100+ Resources for Optimizing Productivity & Performance
I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
— Oscar Wilde
I spent well over $100,000 in the last five years in a quest to optimize health, maximize productivity, and install systems to ensure peak performance.
In the process, I have purchased and tested hundreds of products, programs, apps, and services, unearthing the critical few that actually make a difference.
Until now, I only made this list available to my 1–1 private coaching clients — but due to popular demand, I’m making it publicly available so that everyone can benefit.
Having the ultimate resources list will not solve a complex performance issue. But it certainly doesn’t hurt.
I have broken down the list into eight categories:
A final note before you dive in: some links below are referral links, meaning I get a small finders fee and you get a bonus for signing up. If that’s not your thing, no worries, feel free to utilize Google. I have no economic agenda here — every single thing on this list I endorse and use personally.
The process of improving sleep is a series of upgrades to your bedroom environment, sleep hygiene, and bedtime routine. In my experience, each of these changes will have a compounding 1–3% effect on all future sleep which over the course of a lifetime really adds up.
Sleep duration is overrated, sleep quality is underrated. With a tracker, you can get a feel for how you slept the night previous and adjust your expectations accordingly, as well as measure the effects of changes to your sleep environment. Oura is by far the most accurate sleep tracker I have found, with excellent analytics.
Eliminating ambient noise is essential, particularly if you live in a big city. Best purchase under $50 in this list, very travel-friendly.
Have tested many eye masks and this one is my favorite. It is comfortable, blocks out all the light and some additional sound. Even if your room is dark, I highly recommend wearing an eye mask, as putting one on acts as a major trigger for sleep.
Blocking out all light is the lowest hanging fruit for improving sleep.
Even with a cool room, our felt temperature can shift quite a bit with blankets. This keeps your mattress at a constant temperature.
Spent way too much time learning about mattresses this year. Helix stood out for the ability to completely customize the mattress to your sleep style.
A weighted blanket seems to evoke the sense of calm and relaxation that comes from being held, helping me fall asleep faster. I have also found that the weight causes me to toss and turn in my sleep considerably less than I did previously.
As I began the journey to deeper sleep, I discovered I was allergic to dust — these help keep the allergens at bay.
Scents are a powerful trigger for mood. I like using lavender drops for creating a welcoming sleep environment.
I wear blockers if I’m around any screens or artificial light for the two hours before bedtime. These clear lenses are not very effective, blocking out only ~ 50% of blue light, but they have zero color distortion and are stylish enough to wear in public.
These are the most effective blue blockers on the market, blocking out an incredible 99.8% of blue light. They do turn the world orange and when I’ve worn these for a red-eye flight I get some double takes.
Replaced all the bulbs in the bedroom with these to reduce ambient blue light. Most bulbs in this category are actually worse than traditional bulbs so make sure you use these. I find that I prefer the softer shade amber light to brighter bulbs.
Most effective supplement for sleep onset I have found, with fast absorption from the liquid drops. Take right before bed.
Relaxation and stress relief without any psychoactive effects. Take one hour before bed to start winding down.
These have been effective as a long-term intervention to counter cortisol spikes from late-night poker. Take right before bed.
Most people take the wrong amounts of melatonin for the wrong reasons at the wrong time. It is not for sleep onset but for resetting circadian rhythms when changing time zones. It is most effective when taken 3 hours before the desired bedtime. 1mg is the max dosage needed despite many OTC versions being 5mg or more.
For the majority of entrepreneurs, the bottleneck is not a lack of time but a lack of energy capacity. My lifestyle has become progressively healthier with these subtle nudges that make it easier to treat my body well.
For best results, make sure you get moving and receive sunshine in the morning, drink lots of water, be mindful of your posture, break a sweat every day, and reserve time for recovery in the evening.
Loosens up muscles and increases blood flow for an improved range of motion and a decreased chance of injury. Additionally useful for easing sore muscles for better quality sleep and faster recovery.
Having a great mat in a prominent location will cause you to stretch more often, improving your energy levels and posture throughout the day. For best results, use with supporting props such as cork blocks and sandbags.
I still have a hard time getting myself to the gym without precommitment, especially in the winter. Thanks to my trainer, Wes, I discovered that all of my exercises can be modified to use kettlebells instead.
With a water dispenser in the office, you will drink significantly more water during the day.
Reduces effort required to drink tea by keeping water heated so it is always at the perfect temperature.
Turning water into seltzer makes staying hydrated a pleasurable experience and helped me eliminate all sugary carbonated drinks.
Adding Epsom salt to a relaxing hot bath allows magnesium sulfate to be absorbed into the skin which helps ease sore muscles and speed up recovery.
Getting sunshine to start the day is critical for maintaining healthy circadian rhythms. When real sunshine is not available, this is a great substitute. I use this lamp for 15 minutes first thing and it has a noticeable wake-up effect. Very useful to counter jet-lag when changing time zones.
I have had one of these pills first thing every day for the last few years as my only caffeine intake. The L-Theanine (2–1 ratio is ideal) counterbalances the anxiety of caffeine. Pill form allows me to completely control for caffeine timing and dosage.
Research coming out says that most vitamin supplements are pretty useless and supplement quality is pretty variable. Fish Oil is my only daily vitamin these days as the health benefits seem sound and it has a noticeable improvement effect on my mood.
My posture has suffered quite a bit from long periods of sitting and playing poker. Improving requires tracking. UprightGo automatically tracks my posture throughout the day so I can track progress over time. The device also has an active mode which will vibrate anytime you slouch for faster training.
A physical reinforcement of posture that helps keep back upright and shoulders back while sitting.
I know, I know… a toothbrush, what is this, Christmas at Grandma’s? If you had gotten 12 cavities in one year as I had, you would start taking your teeth a bit more seriously as well.
Premium Seamless where delivered meals retain the same quality as experienced in the restaurant. Restaurant list is highly curated (many are exclusive to Caviar) with high-quality photos of menu options.
When starting to batch cook my meals, I find not reliably having ingredients at home to be a big source of friction. With Instacart, I can order all of my staples in 5 minutes and have them delivered in two hours. Possible to completely automate using FancyHands.
An inexpensive and reliable option for a scheduled healthy meal delivery which is Paleo friendly, available across the US.
Provenance Meals (NYC Only)
Tastiest option I found for scheduled healthy meal delivery with rotating menus for variety and catering to dietary restrictions. A bit pricey on a per-meal basis but the increase in quality is worth it.
Simply put, you will put in more hours if you can create a workspace that is comfortable and free from distraction. Given how much time we spend at our desks, it is worth making the investment to minimize the amount of stress we put on our bodies by sitting and staring at a screen for long periods of time.
Increasing the amount of virtual space available for work is an immediate productivity gain, similar to increasing your working memory.
Committing to concentrate on a single task for a time period is a guaranteed focus improvement. I find it very useful to increase salience by having the timer externalized in my physical environment.
Inexpensive Bluetooth noise canceling headphones which will block out all external noise for a distraction-free cocoon.
For effective organization and retrieval of all important physical documents. Use with hanging folders.
Upgrading to a Cherry mechanical keyboard will allow you to type faster and more accurately with the reduced key force required and audial feedback.
Playing a dozen games of high stakes poker simultaneously requires extremely fast and accurate clicking. Customizable mouse shortcuts are very useful for one-click access to any program you open frequently.
Versatile chair designed to keep you active between many sitting positions rather than remaining still all day long. This supports your body’s natural posture and brings more energy to your work by improving your circulation and keeping your legs and core engaged.
It is clear that we were not adapted to sit in a chair all day. I find that standing while working increases my urgency and reduces my distractibility. Most standing desks additions are pretty janky; I prefer the flexibility that comes with being able to rapidly switch from seated/standing and adjust desk height as needed.
If you don’t have one of these beneath you while you are at your standing desk, you aren’t going to be standing for very long.
Reinforces posture and reduces pressure from the blood rushing to your feet. Reduced my back pain and leg tightness after long periods of sitting.
To improve the way you spend your time, you need to know where your time is going. However, despite its usefulness, the habit of time tracking is traditionally difficult to maintain. Timeular solves this by allowing you to switch activities with a single physical gesture.
Consistency with habits depends on a reduction of friction. Having the right tools will make your habits feel easier and more enjoyable, making it more likely that you stick with them for the long-term.
Have been using these notebooks as my journal for years. Can easily digitize these physical notes in Evernote to make them searchable across all your devices.
All my coaching clients and I have adapted this simple and powerful system for planning our days and weeks.
Practicing gratitude is deceptively simple but can have a profound effect on the way you go about your day. Using the 5MJ makes it much easier to maintain the habit.
Having a pen that you enjoy writing with will increase the chances that you write more often. After testing many, these are my favorites.
These headphones are incredibly functional for audio/video calls as well as listening to books and podcasts on the go. Frictionless transitions.
Reading on a phone is a terrible experience and iPads can be very distracting with internet connectivity and other apps… single-use devices are usually best.
This Kindle is small enough to fit your entire library into your pants pocket, and I doubled my time spent reading just by having it with me. No backlight so less blue light exposure if reading at night. Seamless export of book highlights and notes to Evernote using clippings.io.
When spending three months a year on the road, having easy access to funds around the world is critical. With relatively minimal effort, I transfer credit card points to airline partners to pay for all of my international flights using miles, saving myself thousands of dollars per year and occasionally getting upgrades to first class.
The best debit card for travel. Use any ATM in the world and have all fees refunded. Amazing customer service. Lost my card in Hong Kong and got a new one delivered to my hotel the next day. Investment platform is fantastic as well with very low fees. $100 free on signup.
Without the overhead of a brick and mortar bank, Amex is able to offer 2.1% interest compared to the negligible interest you’ll find elsewhere. Super easy transfers between accounts make Amex a great interim place for your liquid cash without having it eaten by inflation.
This is the best card to own for perks. 5X points on travel, $200 Uber credit, $200 airline credit, Centurion, Delta, and Priority Pass airport lounge access, hotel status upgrades, amazing concierge service, etc.
60,000 Membership Rewards points upon signup, good for a round-trip international flight. $550 annual fee which is easily recovered and can be negotiated down before renewal.
I put the vast majority of my non-business spending on this card. 3X points on all dining and travel and Priority Pass membership. Ultimate Rewards platform is the best, with transfers available to all three airline alliances for max redemption value.
50,000 Ultimate Rewards points upon signup. Not the 100,000 it used to be, but still almost good for a free round-trip international flight. $450 annual fee which you will cover almost immediately with the $300 travel credit.
If the $450 annual fee is a deal breaker, you can also get the Sapphire Preferred with 2X points, the same 50,000 signup reward, and only a $95 annual fee.
Taxes are much easier when you put all business expenses on a separate credit card. 3X points on a bunch of categories: travel, shipping, phone, internet, and even online advertising.
80,000 Ultimate Rewards upon signup and only a $95 annual fee, good for three one-way international flights.
Membership program with ridiculous discounts and benefits for a $395 annual fee. Don’t bother with the events.
I’ve used: Adidas (30%), Dell (40%), FancyHands (25%), AT&T (15%), Indochino (30%), MRPORTER (free $200), BritishAirways (10%), JetBlue (5%), Breather (free $100, 25%), and General Assembly (25%) but there are much more.
No brainer for poker players going to WSOP as you get instant Diamond status at all Caesar’s properties to skip registration/cashier lines along with free rooms at Tier 2 properties mid-week.
As you get deeper down the travel hacking rabbit hole, it gets harder to keep track of all of the places you have rewards points. AwardWallet lets you see all your airline, hotel, and credit card miles/points in one place.
To make the most of your money, you need to know where your money is going. Mint is the standard for tracking all your spending and investments at a glance. It’s easy to get up and running so a good place to start if you’re new to budgeting. Recategorization, especially with transfers, can be really monotonous if accuracy is necessary.
I’ve switched from Mint to Tiller for budgeting and tracking spending this year as I find the spreadsheet approach to be more intuitive and malleable to my needs. Will report back on next update.
Programs for Productivity
This is everything I have installed on my computer. All of these should work well on either Mac/Windows.
High-level project management in a user-friendly interface. Very useful for managing and coordinating teams. Allows me to easily delegate and track current progress at a glance.
I moved all team communications to Slack, eliminating most of my email and making all our past conversations searchable.
One of my biggest productivity gains was starting to put everything into my Google Calendar. Now, if it isn’t in my GCal, it doesn’t happen. Automatically reminds me of all things that I’ve committed to do as well as a record of all the things I’ve done. Can share calendars with roommates or a significant other for easy coordination.
I use GSuite for collaboration with team and clients on documents, cloud storage, domain hosting, team email accounts, and probably other things that I’m missing.
Eliminates all the scheduling back and forth by just sending a link. Integrates with GCal so people can only book when you are available. For coaching clients, I use Satori, which also handles payments and the other administrativa.
Low priced entry-point into virtual delegation. $5 per 15-minute request. Great for getting dormant tasks underway, researching with a list of options, or calling up service providers.
I use Evernote as my Second Brain, making all of my previous thoughts and ideas searchable. All of my book/article highlights from Kindle/Instapaper get exported here as well as my handwritten journaling and note-taking. Web Clipper allows one-click saving of web pages for later viewing.
Automatically tracks time spent on desktop and mobile devices. Allows you to identify problem sites and apps so that you can add friction to accessing them. Screen Time is not a valid substitute due to misaligned incentives.
Everyone should be using a password manager. Have super secure passwords that you never need to remember with automatic log-ins. Also, with team accounts, you can easily give temporary account access to contractors.
Simple applets to automate your life. No technical skill needed, can choose from many premade “recipes”. After connecting two services together, an action in one service will automatically trigger an action in the second.
Moving away from Skype after years of using it as my primary video conferencing option. Zoom scales up easily from 1–1 to groups. I have fewer issues with poor connection and with a URL instead of stand-alone software, it is much friendlier for less technical users. Native app for recording and transcribing meetings.
Curated serendipity is very powerful for lateral thinking. Readwise surfaces your past Kindle and Instapaper highlights in a customizable daily email. The most useful idea right now is likely an idea you have already had.
Automatically and gradually adapts the level of on-screen blue light on your MacBook at night. Customizable. By the way, Apple’s Night Shift is a complete joke, a change in coloration does not mean a change in light frequency.
My go-to background music for writing. Not sold on the science but personally, seems like I am much more likely to get into a zone with lyric-free music which has a consistent rhythm and tone. Try Alpha Chill.
Keeps all chats in a single place, making it easier to batch check messages at regular intervals with less distraction.
Chrome Extensions for Productivity
All of these extensions can be subtle behavioral nudges, saving you time and improving your intentionality when you spend time online.
Focus is created through constraints. Best web blocker on the market with apps for Mac, Windows, Android, and iOS. I call this the “nuclear option”. You can preschedule blocking of websites, apps, and even the entire internet for certain times of the day.
Amazing extension. Automatically checks your spelling and grammar as you write, acting as an automated copywriter. Works with Google Docs.
The first step to improving the quality of your online reading is to separate discovery from consumption. With one click I can save an article I am interested in for later reading on my iPad. Highlights are sent via IFTTT to Evernote where I can quickly review my takeaways for future writing.
Stay out of your newsfeed! With this extension in place, visiting Facebook during the workday without falling into the rabbit hole becomes possible.
Same as above but for Youtube. Hides all of the right-hand recommendations so that you can avoid the rabbit holes.
Best replacement available for the former AdBlock Plus. Blocks all ads and pop-ups.
I use Clippings in combination with an IFTTT recipe to automatically organize and my Kindle highlights and notes and export them to Evernote.
Replaces the new tab page with a personal dashboard — time, photo, inspirational quote, to do list. Keeps you on task for that critical moment of switching contexts.
Increases the loading time of websites that are problematic but that you still need to access from time to time. Load time gets longer with every check, greatly increasing intentionality. Dopamine has met its match.
Highly recommend developing the habit of closing all of your tabs every time you close your computer. This extension allows you to save a group of tabs open for easy future access, freeing up RAM and allowing a clean slate the next time you open your browser.
Gives you a daily time quota on time-wasting websites, after which you will be blocked. Highly configurable.
One click speeds up or slows down video playback in 0.1x increments so that you can watch more things in less time.
Lets you know if your emails and emailed links have been opened with a handy dashboard. Sends follow-up reminders if not.
Schedules sending of your emails, snoozes emails until you’re ready to take action, and resurfaces in your inbox if someone does not respond.
Hides your inbox by default so you can search past messages without getting distracted by unread emails. Handy option to only receive new emails during certain hours, making distraction-free mornings much easier.
Places a hard limit on tabs open in a Chrome window. New tabs exceeding the limit are put in a queue, loading when space is available. Like a computer, every tab you have open is like an open process dragging on your mental RAM.
iPhone Apps for Productivity
Our smartphones can act as a superpower or a superstimulus. Curating the applications you have available will determine the actions you take and the life you lead.
The best player for listening to podcasts — pretty much all of them are listed here. Downloads podcasts for offline listening and automatically clears space afterward. The SmartSpeed function cuts down the time to listen to a podcast in half.
Best app for travel. This is how I have found almost every single restaurant/cafe I have been to (and what to order there) for the last six years. Don’t even get me started on the dumpster fire that is Yelp.
Pro-tip: When in a new city, sort by rating and walk to anywhere rated 9.0 or higher within 0.3 miles for a guaranteed win.
By far the best platform for hotel and hostel booking. Widest coverage, great review system, low prices, and lightning fast booking. Easy changes and cancellations.
Juno (NYC Only)
I’ve been using Juno for ridesharing almost exclusively since last year’s launch. The drivers are consistently more professional with cleaner vehicles. Pickup times and fares are similar to Uber/Lyft but worth doing a comparison before booking longer trips. 30% off all rides for the first two weeks and 10% off thereafter.
Best app for weather. Never get caught in the rain again. Down to the minute predictions and customizable notifications.
Will absolutely transform your power nap game. Hypnotic dreamscapes which block out ambient noise, calm you down and help you fall asleep, and gently wake you up feeling refreshed.
I primarily listen to electronic music sets rather than individual tracks and Soundcloud is the best place to discover and catalog them. The app has a great feature of automatically downloading sets I like to add to my phone so I can listen to them offline.
Randomly samples you throughout the day to illuminate areas of your life you wouldn’t be able to measure otherwise. I have used it to identify energy cycles, what activities make me the happiest, and where my time is going.
Uber for massage therapists in your home. Life in the 21st century is pretty great, isn’t it?
Automatically transcribe all audio. Integrates well with Zoom. I use Otter for all meetings and important conversations to capture all key ideas and action items for later search and sharability.
High-quality document scanning on your phone. I do a lot of analog notetaking and this app makes it very easy to archive these notes to Drive, Evernote, Slack, or email.
Really enjoy Sam’s meditation course, designed to help you quickly overcome the early plateaus and useful for experienced meditators as well. Focuses on the neuroscientific benefits without all the spiritual fluff.
Sometimes too much guidance can be a bug rather than a feature. When I want unguided meditation, I use Calm for tracking with serene backgrounds to create an audial cocoon and subtle gongs to maintain my focus. If you want even more minimal (and free!), try Insight Timer.
So there you have it. I am certain there is something in this list which can streamline the journey towards your goals. I will update and build upon this list with new resources I discover.
Would love to hear what you find useful!
What did I miss? Anything I should add? Let me know, @SparksRemarks on Twitter or chris[at]theforcingfunction.com.
I’m Chris Sparks, founder of The Forcing Function, helping entrepreneurs and executives design the habits and systems to maximize personal productivity and achieve peak performance.
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