Manage your life better (personal notes) — Alberto Pena

With dreams, you are inspired, with goals you are guided, and with objectives you make progress.

Book Cover

Be Productive

Be more organized and efficient, yield better time, know how to invest our creativity and energies, work without stress, go in the direction of our personal and vital objectives.

When we are unproductive the problem is ours, of our personal mismanagement.

Act with initiative and determination, organize yourself intelligently, eliminate stress, concentrate on the most important task, execute them with firm steps, eliminate distractions and notifications, and clear the way to create original ideas.

These are the basement principles, which make everything else (ideals, college career, talents, commitments) work.


Productivity is the ability to apply positive habits that allow us to make the best of our and others’ life. It is not a simple matter of investing more time or doing more things.


  • Creativity (imagination, inspiration). Free your mind from everything superfluous, irrelevant, and insignificant so you can concentrate on what is important. Filter the daily bombardment of small things that bleed the daily limited resources.
  • Relaxation. Stress is widespread and closely related to personal mismanagement. It generates irritability, disorientation, frustration, anxiety, insecurity, distraction, exhaustion, and pessimism. Stability, freedom, and balance are lost. It prevents us from growing because you lose confidence.
  • Growth. Fight against monotony and lack of hope. Work on decision, security, self-esteem, and optimism.
  • Satisfaction. For the high performance.
  • Capacity. When you choose what you do and follow a plan of action to undertake and finish what you must do today, your capacity increases. The days will stretch and you will reach more things that seemed impossible before.

Your top 10 productive objectives

Identify 10 things you would like to achieve after improving your self-management. They must be very specific things, the imprecise will not pull you anywhere. From now on ask yourself if what you are doing is getting you closer to them. Productivity does not have an end, you must seek productivity not to achieve it, but to get closer to your real dreams and goals

How to be productive


“If you think something is impossible, you will make it impossible
Bruce Lee

Proactivity is the predisposition to take effective control with initiative, anticipation, optimism, and action. Move, face problems, make things happen.

  1. Have a positive mental attitude. Accept as you are today but fall in love with the real possibility of changing tomorrow. Enthusiasm and passion in action, serenity in problems.
  2. Visualize success. See the opportunity and the reward that awaits after the effort. It is the hand that pulls us, the motivation.
  3. You are the solution. The optimist always has a project, the pessimist an excuse. Do not be a spectator. Take control, avoiding both haste and immobility.
  4. Banish the “can’t”. Optimism can be encouraged and made to grow.
  5. Think of what your idol would do.


Sometimes we are tempted to choose the most comfortable, fast, or fun actions. Values determine our decisions. Is what I do now relevant? Is it worth it? Is it going to be a benefit to my life?

  1. Do not betray yourself with unproductive choices-actions.
  2. Personal goals. Define them and move through them on a day-to-day basis.
  3. Impact on your goals. They are at a higher level than the objectives, next to them everything else seems secondary.
  4. Leave a mark. Make a difference. Each of us is unique.
  5. Personal growth. What we do has a silent impact on us. Pay attention only to what makes us grow.


“Everything is very difficult before being simple”
Thomas Fuller.

  1. Small objectives. Take small steps, one goal at a time without complications or difficulties. Think big but execute small. There are no shortcuts.
  2. Value the small. Even the most beautiful painting has been done brushstroke by brushstroke.
  3. Do only one task. Avoid dispersion and multitasking. It gives us: peace of mind, quality, efficiency, and naturalness.
  4. Define and sets limits. Days are finite. Put a time limit to daily repetitive tasks. To have a limit drives you to concentrate.
  5. Getting rid of waste, things, or activities that are not important but that consume us. Throw away everything that does not help you to grow. (cancel all subscriptions that you never read).


Our attention span is limited. Be aware of the moment, be present. Know what you are doing, why, and how.

  1. Focus on today. Prepare and anticipate. Identify the key tasks of the day, not all of them.
  2. Focus on the objective. Become really aware of what you are about to do and eliminate the rest of the things.
  3. Focus on the environment. External distractions are a strong enemy of productivity (along with imagination). We can block some of them: close your email, collect everything you need first, silent your phone…
  4. Focus on concentration. Be totally present in everything you do.
  5. Focus on choices: Choose, clear.


The procedure and pattern of action required to achieve everyday things.

  1. Work with lists:
    ENTRY List: it contains everything I must do at some point. An agile and simple capture system. Write it down as soon as it appears and continue with what you were doing. Keep it with you at all times (or accessible from anywhere). It doesn’t matter what tool you use.
  2. EXIT List: it contains what I have to do today. Everything else does not matter (at least, today).
  3. PERMANENT List (optional): it contains what I can do at some point. They do not have an expiry date, do not require daily or constant control. If the priority changes, we move it to one of the two previous lists.
  4. Identify Key tasks. The ones that demand more from our productive self. Very related to our Decalogue. Devote the best moments to them. Distinguish between URGENT/IMPORTANT.
  5. The golden minute. This is the Allen two-minute rule. If a new task appears, and it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now.
  6. Periodic tasks. Place them well according to the energy, circumstances, and assets they require. Work by batches (emails, phone, meetings,..). Finish with each one before moving on to something else.
  7. Find the gaps of the day. There are no dead hours for a productive person. Use it for something you can start and finish.


Fight against the innate tendency to dispersion, distraction, and indiscipline. Self-control calls us to order and leads us back but there are known enemies of our productivity:

  • Procrastination. Repeatedly delayed tasks that we resist to do due to lack of initiative, laziness, fear, or indecision. Solution: to give meaning to that task, break it down into parts, visualize the benefit, take the first step.
  • Unforeseen. Unexpected tasks that rise against our planned day. Solution: Calm down, they are something normal. Do not waste time in lamentations. Don’t multitask: just one thing at a time.
  • Say yes to everything. You are not a bad partner for not always saying yes to everything they ask. Solution: Being productive is choosing well, analyze the impact on the output list.
  • Stress. identify what stresses us and deal with it. Solution: Take care of your rest. Plan and visualize in advance. Stand up and do nothing during 5 min.
  • De-motivation. Solution: Give us a break in the bad moments: tomorrow will be another day.


Review and evaluate how my productive self is behaving. We are always improving. We will never reach the end of the road. Find the right moment, do it regularly, and be relaxed when doing it.

  • Do it daily and weekly
  • Evaluate, conclude, define actionable small steps, improve
  • Be honest but benevolent. Evaluate only to see the causes and find solutions
  • Celebrate successes
  • The exercise of evaluation

Productivity and Technology

Organize your computer Contents and Applications.

Watch out for software installation fever (especially if you follow technology blogs). Master the ones you use (e.g.: keyboard shortcuts), improve the ones we have (extras, plugins).

Be careful with the accumulation of digital leisure. Know where to find everything. Order on the desk. Eliminate alerts and notifications: they are distracting.

Manage your information.

  • Set a limit. Avoid unconscious browsing. Some applications act as navigation bidders (they warn you). Use the shortcuts/favorite folder.
  • Choose your reading/emailing subscriptions carefully.
  • Social networks: give them a meaning, set limits.
  • Eliminate waste from time to time deleting the things that you don’t use.


Simplify and unify addresses. Unify everything in a single mailbox. Use rules and criteria for filtering incoming messages.

Set times to manage it: as if you were the physical mailman (nobody goes down to the mailbox every ten minutes). Do not look at it first thing in the morning, do what is planned for the day.

Empty your inbox and arrange/archive emails into folders. Keep only the actionable ones. All important messages end up coming back. Delete the notifiers.

Use three folders/tags:

  • Action: To answer, forward, do something. Everything that would go on your To-Do List.
  • Waiting: waiting for someone else’s response.
  • File: Assets that you could need in the future.

Use filters and rules to assign labels or move to folders.

Take care of the “subject”: it can determine the answer on the recipient. Short and direct replies. Use redesigned answers, save time.

The online office

Today technology is synonymous with ubiquity. If you have the files in the cloud, you always access the latest version from all the computers: there is no need to synchronize them. Use contacts, calendars, and office applications in the cloud.

Final Recipes

  • Frequent breaks
  • Booklet always at hand
  • Glucose (energy, concentration)
  • Real disconnection when work is done
  • The mechanical promotes creativity
  • Enjoying the road, not just successes
  • Every day, choose three things and do them very well


I must admit that some parts of this book are quite boring, there are so many personal examples and it constantly repeats the same ideas over and over again. If I am reading a productivity book is because I am already committed to the cause, you don’t need to convince me (again).

I am the kind of person that goes directly to the point and expects the same in self-management books, especially if they are talking about being more productive. This is a common mistake in this kind of books that I still don’t understand. Maybe it is there because some people have not faced some of the discussed topics, so they need some of the stories to clearly understand the point. What if we could put them all together as an introduction that other people (like me) can skip?

Despite all of this, the content itself is really valuable. The ideas are clear and the solutions are realistic and actionable. I have decided to put into practice several ideas of this book and I have strong confidence that the result will be quite positive. Let’s see.

If you want to learn more about this I encourage you to buy this book written by Alberto Pena .

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