Reflections on my lunch break and how I wasted my time on Instagram

I didn’t plan to write this post, actually, I’m supposed to be writing my thesis right now, but you know when you have something in mind and you can’t just ignore it and go ahead.

I’ve never actually talked about it here, but my biggest goal is to finish my 150-pages thesis by the end of Summer in order to graduate next Fall, but, let me tell you, it’s hard. There are some days I’d just want to curl in my bed and cry because I’m frustrated by everything and, even if I’m an introvert, it isn’t nice staying all day long glued to my laptop at home, alone. One of my favourite things to do during my lunch break has always been playing some LOTRO and catch up with emails and blogs at my desk. However, I’d like to spend at least my lunch break away from my desk now that I don’t have to study anymore, but those activities can only be done on my laptop (I know I can check blogs on my phone, but it isn’t the same for me).

Today I forced myself to stay away from my desk, giving up to my daily dose of LOTRO, and I managed to read a couple of blog posts and watch some short videos on YouTube…in half an hour, then I didn’t know what to do with my time, it was 2:30 PM and I didn’t want to go back to my thesis yet, so I thought “I could check out Instagram for 10-15 minutes”.

I ended up emerging from my phone at 3:05 PM. I’ve spent 35 minutes on Instagram without realizing it and without even. Sure, having 2 different accounts takes away more time, but I didn’t even scroll my bookstagram feed for more than 5-6 photos usually, I still engage with people there, but the one where I try to stay up to date is my personal one and it takes a lot. Especially if you’re just a bit OCD and you have to see all the Stories (don’t worry, I still skip some of them!). In these 35 minutes, however, I didn’t even share a photo nor a Story and I felt exhausted and ready to take a nap, while in my previous 30 minutes I almost got bored and over-recharged.

As I said to a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, I love blogs because that’s a self-paced kind of feed. I scroll Feedly when I have some time, see what interests me, and I save it for later. You can’t do that with social media because they are a constant stream of updates. I follow less than 100 people on my personal Instagram profile, but still, it takes me ages to check out their updates. I don’t follow just for following, I follow who I actually care to see in my feed.

This post is a bit useless because I don’t have an actual solution to this, I don’t want to quit Instagram, but I don’t know how to avoid the overwhelm it causes me. Today I’ve lost 35 minutes of my life without even realizing it!

April Small Goals

Writes Like a Girl started this monthly post & has a monthly link up for it on her blog.

Here is a recap of my goals for the month.

1. Catch up with Harry Potter 2&3. Done! I managed to read both books just in time to follow the #harreadpotter schedule and now I’m ready for book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

2. Clean my laptop. Nope, I’m a bad laptop mom.

3. Finish and use my bookish spreadsheet. Kind of. I finished it and I was pretty pleased with the result, but I ended up not updating it (LOL!), I mostly used my journal for that. Not sure if I’ll catch up with it or not.

4. Get a Warsteed in LOTRO. Yes!! I managed to get a nice Warsteed for my little Hobbit, now I just have to finish the training session.

March has been a looong and tiring month, I’ve got some issues with my thesis and they totally put me down, so I’ve spent many days just complaining about myself without taking action. Something I’m not very proud to admit. I hope April is going to be a happier month for me.

April Goals

1. Clean my laptop. This needs to be done!

2. Finish chapter 1 of my thesis. I usually try to keep University stuff private because I don’t like to share too much online, but I really need to get things done this month!

3. Stop caring about my posting frequency on Instagram. This isn’t an actual goal, it’s more a sort of resolution. I started using Instagram a bit differently during the first quarter of the year and, while I’m totally okay with it, I still feel too guilty for not posting sometimes.

4. Be more aware of the apps I use. Call me Bilbo Baggins (the only one who actually reads a full contract), but I’ve recently read this article on how Facebook collects data and I basically freaked out. I already knew most of the stuff mentioned, but I wasn’t aware of all the things and it’s insane! While I can’t give up to Instagram and WhatsApp, I decided to be more mindful with the things I share online, even if I’ve never posted anything private, so I started deleting the Facebook page for my blog, clearing out my About section and leaving some groups I never participated in. Also, I started logging on Facebook from the anonymous tab of my browser no more than once a day, rather than having the password saved in Firefox.

I’m not planning to quit social media, but I’d like to reduce the amount of time spent using them. I’ve recently read so many articles by people who are quitting Facebook and Instagram and I saved so many inspiring quotes, one of them is the following one:

Maybe the fact that I use Facebook to share my blog posts is a tiny tiny reason why others are still using it. It’s like I’m still visiting friends in the smoking area, even though I don’t smoke. Maybe if I quit going entirely, it will help my friends quit, too.

I’ve snapped out of the silly fear that people won’t find me if I’m not there. If they care at all, they’ll find me.

Derek Sivers

 

These are my four little goals for this month, I’d love to hear from you! What are your goals for April?

How I Stay Organized | Spring 2018

Since the beginning of the year, for the most part of the week, I’m locked at home (or in my University library) all day writing my thesis, my routine completely changed since last year. I don’t have classes nor exams to study for anymore (*jumps up and down for the excitement*) and I have a very quiet social life (/introvert), so my way to stay organized changed too since last Fall. That’s why I thought it would be nice to share how I basically simplified everything.

First of all, I got rid of many unused Trello boards. I still use it to collaborate with the Middle Earth News team and I have only another board that I use for productivity stuff which is the one where I plan my articles for Page Flutter. (I had to blur most of my cards for privacy reasons, sorry.)

I still have a couple of boards I use for personal stuff like keeping track of the movies I want to watch, the Yoga videos I want to try and the books I read, but they are just for fun boards and I don’t constantly check them. Maybe I’ll write a blog post about them in the future. 🙂

Another thing that changed lately is the way I store my files in the cloud. Previously, I just kept everything on Google Drive organized by folders, but since I’m not paying for it, I was running out of space because of all the stuff I have to temporarily store for my thesis research, so I decided to move all my personal stuff (old documents, receipts, printables, ebooks, etc.) on Dropbox since I already had an account created back in 2011 (before Drive was actually a thing). Also, inviting other people over the years allowed me to gain 7GB of storage there, which is more than enough for my personal stuff. On Google Drive, I just have two main folders one for University and one for blogging stuff, here is how the latter is organized.

I have a folder for every blog/website I write for and inside each folder I have a Google Doc for every article I write, this way I have a backup of my work if something goes wrong with the websites, it also works very well if I have to share the article with someone else before publishing it. I was using the same system for my blog, but since I write more here than everywhere else, I ended up having too many documents. So, for 2018, I decided to create a single document with all my blog posts and it works incredibly better.

The structure of the doc is very simple. I write the name of the month as Header 1 and the title of the posts as Header 2, this way they build a clickable index on the left and I can easily jump from a post to another, it also helps me to see how much I post every month on my blog. When an idea for a blog post comes to mind, I usually note it in Google Keep and, once at my laptop, I transfer it on this Doc.

For deadlines, appointments, and reminders I still use Google Calendar. I also purchased a paper planner for 2018 but since my life is totally boring right now and I have less and less stuff to do aside from staying all day at my laptop writing, I started using my Tolkien Calendar to annotate the important stuff. This way, I have a paper calendar on my wall always in front of me and a digital “backup” on Google Calendar that I also use when I’m away from my desk.

I have a similar set up for my notes too: Google Keep for reminders, lists and random notes on the go and my Harry Potter Moleskine as my everything notebook. It used to be my bullet journal, but I basically abandoned the task/appointment stuff and it’s just all collections so I call it “everything notebook” now. 🙂 Here I like to draft blog posts, plan the articles I have to write and things like that.

Bonus Tip

Finally, I’d like to share a tip that helped me a lot to avoid procrastination and getting distracted while I should work at my laptop (i.e. all day). Many people use apps that block certain websites from their browser (like Facebook) or even some software, but I don’t like that (I’m always afraid of messing up), my system is definitely simpler. I have two user accounts on my laptop, one is called Alice and one University. The first one is the admin account and I use it for everything, from blogging stuff to play LOTRO and relax, the other one if solely for working on my thesis. Having all my files on the cloud helps a lot so I can’t still access them from my other account, but also from my tablet or my phone. In this secondary account I use for University, I don’t have all my browser bookmarks nor the distraction of all the other stuff like personal files on Dropbox or LOTRO or Spotify. For a while, I toyed with the idea of using my laptop only for work and do all my blog and recreational stuff on my tablet with the help of my Bluetooth keyboard, but I like to create graphics and explore and read and things like that and doing it on a tablet was a nightmare for me! So having two different accounts is what works for me.

I hope you enjoyed this little update on my productivity set up. Feel free to let me know how you stay organized in the comments below! 🙂

The Power of Unplugged Weekends

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, my way to use Instagram has changed during the years, I’ve quit Twitter and Facebook, but it still doesn’t mean that I’m not addicted to social media. In the past, I’ve found myself multiple times scrolling through pages and pages in order to find something catchy to read online, constantly refreshing my Instagram feed and spending too much time in the Explore feed. I started noticing that these unhealthy habits were affecting my life as a student in a bad way. It started being more and more difficult for me to concentrate, it took me an embarrassing amount of time to prepare my last few exams to be honest with you, mostly because I couldn’t focus my brain for more than 10 minutes straight. I even tried to lock myself in the bathroom with just my textbook once because I was feeling incredibly frustrated by my unfocused mind. I thought I was having some mental issues at some point, especially after realizing I couldn’t concentrate even to read a book for pleasure. I constantly felt the need for something funnier, quicker, easier to consume, like social media contents. I could even find myself picking up the phone to scroll my Instagram feed when I was out with friends, always ready to fill those free pockets of time.

I tried meditation and it helped me to calm down a little bit when I was too anxious for University, but I couldn’t stick with it until I incorporated it to Yoga. I started with the quick and easy Yoga practices of the Yoga With Adriene channel and I ended up forming the habit of 20-30 minutes of Yoga every day, thanks to Adriene’s 30-day series (it’s free, the playlist can be found here). I love this moment of self-care and I always look forward to it every day, it helps to clear my mind, to keep my body flexible without having to sweat in a crowded gym, and it’s definitely less boring than just sit and meditate for me.

For 2018, I picked up SLOW as my guiding word because I definitely wanted to change the way I was running my life, always online and ready to fill every minute of my days, not being able to watch a single TV show without checking my phone. I didn’t have many plans, aside from just slowing down.

Then, I decided to spend the whole Christmas weekend away from social media and it changed everything. I wished Merry Christmas to my online friends on December 24th and then I completely ignored social media until December 27th. For the first time, I felt myself actually present, actively participating in my family’s activities, I even watched an entire Disney movie without missing my phone. On December 27th I didn’t even want to go back on Instagram because the idea of catching up after 3 days was too exhausting for me!

After that, I decided to take one day of the week unplugged for the rest of the year, I chose Sunday because it’s when people are less active online and I thought it could be easier for me to avoid FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). And it worked. I also set the rule to not check social media before noon, I start my days reading a good book now rather than catching up with the world and I have to say that my anxiety level decreased a lot.

A Few Frequently Asked Questions

(Inspired by Madeleine’s post about her own experience)

How do you keep yourself from picking up your phone?

I don’t have any social media app on my phone except for Instagram. During my days unplugged, I usually remove it from my home screen so it’s hidden in the app drawer (I have an Android phone). More than once I can surprise myself turning on the screen of my phone and swiping around looking for something to do until I realize that’s just the twitch to reach Instagram, so I lock my screen and move away from my phone. It gets better with time, I promise. I reach for my phone less and less these days.

Does this bother others when you’re unreachable?

My unplugged days don’t include turning off my phone, I still use it to take photos and chat with friends and family on WhatsApp. However, I only receive notifications for calls and text messages, I only have a red badge for new messages on WhatsApp and the other apps are totally muted. I still check emails once or twice a day, but it isn’t a big deal for me, if they require a long reply or me doing something, I just leave them in my inbox for when I’ll be at my laptop again.

Does being unplugged mean you don’t watch TV either? Or use your computer?

I’d like to say yes, but the answer is actually no. Partly because I’m currently researching/writing my thesis, so I can’t take a whole day off (I already have a “day off” when I work at the library once a week), but staying away from social media helps me to focus more on my work, so Sunday is usually my most productive day of the week. Also, at the end of the day, I like to relax watching Netflix because I’m usually too tired to read (but I try to dedicate half an hour to Harry Potter every night!).

In the near future, I’d like to take Saturday away from social media too, but I’m not forcing myself right now. I like how things are going on and I prefer to introduce new habits slowly.

How do you handle social media? Do you feel like they are affecting your life in a negative way?

A Different Way to Use Instagram | My Experience

I joined Instagram back in October 2013, when I got my very first smartphone, a second-hand iPhone 4. It quickly became my favourite social media and I used to publish at least one photo every single day. At that time, I liked to experiment with different angles, filters and so on, I didn’t follow any rule and I loved to take tons and tons of photos of my daily life, even if it was boring. The following year, I discovered Project Life and I even became a member of Becky Higgins’ creative team in 2016, which is one of the things I will be forever grateful for.

I’ve never had an Instagram-perfect profile, I’ve never gained tons and tons of followers, and I’ve always thought I would never get tired of the app. But then, I started feeling less and less inspired to take photos, one of the things I noticed is that, even during family dinners or simple moments outside, I was constantly trying to take Instagram-worthy photos, excluding people from them (since I don’t like to share private stuff online). Also, I stopped experimenting with lights and perspectives and this led me to a complete lack of inspiration.

These days, I’m lucky if I even take a photo in a whole week. For some time, I tried to force myself to go around with the camera app open to record my life like I used to, but it doesn’t work like that anymore. I can’t force myself to do something that used to be an enjoyable pastime. If I don’t feel like it, I don’t feel like it.

So I decided to reduce the number of Project Life pages, going with a monthly layout (rather than a weekly one) and, most importantly, to finally convince myself that’s okay if I don’t share a photo for a whole week on Instagram. I will probably lose some followers, yes, but it’s not the end of the world, after all. After 4+ years, I’ve lost my inspiration and that’s okay, the market is so saturated now that nobody would even notice the lack of posts from my account, to be honest.

I started using Stories more though, it’s less intimidating and now that you can save the highlights on your profile, it’s definitely a better experience. Not sharing photos on my grid doesn’t mean I don’t use the app, on the contrary, I still like to keep myself updated following bloggers and friends on Instagram, I just changed the way I share my story online. Back in the days, I missed the Snapchat madness when it became the app of the moment because my old iPhone didn’t update anymore, so I couldn’t play with all the filters. When I finally got a new phone, Snapchat wasn’t a thing anymore, so I basically never tried to gain some followers there and now I’m happy I didn’t since I find it easier to have it all under Instagram.

Stories allows me to share crappy photos without feeling guilty about it, short messages to my friends, replacing Twitter, and the best part is that they are gone after 24h (if I don’t save them as highlights on my profile). Another feature that I like of Stories is that people can only send you a message to reply to your photos and can’t Like them. This way, you aren’t tempted to constantly check numbers and stats.

I’m still convinced that the good old Instagram was better. Your feed was shown chronologically and you didn’t have to spend tons of time on the app in order to see all the new posts shared by your favourite people. But I’m grateful for Stories now that I lack inspiration.

Are you still using Instagram the same way? Do you like/use Stories?