Chris Sparks — Performance vs Productivity, The 4-Hour Workday, and More Wood Behind Fewer Arrows

📻 Listen now in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform. 🎥 And watch the full interview or select clips on YouTube.

In the first official episode (which is brought to you by Flow), I sit down with Chris Sparks (@sparksremarks)— one of Top 20 poker players in the world, and now a high performance coach to many of the world’s best entrepreneurs and investors — to discuss:

  • Why he focuses on holistic performance rather than just brute force productivity.
  • Why reflection is underrated and how it can help you level up in work and in life.
  • Why many of the world’s top performers work for just 4 hours per day.
  • And how you can spot the bottlenecks that are holding you back.

It’s an incredible episode that’s packed with big ideas and simple tools you can start applying today.

If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving a short review on Apple Podcasts? It takes less than 60 seconds and it really makes a difference in helping to convince hard-to-get guests.

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“If you can improve fast enough in the right areas, then the score will take care of itself.” Chris Sparks

Imagine blocking your emails until noon each day. What could you get done if you weren’t reacting to your inbox?

This might sound unfathomable, but Chris Sparks (@sparksremarks), Founder and CEO of The Forcing Function, has seen this simple practice greatly boost executives’ productivity. Because you’re not immediately opening yourself up to the outside world, you can fully focus on accomplishing your top priorities for the day.

(And guess what? The world won’t catch fire if you don’t respond to an email immediately!)

This is just one of the dozens of strategies Chris teaches when coaching executives, investors, and founders on how to live their most productive lives through his company, The Forcing Function.

So how did Chris become a productivity expert? In his last year of college, he discovered online poker, and he quickly became one of the top 20 poker players in the world.

Chris discovered the skills he’d picked up at the poker table were extremely valuable in the business world.

On the premiere episode of Outliers, Daniel Scrivner talks with Chris about all things productivity. He shares favorite tools to help him stay focused — surprisingly, there aren’t any apps on this list. Instead, he favors a simple cube timer — to block off high productivity time slots — and a yellow notepad, where he jots down his random thoughts throughout the day.

Chris also shares his stance on taking supplements (spoiler: he’s not a huge fan of them), using productivity tools and apps (another spoiler: he thinks many of them are unnecessary), and he reveals his daily caffeine routine, which doesn’t include coffee.

For more, join our newsletter at Each week we send out a single email that contains all of the best quotes, themes, and ideas from each episode.

This episode is brought to you by Flow! Every single day, hundreds of thousands of teams in more than 140 countries use Flow to save time, hit deadlines, and work brilliantly. Flow combines powerful features with world-class design, to create a productivity app that you and your team will actually love using. And for the last 18 months they’ve been working on something big. It’s a brand-new version of Flow, that they call Flow X. And it’s the embodiment of everything they’ve learned helping teams achieve more over the last 10 years. Take your team’s work to the next level with Flow X. To get exclusive early access, visit

Connect with Chris

LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram | Website

Links from the Episode

Favorite Quotes

“I think a lot of productivity is almost a gateway drug for people in that there’s this fascination of, ‘If I master this tool, if I acquire this habit, all of my problems are going to go away.’ And I like to say we’re the common denominator in all of our productivity struggles. No tool, no system, no routine is going to change anything until we ourselves change.”

“The best way to waste time is to sprint as fast as you can in the wrong direction.”

“Time is like an investment portfolio, and certain times our portfolio becomes overweight toward one part. … Reflection allows us to take a step back, and say, ‘Well, how can I rebalance this portfolio? Is the way that I’m spending my time currently in line with my priorities?’”

“The way you save maximum time is to make mistakes in simulation rather than reality.”

“Never underestimate the power of compounding. And I think with working out, I would say it’s much harder to go from zero pushups a day to one pushup a day than it is to go from one pushup a day to a hundred.”

“‘What if I could only accomplish one thing today and have the day be great, what would that thing be?’ And you spend, say, the first 60 to 90 minutes of your day working on that thing, then you could treat the whole rest of the day as a bonus.”

Big Ideas

Planning → experimentation → reflection → repeat

A case for the 4-hour workday…

Take your to-do list and cross off half the items.

When optimizing your productivity, start with the low-hanging fruit.

Make a 1% improvement each day — then watch that compound.

Put your blinders on to help improve your focus.

Why having a plan is key.

The incredible power of a $20 cube timer.

The benefits of not checking your email in the morning.

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Fanatical about decoding what the Top 1% of people across industries have mastered — as well as what they’ve learned along the way. Host of

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