App and book recommendations for people who want to be happier and more productive

If somebody asks you the same question more than ten times, that’s probably a sign it’s time to write a blog post about it. So after being asked by far more than ten people about what books and resources I recommend, both for EAs more broadly and for people interested in charity entrepreneurship more specifically, here it is! After spending roughly the last 15 years optimizing nearly constantly, these are the systems and products I recommend.

If you know better versions of what I recommend, please share it in the comments! While I recommend the apps I use, I’m sure there’s ones out there that do the same thing but in a better way and I just haven’t had the time or energy to pay the switching costs yet.

Apps and Extensions

  • Game-changers. Everybody should be using these.

    • Video Speed Controller. This allows you to hot key change the speed of videos anywhere on Chrome. It also doesn’t limit you to 2x, which so many apps do for some reason. You’ll never (involuntarily) watch things on 1x again.

    • Clipboard history with CopyQ (Mac) or here for Windows. Absolute game changer. It remembers everything you’ve copy-pasted and you can click it from a list or use shortcut keys to paste them again in the future. Saves you so much time and hassle. It’s hard to describe how much this changes how you use your computer.

    • Switch between your two most recent tabs. Use the shortcut Alt + Q to switch between your two most recently used tabs. It’s like alt-tab but for tabs instead of windows. I can’t imagine navigating a computer without this. It feels crippling. I know that there are better ones that allow you cycle through multiple tabs, not just your most recent. If you know of one, recommend it in the comments! I just haven’t had the spare time to optimize this more.

    • Google docs quick create. Shortcut key or single click to automatically create a new google document or spreadsheet. Saves a ton of time.

  • ​Very good. Will be extremely useful for a lot of, but not all, people

    • Quickcompose. You know how easy it is to get distracted by your inbox when you need to send an email? Quick compose makes it so that you can open up a window that’s just a compose window so you can’t get distracted by new emails.

    • I don’t care about cookies. Makes it so that Chrome automatically accepts cookies, so you never have to click “I accept cookies” ever again.

    • StayFocusd. Limits your time on social media.

    • News Feed Eradicator. Eradicates news feeds from Twitter and Facebook and probably other social media as well. Saves you innumerable hours a year.

    • SmileAlways. Makes it so that it automatically always opens Amazon Smile so that all your purchases contribute to charity. AMF is an option there. Nice passive impact opportunity.

    • Beeminder. You only pay if you don’t achieve the goals you set for yourself. Stickk is similar and allows you to make the money to go to an anti-charity of your choice and easily add an accountability buddy. I like the UI of Beeminder better since it’s better for tracking my progress, but tastes will vary.

    • Focusmate. Have an immediate, remote, videochat accountability buddy to help you work on things for 30 or 60 minute increments. Really good for getting done those things you don’t usually want to do or if you’re having trouble focusing (e.g. paperwork, homework, etc).

    • Keysmith. Allows you to make a “program” by having the computer watch what you do and try to mimic your actions (e.g. open a window, type X, press these keys, etc). Allows you to code with no coding. It’s not perfect, but it works for a lot of things. I use it to automate really repetitive tasks. (Mac only. Probably a Windows version somewhere.)

    • Habitica. Gamified habit formation with a social accountability mechanism I find very compelling.

    • Emojis everywhere. The windows key + period (.) opens the search bar for emojis on any app on your computer. It’s ctrl + command + space for Mac. This can make you an emoji boss. 😛

    • Turn everything into audio. This is a super valuable and useful.

      • Nonlinear Library of course! This has been a game-changer for me. I always wanted to read more of the Forum but never found the time and motivation. Since it’s so easy, I now read the best articles every day. I just listen to it in the morning while getting ready or while commuting to work. But there’s no customizability or ability to add your own idiosyncratic reading list, which means it’s incomplete. For the rest, I use:

    • Pocket and Save to Pocket chrome extension to quickly send an article to your Pocket for later

    • Workflowy. I’ve also heard good things about Roam but seems similar enough to Workflowy to not be worth the switching costs for me. I’d play around with both to figure out which you prefer before committing. Game changer for thinking better. I use it for steelman solitaire, a technique I developed that is great for thinking things through really deeply.

    • Messenger. Some people message people by actually opening Facebook. This is a recipe for distraction and wasting your time on social media. Always use the messenger app (desktop or phone) to talk to people on Facebook.

    • All IMs on desktop. Some people only do WhatsApp, texting, or other forms of IM on their phone. This is crazy. No matter how fast you type on a phone, you’re slow compared to a computer. Almost all of these apps have the ability to do them from your computer. Here’s instructions for WhatsApp and Android texting.

    • Boomerang for Gmail. Sends back your email if you haven’t heard a response in X period of time. Perfect for being able to follow up with people at the right time, especially weeks to months later. Makes you feel like you’re the most organized person on the planet.

    • A password manager. It saves you so much time filling in forms, which it’ll auto-fill for you. Far better than existing autofills on Chrome. I use Dashlane which is also a VPN.

    • New Tab Motivational Quotes. Chrome extension that makes every new tab show a motivational quote. If motivational quotes work for you, this can often help you stay energized throughout the day.

    • CopyAllUrls. Copies the URLs of all the tabs you have open. Comes in handy a lot.


  • ​Libgen. It’s sci-hub but for books. And for scientific articles and comics too! Here’s a guide on how to use it. It’s pretty easy to use and has pretty much all books. If it’s not available in your country, use a VPN.

  • Pinterest for motivation. Pinterest allows you to train your own ML algorithms for particular purposes by making “boards”. I have an inspiration board where I just add anything I find inspiring. Now it’s trained so well on my tastes that it gives me eerily good recommendations. I’ve saved many a work day because of this.

Books and Blogs

  • How To Measure Anything. Classic in the EA movement for a reason. Lots of practical techniques.

  • Copyblogger. It’s the writing class written by people who actually write for a living in the real world (unlike your English teachers). Absolutely essential for comms if you’re running an organization or want to write for a cause. And, since they’re good at writing, it’s a really easy read of course. Here’s some very unpolished notes I wrote while reading it. Their book on headlines is probably the highest value thing to read of theirs. You have to give them your email address to get the free e-book, but it’s totally worth it. They also have a ton of free content there that I highly recommend.

  • Lean Startup. Enough said about this already.

  • Atomic Habits. The best habit development book out there. See also my blog post here about my framework for onboarding habits.

  • ​The Mom Test. Survey design that they don’t teach you in school. How to get actionable answers when you’re a practitioner trying to actually learn for real work, not just a theoretician in an ivory tower. Short book with really good insights.

  • The 4-Hour Work Week. Tim Ferris is probably the most instrumentally rational person I know of. The idea of passive income is incredibly high leverage, and can be cross-applied to altruism (“passive impact”). I think a lot more EAs should be pursuing passive incomes or early retirement (this is a great blog on that topic).

  • Actually doing the exercises in books. This isn’t a book recommendation per se, but I figured it belonged here. You really really really need to become the sort of person who actually does the exercises in the books. This is huge for you actually improving.

Physical products

  • Improve your posture with a laptop stand. The easiest intervention ever. Costs $30 and you will have way less back pain, better posture, and look better, and with no ongoing effort required. Here’s a twitter thread I wrote about posture and how it’s one of the best “bang for your buck” interventions to improve your attractiveness.

  • Mouse with a million programmable buttons. If you love shortcut keys (which you totally should), you will love mice with programmable buttons. You can make it have over 30 shortcut keys at the slight move of your thumb.

  • Kindle cover to make it look nice. Half of the reason why people read paper books is because of their feel. It just feels nicer. Fix this by getting a cover for your Kindle that makes it feel beautiful to you. E-readers are better for reading in almost every single dimension. Don’t let aesthetics stop you from reading.

  • Travel-friendly workout gear. These elastic bands allow you to travel with your “weights” but they weigh practically nothing since they’re just light plastic.

  • A little canister attached to your key chain so that you can never be without your favorite spicy pepper powder.

  • Longlasting lipstick. Don’t bother having to re-apply all the time. This is the best I’ve found so far.

  • IUDs. IUDs last for ten years, so you don’t have to pay attention to birth control again for literally a decade. Also, if you get the hormonal one, you have a decent odds of literally stopping your periods. Imagine not having to deal with all of that for a decade! I forget the numbers, but it’s somewhere in the range of 10% of women stop having periods while also having the most guaranteed birth control of all alternatives. The cost and pain savings are incomprehensible.

  • Better, less gross insect repellant. This stuff works just as well as DEET and it doesn’t smell bad. It’s more likely putting on pleasant sunscreen instead of squirting yourself with death-chemicals, which is my usual experience with DEET-based products.

  • Erasable pens. Pens are clearly better than pencils in that you can write on more surfaces and have better colour selection. The only problem is you can’t erase them. Unless they’re erasable pens that is, then they strictly dominate. These are the best I’ve found that can erase well and write on the most surfaces.


  • Game of Trust. Ten minute introduction to game theory in a really memorable way that will help you deeply learn some of the basics.

  • We Become What We Behold. Profound five minute game. Illustrates how the effects of paying attention to what’s interesting causes polarization and strife.

  • Democracy. A really complicated game where you try to run a country. It gives you a lot of empathy for the tough job of politicians and each policy you make shows a writeup explaining the arguments for and against. It definitely has a liberal slant, but they do a decent job of steelmanning both sides, which made me feel I learned a lot more than the usual political content out there.

  • 1979 Revolution. The best way to really feel what it’s like to be part of a revolution. It’s a documentary-game of the Iranian revolution in 1979 and being the one making the decisions adds a really interesting element to it.

  • Florence. The most beautiful and deeply happy piece of art I’ve experienced in the last decade. Perhaps the most realistic fictional portrayal of relationships I’ve ever seen. And it’s a phone game! It uses the medium for storytelling in really creative, metaphorical, and beautiful ways. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s about a 30 minute game time and totally worth the $3.