watch cat videos and kids falling off bikes, but life is a dichotomy and you need to find a balance.
Every morning I play Elevate, a brain training app that quite literally makes you smarter.
The exercises are treated like games, so you don’t even feel like you’re doing something super educational.
As you can see from my stats, I’m in the 97%+ percentile for my age group in nearly all categories (I would be that high in the “Memory” category as well, but that category was added just a couple months ago).
I’m not going to bother trying to tell you about the importance of meditation and mindfulness. You probably already know how daily mindfulness:
- Reduces stress
- Helps control anxiety
- Enhances your self-awareness
- Helps prevent memory loss
- Generates feelings of kindness and gratitude
- Improves sleep quality
Back in November 2018 I bought a lifetime membership to the Calm App.
Is it the best meditation app online?
That’s debatable, as there are a lot of other players in the field…but I can tell you that the $149 I spent on the lifetime membership has paid for itself many, many times over.
Start meditating if you aren’t doing so already.