Mike San Román

software gentleman
Senior engineer at Buffer
Co-founder of otter.es
Productivity nerd

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My simple manifesto: 6 reminders to live by

I believe each of us needs a set of principles to live our lives by. In a way, I think we all have our principles already there, even if they are unseen to you. Although sometimes, not seeing them makes us not be fully aligned in our actions in our daily lives, or with our goals for the future.

Or we are applying other’s principles, just because they’ve been louder than our inner voice. That’s not fair to you, nor to the world – your values need to be personal because they need to be true for you. They need to tickle your stomach when you think of them and inspire you to reach your higher self.

So here are my six principles. These are the ones I try to remember every day so that every time I can choose to live and react to things in a way that’s empowered by them.

  • Be of value to others.
  • Do things with love.
  • Be grateful.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Remember patience is underrated and you...

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Your smartphone is killing your productivity

I love my iPhone, and I think we can’t deny the enormous impact smartphones have had on our culture and civilization.

Now we are starting to learn that there is also a “too much” side for this and that it can hurt our productivity as well as our rest, leaving us all in a state of mediocrity in our lives when not taking care of this.

Do you know the feeling of being focused on something, like a conversation, or a deeply focused task, and suddenly that focus is yanked away because somebody said your name in the other side of the room?

What about that feeling of your phone vibrating in your pocket, and when you reach out to grab it, it’s not even there?

It looks like we have grown to become attentive to our smartphones as much as hearing our own na.

If they are at an arms reach, your attention gravitates to it. If they vibrate, or their screen lights up, your brain feels the rush to...

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Listen to everyone, follow no one


We are social beings. Our values and opinions are created by exposing ourselves to others. That’s why it’s essential to join conversations and to be challenged by new (or even better, opposing) ideas.

In this, novices to this practice usually have an easier time than veterans. The reason is simple; veterans are grown to a particular viewpoint, backed up by many examples, quotes, and ideas. They feel they know themselves. Being exposed to new ideas creates friction, it’s hard to reconcile a new thing when we carry already so much. However, you cannot value a new view unless you understand it, and to understand one must listen.

But then, novices have the hardest time with the second part of the equation; having less friction to new ideas, they adopt new things with no questions at all, and that leads to dogma.

When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening...

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Do your best


When you are working on something, there should be no doubts that you are supposed (and are going) to deliver the maximum amount of quality you can.

Even on a rush. Even if nobody will notice.

But what if you feel you just can’t? You know things need to be handled better, but you can’t invest the time or effort required to get to that level?

First of all: you need to do your best always. If you know you are delivering your best, that’s already something to be proud of.

But still, what if you see there is a gap between your current best vs. your expectations?

I think here is where self-awareness comes into play. Ask yourself: given the constraints you’ve had with the task at hand, is there some way you could do it better the next time?

What’s holding you back from doing so?

  • Is it that you’re not used to working in a certain way? Then practice working on that way, until it...

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How short weeks are a blessing for my focus

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For the longest of times, I’ve struggled with weeks like this one, where I’ve had a couple of days off, and I’m starting my week when everyone is already in the middle of it.

Feelings of urge pop up, and I feel like I have to make up for lost time, that I have to catch up on all the things I have missed, and that I have way less time to do the same amount of work because I’ve started so late.

Now I realize how backward this line of thinking is. I took those days off to rest, and I would make a massive disrespect to myself and my work if I just reversed those days by overworking myself when I get back to work.

Instead, now I see this time restriction as a great opportunity and reminder that there are only a few things that matter, and that I can still accomplish many big goals by scoping them out and setting the right priorities here.

What would happen if you only had an hour...

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On taking breaks

It’s crazy; I haven’t spent a full week back home yet since I left for Bali and the Buffer retreat five weeks ago. Now finally coming back home for good after a long weekend away celebrating Maria’s birthday.

Going to Bali and Singapore was a great mix of work, relax, and bonding with amazing people, whereas this weekend has been 100% about shutting down, disconnecting, and resting.

It all goes back into self-awareness: just as I know I´m all right after six hours of sleep, I feel ready to be back to work after just a few days of total disconnection. As soon as I spend a few days without being engaged in any project, my mind starts spinning and throws ideas at me at any given moment.

My mental fangs grow and the hunger to create pops back in.

I’m excited to come back to Buffer to build new things at Publish and Analyze.

I’m pumped to show up the work we’ve done at otter.es for the...

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Think of yourself as dead


“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly. What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.” - Marcus Aurelius

What would happen if you knew this was your last week alive? Would it change your perspective on things? Would you focus on things you’ve been delaying, while letting go of others that take lots of your energy today?

There have been a few moments in life where I thought I was done for. Those moments are the “reset” buttons I needed right at that time.

They’ve helped me realize where I had to let go of unhealthy mindsets or habits, or when I was dedicating my time to something that was not valuable to me, or that I was living life by other people’s standards, and not my own.

Thankfully, you don’t need to have a life-or-death scare to perform those resets in your life. You can liberate yourself from your past. Be...

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Apprenticeship Patterns

Your goal isn’t to become better than the “average developer”. Your goal is to measure your abilities and find ways to be better than you were yesterday.
We are all on the same journey, and comparing ourselves to others is useful only when it allows us to find ways to help each other improve.

– Apprenticeship Patterns, Adewale Oshineye & Dave Hoover

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