How I Stay Organized | Fall 2017

One of the things I struggle with the most is my love for technology. While I finally forced myself to automate my social media profiles and I just left Instagram (and a couple of Facebook groups) into my life, I still struggle with my insane love for apps. I like to watch videos and read posts about them, see how other people stay organized and I keep downloading new ones and testing them for some time until I find myself not knowing where my stuff is anymore.

I tried Todoist, TickTick, Asana, Pocket and Instapaper (and many others) because they looked cool and I thought I needed them. I switched so many times my to-do list app during the last few months that I ended up picking up an old notebook one day and just jot things down because I was too frustrated with my tech.

I love Google Drive and I use it all the time since my University moved our academic emails on GSuite, but somehow I forced myself to use Evernote, try OneNote or Dropbox Paper only because people recommended them. The truth is that I already had my own system but I wasn’t paying attention to it because I was too busy switching apps.

Normal girls get excited about a new pair of shoes, I get excited about a new app to try.

Now that we’re about to enter the Holidays season, I want to narrow down the list of tools I use and try to stick with it until the end of the year. Then, I will decide if I want to bring something else back or not.

My System

Here are the apps that I use on my system, the ones I always come back to, and other more recent apps I find very useful.

Google Calendar: I never found another calendar app with the same amount of features for free. Also, the new desktop redesign makes it even better to use.

Google Drive: here is where I store everything, from documents to pdf to online class workbooks, this is also where I draft my blog posts.

Google Keep: I finally ditched all the other to do list apps. After being an all-time fan of Wunderlist, I decided it was time to let it go because I had created so many lists there that it was incredibly cluttered and I even forgot about them. Keep is amazing, I love the way everything is in front of you and you don’t have to open folders or additional lists in order to see more, I even wrote a post on how I use it here.

Google Inbox: while on my laptop I keep using Gmail, I prefer Inbox on my phone because it’s more mobile-friendly and, above all, has a great reminders widget for Android that allows me to set reminders very quickly without even opening the app. The best thing about using Google products is that you can limit the number of accounts and login info to keep in mind.

Evernote: the native notes app on my smartphone isn’t very good and can’t be synchronized on another device, so the notes are just saved locally. Not very secure because if something happens to your phone, the notes are gone. That’s why I use Evernote for my random ideas, drafting blog posts on the go, Instagram captions and so on. I was very pleased by the experience with Simplenote (more suitable to my very simple needs), but I’ve been an Evernote user since 2012 and I didn’t want to create another account on another app. I used to have a very complex system with notebooks, stacks and tags, but I ended up not being able to find my notes (I’m not a fan of the search bar), so I decided to store my files on Drive and simplify my Evernote setup. These days I keep only one notebook and I always try to stay under 50 notes.

Trello: my favourite project management app. I mostly use it to collaborate with other people and plan specific projects. You can find all my posts about Trello here.

OneNote: this is a recent addition to the “collection”. I was looking for a handy way to save articles to read later without having to deal with another app/account. Then I found out that I could use OneNote with my incredibly old Hotmail account and that the feature to save posts there directly from Feedly was free, so I started using it as a “read later” app. I also decided to store some pdf and articles there, because I prefer the way they look there rather than Evernote and so I can keep my Google Drive decluttered and organized. So OneNote is basically my reading centre now, where I also keep blogging resources and interesting articles from the web. Finding thing is easier than Evernote because the way OneNote organize stuff with tabs and pages is exactly how my brain works. I should use it for notes and checklists, but I still prefer Evernote for that since synchronization and formatting work better on mobile.

Photo Editing

Snapseed and A Color Story are both free and they are the only apps I use these days to edit my photos.

Just For Fun

Goodreads Beta: Goodreads recently released a new app for Android and, even if it’s still in beta, I’m loving it. The layout is way better than the standard app and it has nice features.

Libib: this is a recent discovery and I use it to catalog my physical books. I love it because everything is private and it isn’t a social media.

Miscellaneous

Firefox Focus: I still use Chrome for day to da stuff, but when I have to just search random things, I prefer this app. It doesn’t save your chronology and doesn’t allow to open different tabs, so you’re forced to stay focused on what you’re doing. It’s nice to bring a bit of mindfulness in my browser research.

Adobe Scan: I tried tons and tons of scan apps and this one is definitely my favourite. I use it at University to scan notes of my classmates or documents, pages from books and things like that. I can easily scan my documents and save them as pdf files of one or more pages and export them to Drive.


I didn’t want to include the analog part of my organization because I already talked about my journals and planners in the past. However, I wanted to be sure to mention that my system is not completely digital and it will keep being a hybrid one also in 2018.

Journal Update | August 2017

I usually share my journal updates on Instagram (mostly on Stories), but they aren’t archived well and it’s hard for me to scroll back and see what was going on at the beginning of the year, for example. Also, I’m trying to step away from social media as much as I can (more on that in another post) and I want to start utilizing my blog more to record my life and my experiments. After all, that’s why I created it in the first place.

This is my current journals pile. It’s too much, I know. In fact, one of my goals for 2018 is to reduce the number of journals I use at the same time.

  • Traveler’s Notebook (not the original brand)
  • Moleskine soft cover grid
  • another Traveler’s Notebook (not the original brand)
  • Moleskine The Hobbit Limited Edition
  • Filofax Notebook
  • Beautiful journal from NZ
  • Moleskine Harry Potter Limited Edition (not pictured because I forgot to add it, silly me!)

I received this beautiful Traveler’s Notebook last Fall as a birthday present from my friend Maria and I changed many times the way I use it, right now it contains a weekly insert and my book journal insert from OrganiseWithKatie on Etsy (I shared it on Stories the other day). The black Moleskine used to be my university bullet journal but, after finishing classes and seminars, I keep the useful info on Trello now, so I only use the notebook to take notes about the books I’m studying for September.

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you’d probably remember this Hobbit Limited Edition Moleskine as my reading journal. It was pretty and full of lists, but I ended up not using it at all after a couple of months, so I decided to switch things up and use it for my stream of consciousness journal. I tried several times to practice Morning Pages, but I didn’t find myself comfortable journaling in the morning (I prefer at the end of the day) and having a precise number of pages to fill. So, it’s just messy writing now. I plan to finish it by the end of August and move my rambles inside a new insert of one of my Traveler’s Notebooks.

This Traveler’s Notebook is just a thin piece of plastic, to be honest, but I’m particularly attached to it because it’s been the first journal of that kind and I purchased it on Amazon.it for less than 8€. It’s the same size of a Large Moleskine, so I’ll be able to use the Moleskine Cahiers once the current inserts will be filled up. This is where I do some art journaling and collaging. Basically the things I’ll be happy to reread in a couple of years, while my ramblings on the Moleskine are pure therapy for me and I’m not going to reread those pages.

This is a Filofax Notebook and I love it because the pages are detachable, similar to the ARC system. The color, Pear, is a bit unusual and outside of my color palette, but it looks better in person and, when I purchased it in a local store 2/3 years ago, I wasn’t aware of all the other beautiful pastel colors available. I use it to record my allergies and other health issues, nothing fancy.

My friend Maria went to New Zealand at the end of last year and sent me this gorgeous notebook. I wasn’t sure how to use it because I wanted to make it last for several years, but then I decided it was the perfect notebook to record my readings.

It’s just a simple reading log, year by year (I started recording my readings in 2015). No fancy headers, trackers, stats, challenges and things like that, just a simple list of books. I still use Goodreads and Trello, they are very useful to keep track of the books I own and have to read and the ones I’d like to read in the future. But I also read many books that aren’t trackable online because they are italian editions or they are museum publications, historical or academic books and so on, so this notebook is very helpful.

Finally, this is my “bullet journal”, meaning that it stores my notes, lists, and plans. This is something that helps me to stay organized and it isn’t pretty enough to be shared and this is probably why I managed to stick with it for so long. The pressure of having an Instagram-worthy bullet journal was too much for me.

There you have it! These are all the journals I’m currently using. I hope to reduce my pile by the end of the year, just to simplify a little bit.

What journals are you currently using? 🙂

How to Create a Custom Productivity Dashboard with Milanote

Being myself a procrastinator (on recovery), I always tried to create a dashboard to be more intentional with the time spent on my laptop, you know, something like a single page to open on my browser with all the links to click in order to do what I have to do, without being distracted by social media and things like that.

I tried spreadsheets on Drive, Evernote tables, the Momentum Chrome plugin, and Trello boards. They were good solutions but none of them was what I was looking for. Enter Milanote*.

After watching Francesco D’Alessio’s review (and hearing positive comments from a couple of friends), I decided to give it a go and I’ve finally found the perfect tool to build my creative and productive dashboard.

My main board is where all it starts, it might look a bit chaotic at first, but I treat it like a vision board, adding new images according to my mood. But this is also where I keep my main links. For that, I create 4 different boards, about my areas of interest: University, my blog, the website I write for and Relax, which means the sites I like to check out during my free time.

As you can see, my University board is pretty minimal. I added a list with useful links I usually visit (my profile, my email, grades, news & info, and so on). I added a link to my Trello board because it’s where I plan my study. Google Drive is where I store all my files and documents since my University uses GSuite. The checklist is to keep track of the exams I still have to study for.

This is the board I created for my blog, it works as a dashboard, so I can see all the most used links all in one place. I’ll probably add notes with inspiration and screenshots of things I’d like to try in the future, but for now, I prefer to keep it simple.

Milanote* can be used in tons of different ways, it’s such a versatile tool, this is just how I structured it for my own needs. I can’t wait to try the Windows app because it’s only available on Mac at the moment.

 

*The link to Milanote is an affiliate one (to give me more storage). I’ll be very grateful for you using it. ❤

A Smartphone Packing Party

My very first smartphone was a second-hand iPhone 4 that I got for my birthday in 2013. A friend of mine was upgrading his phone and offered to give me his old one for free that Fall, I couldn’t be happier!

The problem was that I was starting my smartphone journey with a phone that was already old and made by a brand that releases new updates every few months and, being myself a tech gadget gal, it started to be an issue for me. In fact, 4/5 months in or so a new iOS update was released, but my iPhone was left behind, because it was too old and I ended up being stuck with iOS7. I had just discovered the world of apps, when I found myself not being able to download new ones because they required iOS8 or, the worst, those already on my devide stopped working (I’m looking at you, VSCO).

I LOVED all things productivity, project management and things like that, I didn’t care about games, I desperately wanted the newest version of Evernote or Snapchat filters (which weren’t supported by my old phone), but I didn’t have 700€ for a new iPhone nor less money for a cheaper smartphone.

Then, last Fall, my parents along with some relatives teamed up and I got a Huawei P9 Lite (much cheaper than an iPhone). I was over the moon! Not only I could install and try new apps, but the Huawei layout and laucher were very similar to the iPhone, even if it runs Android. And this is how it started my personal addiction to productivity apps.

I don’t even know how many apps I downloaded “just to test them out” on my phone during the last 9 months. I don’t even own a blog or YouTube channel where I do reviews all the time! It was my daily dose of instant gratification. Any.Do, Trello, Asana, Wunderlist, Todoist, TickTick, To Do, Keep…I tried them all. And every time I had to import all my tasks all over again, set up notifications, look for the perfect widget, decide how to set projects/folders/boards, and so on.

I was supposed to use those apps to stay productive, but this constant switching “just to test them out” ended up making me feel super unorganized to the point that I didn’t know where I’ve stored that specific information when I needed to find it quickly.

The last Android update brought to my phone a feature that surprisingly wasn’t included before: the app drawer, which is basically a single page with all the apps installed on your device in alphabetical order (it isn’t included in the iPhone as far as I know). It’s very nice to “hide” those apps you only use once in awhile and don’t want them to clutter your home screen pages. With this new feature, I started “hiding” the ones I’ve installed during the last few months just in case: the scanner app, Shazam, Pokèmon GO, that app for reminders I only used for one single medication, tons of photo editors, both Netflix and Amazon Prime (because you never know, you might need them!), and so on.

But just putting them away from the home screen wasn’t enough for me. I knew they were there and my phone memory was almost full, so I decided to take a more drastic solution and, inspired by Ryan Nicodemus’ Packing Party (the way he started getting read of things before becoming a minimalist), I deleted tons of apps. My personal Smartphone Packing Party. I only kept the essential ones:

  • all the Google apps (it’s Android, after all)
  • Instagram
  • A Color Story and Snapseed (to edit my photos)
  • Trello (I use it to collaborate with other people)
  • CastBox (for podcasts)
  • Dropbox
  • Instapaper
  • Facebook Lite
  • Litsy
  • Mindfulness
  • TV Time
  • WhatsApp
  • WordPress
  • WordReference

While I was playing around with my new home screen setup, I also ended up discovering new widgets. For example, I didn’t know that Drive has a built-in scanner feature (!), you only have to put the right widget on the screen and use it to scan documents. Same with the Google widget to recognize music, I don’t need Shazam anymore! Evernote was deleted too, but I keep using it on my laptop, the reason why I decided to not keep it on my phone is that I noticed I wasn’t using it at all while on the go, I prefer the big view on my laptop. Finally, all my reminders went on Google Calendar (long-term) and Keep (short-term). Following Ryan’s method, I’m going to reinstall the other apps only if I’ll realize I’ll actually need them for daily stuff.

I’m so excited to start this experiment!

Thoughts On Building a Healthier Relationship with the Internet

I recently started thinking about my (several) passions and the role they played in my life. When I was a child, my main hobbies were drawing and painting, and doing random craft projects inspired by Art Attack, in addition to playing with friends or alone. Growing up, I abandoned all the former (offline) hobbies and blogging became my new passion project, especially during highschool, when I discovered the web. But we all know that the internet is like a black hole, once you’re in, times flies and you can spend 3 hours at the computer without even noticing it.

Lately, I started missing my old hobbies, so I decided to be more intentional with my time online, because this instant gratification thing that social media give us is very bad for my ability to focus on one thing at a time for more than a couple of minutes, plus it’s unhealthy. I also realized something that made me freak out: I couldn’t even watch a TV show without checking my phone, it’s a bad twitch. It’s scary.
Here are some steps I took forward to have an healtier relationship with my tech during the last few months:
  • I check out Feedly only from my tablet. After abandoning Bloglovin’, I moved my list of blogs to follow over Feedly, which is more robust, has more features (even a Chrome extension) and it isn’t social. These perks, though, made me accumulate a ginormous library of sites and it was so easy to reach out the browser bookmark when I got bored at my laptop, because I knew there was always something new to read there. So, I purged my list and deleted the bookmark, using it only from the tablet app now, this means I can use it only when I actually have time to spend intentionally reading.
  • I save articles to read later on Instapaper. I love this tool, because it’s free and has a cleaner interface than Pocket, also it allows me to highlight quotes and save articles for future reference. It’s also a good way to properly read the articles and posts from my favorite blogs when I have time to dedicate them and leave meaningful comments.
  • I use the Medium app only from my tablet. I used to check Medium on my phone all the time, that site is the hub of productivity articles and I could spend hours browsing through the contents (very unproductive, I know!), but having it only on my tablet prevents me to procrastinate.
  • My tablet is my reading tool. I still use and love my Kindle ereader for books, but my 10 inches tablet is a nice companion and my mind associates it with “serious” stuff, because of all these reading apps installed and the lack of social media and games that might distract me. Also, I use it for taking notes at university, store articles, slides from my professors and so on.
  • The only social media app on my smartphone is Instagram. Well, I have Snapchat too, but I only use it to send silly selfies to my parents and close friends these days; since the launch of Instagram Stories, basically all the people I was following stopped posting on Snapchat.
  • I use Facebook like an hybrid version of Reddit. I deleted my actual profile 3 years ago and I created a new (secret) one that I use to manage a couple of pages and to interact inside groups, I don’t have any RL friends or family members there. Most people says they couldn’t leave Facebook, because they use it to stay in touch with people, well, I never used it that way, because I have WhatsApp for that purpose!
  • I don’t use Twitter anymore. During the last 6 months, Twitter became the hub of sadness for me, because of politic and negative tweets that come out every hour of the day. I started purging my following, create lists and things like that, but they are useless if even your friends share that stuff, so I decided to step away from that. I’ve set up email notifications for mentions and I have a couple of IFTTT recipes to share my latest articles and blog posts. I feel incredibly better away from that negativity.
  • I’m taking a break from Instagram challenges. I decided to try and stick with photo challenges for the last couple of years, because I wanted to consistently post at least once a day, but I didn’t have enough ideas to do that, so they were what I needed to keep sharing with consistency. I used Later to schedule photos to share at certain times and I had monthly lists of prompts on Trello. Now I am enjoying the app sharing photos only when I feel like it, even if I stay a week without posting.
Stepping away from all this, made le realize a couple of things. For example, I didn’t have a private hobby anymore, everything has been shared online. I started studying hand-lettering and calligraphy last year, but I stopped it eventually because I felt the pressure to share my progress all the time, because I thought people expected it. This sounds incredibly silly, I know, but this is how my mind worked. I definitely want to start this hobby again, but I won’t tell the world about it this time. Same with LOTRO, I felt the need to share my in-game experience because some players followed me back on Twitter, I even wrote a couple of posts here on the blog, but, to be fair, it wasn’t super spontaneous, I was, once again, feeling the pressure to let people know my progress.
While I was writing this post, a blogger I admire also published a recap of her social media detox, I think it’s an inspiring reading and I invite you to visit her blog.
I leave you with a quote by Alexandra Franzen:

Yet, in the midst of my tweetery, I often felt a nagging feeling inside. A voice asking, “Alex, is this really how you want to be spending your life-minutes? Isn’t there something else that might be a more meaningful use of your time? Wouldn’t you rather be walking outside, talking to your mom, writing a novel, having sex, working out, mailing a letter, volunteering, you know, all of those things that you ‘never have enough time’ to do?”