David Kadavy’s setup

David Kadavy is a writer, lifehacker, author of the reknowed and Amazon best-selling book Design for Hackers: Reverse-Engineering Beauty. He hosts the podcast Love Your Work, where he’s interviewed amongst others: Jason Fried, Noah Kagan, Dan Ariely, and Laura Roeder. He also regularly blogs about productivity and travel on Medium. Talking about being prolific and productive, David definitely is on the spot.

Tell us a fun fact about you

I once went 25 years without vomiting. Is that a fun thing, or is that just a gross thing? It was disappointed when I broke my streak with food poisoning in coastal Colombia, but it was also a relief to finally get it out of the way. I had become emetophobic.

Show us your desk

David Kadavys standing desk
David Kadavy’s standing desk

I spend the first hour of each day standing, chipping away at my most important project, or writing a 500-word Medium article. I recently sold all of my stuff and moved to Colombia, so I live in a small, furnished, 1-bedroom apartment. The fact that none of the stuff in the apartment matters to me, I find to save me a lot of cognitive energy.

The apartment has a cheap shelving system in it. The kind you’d find at Walmart in the US. I’ve arranged the shelves so that I can put my laptop at a comfortable level for standing, and I can put my trackpad and keyboard at a comfortable level for typing.

I have quite a few paper books for a digital nomad-type, don’t you think?

After an hour of standing, I’m usually ready to sit down. My desk intentionally faces a blank wall so I don’t get distracted, especially in the morning, when I’m vulnerable to distraction, and when I also am my most creative.

I swear by split keyboards, when I can use one. I used to use one by Kinesys, but settled in on the UltraErgo. You might notice my trackpad shattered in transit once. I have been tempted to replace it, but have been practicing not caring about such inconsequential details (it still works fine).

My laptop sits on aB elkin laptop stand, and you can see my AViiQ portable laptop stand, which I sometimes bring with me to cafes.


What computers do use (desktop, laptop, mac or pc or both) ?
MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Mid 2014), 2.8 GHz Intel Core i5, 16GB RAM

I used to use a MacBook Air, but when I started doing more audio and video, I wanted the extra computing power. I find that I don’t mind the extra weight at all, I don’t have to replace my computer every year, and the Retina display was a nice upgrade.

What’s your current phone ?
iPhone SE. I “downgraded” from an iPhone 6. I never wanted my phone to be big in the first place. The SE is the perfect size (though I think I’d like it even smaller).

What gear do you use for podcasting (mic…) ?
I use a CAD U37 USB mic. I think the sound quality is pretty good, considering it was about $40. But I have some terrible static problems with it that have caused embarrassing situations when interviewing people like Steve Case, Ryan Holiday, or every guest, really.

I’m in the process of replacing it with an AudioTechnica ATR2100. However, I live in Colombia, so it’s not a matter of 2-day Amazon Prime delivery. I’ve considered fashioning one out of tin foil and twist-ties, but I think I’ll just wait the couple of weeks it takes to ship it.

I also use a shock mount, and a pop filter. I record in a tiny closet, and it takes awhile to set up each time I want to record. It’s quiet in there, and fortunately my guests can’t smell my dirty socks through Skype.

What other useful gear can’t you live without (printer, router, analog stuff…) ?
I am so dependent upon noise-cancelling headphones, that when I broke my JVC ones (carried them around in my backpack without a case), I immediately went to a store and spent $330 replacing them with the Bose QuietComfort 25s. In the practice of not caring, I’m proud of myself for buying the white ones, even though I didn’t want that color, because that was what they had in the store.

I’ve talked a lot about computer gear, but more important to me is the stuff that helps me think. Thus, I always have a Moleskine notebook, and prefer to write in it with a .3mm ZIG Millenium black pen.

I also love my AlphaSmart NEO for high-level brainstorming, or just typing whatever comes to mind.

I recently bought an Amazon Echo and am surprised how much I like it. Mostly I use it to summon Pandora or Spotify.

I wear Mack’s Ear Plugs when sleeping, and during morning writing sessions.


General purpose

OS: OS X El Capitan
Browser: Google Chrome
Email client: Gmail


Evernote: The number one for me, without hesitation. Everything I do is in Evernote: drafting blog posts, writing talks, brainstorming ideas… I even write my emails in it, even though I have to do some reformatting when I paste back to Gmail.

Other useful apps I use

Scrivener: This has some really powerful tools for organizing your writing, but I mostly like it because it’s the only app I’ve been able to find that has a full-screen mode with decent control over the typography. I use this for book projects I’m working on, and sometimes for blog posts.

MeetEdgar: I like that this will share an update multiple times. I don’t feel like I’m on a social media treadmill when I put an update in here.

SimplyNoise: I use the “brown” noise to block out noise in cafes, or sometimes even during my morning writing sessions.

Duet Display: Turns my iPad Air into a second monitor. Really useful for monitoring chat while running a webinar, and great since I sold my second monitor when I went minimalist.

Web apps and services

FancyHands: it’s like an on-demand personal assistant. I do delegate a lot, and this helped me free up my creativity. FancyHands is a great way for me to train myself on delegating, saving a lot of time booking appointments, making phone calls, etc.

Phone apps

Relax: Andrew Johnson’s app has a great relaxation sequence. I’ll use it instead of trying to take a nap, because it’s more restful and less frustrating, because falling asleep in the middle of the day is hard.

Chrome extensions

Facebook News Feed Blocker: Keeps me from getting sucked into Facebook when I go there for work, or when I inexplicably type “fa + enter” into my browser.

Vibe: Great for looking up social media profiles of your email contacts.

Boomerang: Helpful for delaying administrative or other unimportant emails to off-peak work time.

The one productivity tip you’d recommend

Productivity isn’t just about getting things done anymore. It’s about knowing your brain, and creating the conditions for insightful breakthroughs.

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