Fours years ago I started a website called EntrepreneurSetups. The purpose was to feature productive people setups, i.e. what tools they use to do their work every day. What’s their computer, which software and apps they use.
The first people I reached out to were seasoned entrepreneurs I heard of, but did not know personally. I managed to get answers from a sizeable number of interesting participants, like David Kadavy, Derek Sivers or Nat Eliason. But, having started the project for the wrong reasons, I quit working on it after a few months only
Last Sunday, I thought back of the project, and I told myself: “damn, the idea was fun.” I like geeking out about hardware and software, discovering the stuff people use to be productive when they work. Every time I stumble upon someone’s desktop screenshot, I enlarge the picture and start analyzing what apps they have in their dock or menu bar.
So I figured it’d be fun to do it again. Without any real purpose, just for the sake of nerding out on cool setups. Even maybe repost the setups I published a long time ago. For now, I’ll start with myself. Here we go.
Note: the set of questions I use is similar to the one I used to interview people back then.
Tell us a fun fact about you
I have Diskfullophobia. I’m afraid of occupying too much space on my hard disks. So for instance I buy a 1TB hard disk and never use more than 300 GB.
Show us your desk
I live in a small 42 square-feet apartment, so this desk in right in my living-room.
Most of the time I work on the tiny computer just behind the keyboard, which is plugged to the ultra-wide screen you see, but I like to vary sometimes and use my MacBook Pro instead. I switched recently, as I bought the mini-computer a month ago. Before that, I was full time on the MacBook Pro, which was also plugged to the screen and rested on an TwelveSouth BookArc laptop stand.
The desk itself is combination of a table top bought at Leroy Merlin, lying on an Ikea desk stand.
The chair is a DX Racer King series, with upgraded wheels. These are wheels that could be fit on rollerblades, no kidding. It almost rolls too much on my living room’s floor.
What computers do use (desktop, laptop, mac or pc or both)?
Since 2016 I’m a 100% Mac person. Last time I used a PC was in 2017, and it was just for sporadic gaming. Now, I use two computers daily.
A 13-inch Macbook Pro, 2016, 4 thunderbolt ports, Touch Bar (sigh). For the past couple years, my main and only computer was the 13-inch MacBook Pro you’ve seen on my desk. It’s fully maxed out: Core i7 3.1 GHz, 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of disk. I love it.
Despite the finicky keyboard, which I had replaced 2 times, I think it’s a great machine. The only thing I hate is the damn touch bar. Had Steve Jobs been alive, I’m pretty sure he’d have fired on the spot those who came up with the idea. It’s not just useless, it’s counter-productive, since sometimes I hit it accidentally.
A Hackintosh mini-pc. As I said, I recently purchased a mini-computer. It’s an Intel NUC 8i7BEH. It comes just with the processor, an 8th-gen Core i7 CPU, so I added 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB Samsung NVME.
I bought it because I was interested in buying a Mac mini at first, but the performance/price ratio was disappointing. So I got this instead and hackintoshed it. It took me a full day to get it working, but now it’s almost as good as a genuine Mac mini, save for two minor inconveniences (the SD card reader isn’t recognized, and bluetooth doesn’t work).
With the hackintosh, I use a standard wired full size Apple Keyboard, and a Logitech MX Anywhere 2S mouse. I also have an Apple Magic Trackpad but I find the mouse easier on the wrist, and the MX Anywhere is one of the best mouse out there.
What other gear do you use every day?
When I want to use headphones with my computer, I have a Logitech G930 wireless headset always plugged in. When I’m roaming, it’s the noise-canceling Bose QuietComfort 35 II. These headphones are just fantastic.
I also have two Blue microphones: the proverbial Blue Yeti, pro version, and the RaspBerry for when I travel. I don’t podcast, but I create music and record myself playing guitar or singing.
My screen is an ASUS MX299 ultra-wide 24″, which I bought used over a year ago. It’s an OK screen. Nothing bad, nothing incredible.
Underneath it, I have a small Aukey USB hub which is quite handy.
I recently bought the AirPods Pro. They’re not cheap, but they’re so good. I had Pamu Slide earphones before, and it’s day and night. The Pamu Slide were uncomfortable, going too deep in the ear canal. The bluetooth pairing process was a pain in the ass. And the case was ridiculously big.
All of these problems don’t exist with the AirPods. Sound quality is great, they’re comfortable, and the noise cancelling feature is surprisingly good. Not as good as with the Bose QC 35 obviously, but still great. And the best thing is the charging case size, which is small enough to let you put it in any pocket.
Last but not least, I have a Kindle Paperwhite I pick whenever I feel like reading.
What’s your current phone?
I have an iPhone X, 256 GB version. Also bought it used, but in sharp condition. Before that, I had a Pocophone for a year, but I just prefer iPhones in general.
macOS, obviously. Currently version 10.15, a.k.a Catalina.Sometimes I fancy using Windows, just for fun, but too much of my workflow and apps I use everyday are macOS only.
My default browser is Safari. I made the switch recently from Chrome. When using a Mac, the interface is just snappier and sleeker than Chrome. I also started using Brave instead of Chrome, after reading this great article on TheVerge.. It does everything Chrome does, minus the tracking and dependence to Google.
Spark. I used the Gmail client for the longest time, but I enjoy doing email on a desktop app. Besides, Spark is free and has most of the features you would otherwise need to install Chrome/Gmail extension to have, like snoozing, send later, email templates etc.
Alfred. This app is arguably the most important app in my workflow, and the one that ties me to macOS. It’s so well integrated, so useful, and so central to my workflow that I can’t work on a computer without it. It’s the first thing I install on a new Mac.
I use it to launch apps, find, copy and move files, control Spotify, perform calculations, text expansions, quick web searches, create reminders, find emojis, create documents, search notes, generate passwords, copy file paths… It’s safe to say that half of what I do on a computer everyday is done via Alfred, at least in some part.
Notion. With Alfred, it makes the cornerstone pair for everything I do on my computer. I use Notion for note-taking, idea dumping, journaling, todo lists, drafting blog posts, project management and tracking, keeping logs, managing personal databases like a reading list or apartment hunting, share info and wiki-style documentation online. It’s great for quickly sharing a page on the web, and for collaborate in real-time too.
Google Drive. No need to explain. It’s great to quickly create docs and spreadsheets, and share them in a snap. I also use it as my main way of syncing files, whether personal or business-wise. I even store a few app settings there since some apps, like Alfred, allow me to sync my settings across multiple devices.
1Password. A long time ago, when I was a Windows user, I used to store my passwords with KeePass. 1Passwords fills the same role as a password manager, but is way more effective, beautiful, and practical to use. It’s got extensions for Safari and Chrome, a great iOS app, and can store many types of data.
From logins to credit cards, to addresses and secure notes. It has an auto-fill function that works great, letting you fill login forms with one keystroke, whether in your browser or on your phone. If you’re using the password manager integrated to your browser, know that dedicated password managers are more secure.
Other useful apps
Its philosophy particularly fits my workflow, as I tend to mostly drag and drop my screenshots in various apps, like Slack or Whatsapp. Where CloudApp emphasizes uploading images before sharing a link, Cleanshot works by adding a small thumbnail overlay on your screen, which makes its quickly accessible, and easily drag-n-droppable anywhere.
HazeOver. It’s a tiny app that just does one thing: it dims the apps you aren’t using, increasing the focus on the app you’re currently on.
Magnet. I’m a bit maniac about window positioning and management, so this little app is perfect for me. It lets you quickly resize and position any window in a few but precise ways: maximized, left-half or right-half of the screen, top-left/top-right/bottom-left/bottom-right corners, one third-two thirds, and center. Besides, it just costs a one-time $1.99 fee.
Web apps and services
Spotify. I’m gladly paying 15 € per month for the family plan. Music streaming has become a part of my life and I listen to Spotify almost every time I drive, or when I work, thanks to focus music playlists like this one:
One little known feature l love is the ability to upload your own mp3s and have them synced across all your devices. Since I’m a huge Final Fantasy music fan and you can’t find much of it on Spotify, this feature was game-changing .
Stencil. I snatched a lifetime deal on AppSumo a while ago, and to me, it’s one of the best deal ever. This web app lets you quickly create stunning visuals, whether for a blog post featured image or marketing content. It’s super easy to use and even offers access to millions of copyright free images. If you’re still using Photoshop, Pixelmator or Affinity Photo just to create simple graphics, give it a go.
Brain.fm. When I don’t listen to focus music on Spotify, I fire up Brain.fm. It’s an app that streams music created specifically to make you focus better while working, or, on the contrary, when you want to relax and unwind. Its musics and sounds works great for me.
Whimsical. This web app lets you create flowcharts, wireframes, sticky notes and mind maps, all in a single, minimalist, yet powerful interface. What I like about it, is that it does away with the complicated stuff you usually get with such apps. Instead, it gets out of the way, giving you just what you need to create elements and connections quickly, and rapidly put what’s in your head on the screen, in a flowing manner.
Namecheap. My registrar of choice. Maybe not the best of the best but I like their interface and how I can quickly buy a domain name, then configure email forwarding or manage DNS settings.
Pocket. I haven’t been using bookmarks in ages. Whenever I want to save something to check out later, I send it to Pocket. It’s got extensions for major browsers, and a cool iOS app.
AirTable. While I manage personal databases in Notion, AirTable is awesome when it comes to either collaborating on data with people, or connecting with other apps and APIs. Whenever I need to use a database, and be able to share and collaborate on that data at the same time, I do it with AirTable.
Readwise. It takes all the highlights you created in Kindle books, and sends you a nice email every day to let you review them daily.
I only have two spaces I have on my iPhone:
And here are the apps I use the most often.
Spark. Works great when paired with the desktop app.
Calendars 5. Love this calendar app. It’s from Readdle, the same editor as Spark, and integrates well with it. The thing I really dig with this app is the natural language input, so you can add an event in a snap. For instance, simply typing Write my monthly review every first Sunday of the month will create a recurring event in your calendar. This used to be possible in Google Calendar too, but they removed it for no reason. Also, this app is much snappier than Google Calendar on iOS.
Spotify. Their mobile app is awesome. Works particularly great when used in the car.
Bankin’. A bank account aggregator. Great interface, simple to use. Lets me check all my bank and saving accounts at a glance, in one place.
Audible. I recently cancelled my membership, as I read books way more than I listen to audiobooks. But I still have a few audiobooks to listen to.
Pocket. It’s here that I most often consume the content previously saved for later. It usually goes like this: I stumble upon an interesting article on my computer, so I send it to Pocket, and forget about it. Days or weeks later, I open Pocket on my phone and read the saved content.
Brain.fm. While I use the web app when working, I sometimes use the mobile app when I want to relax or meditate. With the AirPods Pro, it’s a fantastic combo.
Noizio. An app that play sounds, to let me focus, relax, or simply drown out outside noises. It has been shown that the right amount of noise makes you more productive. With Noizio, you can choose among sounds like rain and thunder, fireplace, birds in the park, crowded street, cafe ambiance, wave sounds on the shore, and many more.
Loom. I just downloaded this app to quickly share video from my smartphone. I think it’s great to quickly share medium to long videos, as it works better than recording the video with the native camera app, then having to send a huge file over WhatsApp or SMS.
Whatsapp. A great majority of my contacts use it. Besides, not everyone is on iPhone so it’s a great alternative to iMessage. Regular text messages are a thing of the past.
1Password. Since I store all my passwords in 1Password, it makes my life much easier when I need to log in websites from my phone.
As I said, I’m not using Chrome much, but when I do, here are the extensions I use.
Pocket. To quickly save articles for later.
uBlock Origin. To get rid of pesky ads.
1Password: do I need to explain?
SearchPreview. It makes search engine results so much more pleasing to the eyes, by providing a little thumbnail for each website, as well as an indicator of the site’s authority.
Discussion button for Google Search. This adds a nifty Discussions button to let you search only in comments and forums.
Tab to the next. Just so when I open a new tab, it pops right after my current tab, rather than at the end of the tab bar.
UberSuggest for Chrome. I discovered this extension yesterday. If you don’t know UberSuggest, it’s a great SEO tool made by Neil Patel. If you’re into SEO, I strongly recommend you taking a look. The Chrome extension integrates most of the app’s features so you don’t need to to log in to the app each time you want to use it. It works right off the bat from within your Google searches.
The one productivity tip you’d recommend
Just start small.
It works like magic. Whatever you have to do, from the most menial task to the biggest project you dream of tackling, thinking, pondering and planning won’t get you anywhere. You just have to start. Even if it’s a grandiose project, break it into the smallest steps possible and begin at once. Big endeavours are for suckers.