Thoughts by Bruno Bernardino

How I use Clear to be productive

Morning Routine of a Productivity lover

March, 2014

My Personal List in Clear for iOS


As you can see from the photo above, my saturdays are not exactly filled with a lot of things to do. And I love that.

It’s actually been one of my goals since around summer last year, when I decided I should have the weekends “for myself” (actually meaning me and my significant other).

How did I get there?

It’s not easy. But that will be a story for another time. :)


Why Clear?

Clear is great because it’s simple.

If you don’t like Clear, rest assured, you can use anything else, as long as it doesn’t allow you to add notes or more information about a task than just the task’s name.

Obviously, the fact it’s got a just-as-simple desktop app and synchronizes through every device I’ve got is also pretty amazing, but it’s not the main reason of why it’s so important for the use I give it.

It’s really the fact that you just have the task’s name, and you’re prioritizing it according to the position in the “queue”. No clutter.

The gestures also make it so much more intuitive and easy to use.


My Lists in Clear for iOS

The “Personal List” is where my daily tasks live.

And the key here is daily.


The Process

  1. Wake up.
  2. Do morning routine.
  3. ???
  4. Profit.

Morning routine

I’m sure some of you will check your emails first thing in your morning routine.

You should not.

From the moment I sit in front of the computer, and before I eat my breakfast, I open Clear on my Personal List (which is almost always clear — ha!) and start typing away the 2-3 most important things I know I need to do today.

The first two things (which don’t count as most important), are always:

  • Check emails
  • Check asana

Then it just varies, but without looking anywhere, I just type the 2-3 important things I know I need to do today, in no particular order, that I know from memory (yesterday).

Then, I start my first task: “Check emails”.


But you said we shouldn’t check emails first thing in the morning!

Oh, definitely. Unless it’s really important.

I check my emails during my morning routine (still, only after adding the most important tasks of the day in Clear), but that’s only because it makes sense for my job.

I’m the CTO and run Operations and Client Success at Clevertech, so there’s a strong possibility I have very important emails that arrived during the night, which might have impact on what I should do today.


Learn to check emails the right way.

Usually people take a lot of time going through the emails in the morning. If I don’t need to reply to any, I can go through my emails in 2-5 minutes (I’ve usually got 20-50 new emails in the morning, most not requiring immediate action).

While reading the emails:

  • If the email is of no interest (analytics, activity logs, reports, etc.), just go to the next email;
  • If the email is not urgent but from/for a client:

    • If I can get it out of my plate in less than 2 minutes, I’ll act on it.
    • If I can’t, I’ll add a task for it in Clear (at the bottom);
  • If it’s really important:

    • If I can get it out of my plate in less than 2 minutes, I’ll act on it.
    • If I can’t, I’ll add a task for it in Clear (at the top — after “Check asana”);

The fact I’m hungry and haven’t eaten so far (while having food in front of me), really makes me speed up and focus only on the important things. Sounds silly, but hey, it works for me.

I also might take a bite or two if the process is taking a while. This is not a punishment.


My first task is done!

Look at that! I haven’t even finished putting in tasks in Clear, and I’m already closing “Check emails”. How about that?!

Now onto my second task: “Check asana”.


The “full-featured” task manager

Asana is the place where we track “operations” projects and tasks. It can be anything else for you, the point is this is a place where I can have new important tasks every day.

I go in, check for the tasks that are assigned to me today, and if necessary, add them where it makes sense (prioritized) in Clear.

And BAM! My second task is done!

Now I can finally eat in peace while reading my Pocket, absorbing knowledge.


Why two “task managers” instead of one?

I couldn’t replace Asana with Clear because it’s important to have the dates and notes in tasks (and subtasks), which send me reminders and allow me to have a history background about a task/project, and are shared with people important to them.

Similarly, I couldn’t really replace Clear with Asana because it’s important the “daily tasks” live in a place where it’s not possible (or really hard) to add notes or more information about a task.

This restriction enforces focus.


My daily tasks in Clear for Mac

My second screen is less cluttered on weekends, but clear is always there on the right, at the distance of a glance.


Summarizing the Workflow

  1. Add “Check emails” and “Check asana”
  2. Add 2-3 important things I need to do today
  3. Check emails (and act on them or add more tasks, if necessary)
  4. Check asana (and add more tasks, if necessary)

Now my day is ready to go, planned and looking beautiful. At a glance, I can easily see what I need to do first, and roughly estimate how much time I can take on each thing.

The goal is to end the day with nothing there.


Some “don’ts”

Don‘t put in tasks you’re not going to do today.

The power of a “daily task manager” like Clear is really to just have the daily focus, no more, no less.

It’s not the place to put reminders or things to do tomorrow, for example.

Also, you’re probably not superman/superwoman, so don’t put in tens of tasks you’re obviously not going to complete by the end of the day.

That will just make you feel bad.

Don’t be too detailed.

“Write article about productivity & clear” is one of the largest tasks (in character length) I’ll ever put on Clear.

You should be detailed, but not to the point where it’s stressful to read your list. These items on this list should not exist for more than a day, so it’s always easy to remember what “Prepare X meeting” encompasses.

The list has to be easy enough to read that you can look at it and in 5-10 seconds know what to do next and if it still makes sense.

If you need more information about a task, put it somewhere else, like Evernote (unless it already sits in Asana, Basecamp, or something similar).

Don’t forget about it.

There’s no point in having something where your tasks for the day are planned, if you just look at it once in the morning.

I look at it several times during the day, to check off tasks and know what I’m supposed to do next.


The truth.

Yes, there are days when sometimes a meeting takes longer, or something happens during the day that takes priority over everything else (but before deciding that, I look at Clear and see if the top item is less important), but this method has been working for me for over half a year (with other tools for a few more years before), and wonderfully.

It’s gotten me to a point where I end my days with all the important things (and usually everything I set out to do) done, and that feels great!

I hope this insight helps you achieve that too.


Bruno Bernardino

Written by Bruno Bernardino.
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