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! 🙂

How I’m Using Social Media in 2018

A few days ago The Minimalists published a blog post explaining why they took January off from social media and how they are going to use them in 2018. I really enjoyed reading it and it inspired me to write something similar since I’ve made some quality changes during the last few months.

First of all, I’m one of those people constantly complaining about the algorithm changes, starting from Facebook back in the days to Twitter and then Instagram. I firmly believe it ruined the experience on those platforms, not just for me, but for all the people who don’t want to invest money in ads.

I used to open Twitter and scroll my feed to the last tweet missed being able to read what the people I’ve followed had written while I was away, I replied to tweets, retweeted some stuff and shared a couple of thoughts. It was nice, Twitter was the place where I chatted with like-minded people about Tolkien and Middle-earth, blogging and books. It was my favourite social media, to be honest. Now it’s a completely different experience. When I log in, I scroll my feed and I have to actually look for the people I’ve followed because it’s now full of sponsored posts, tweets from people I don’t know but that the people I follow liked and, the worst, they are no longer in a true chronological order. You can imagine that when you tweet a good old status like “I can’t wait to see Black Panther this week!”, nobody would notice in that chaos because your tweets now need to be visually appealing, containing a link, 200 hashtags, and so on.

Same thing with Instagram. I’ve read so many blog posts about the best strategies to “beat the algorithm” and they sound just too much for me. The most insane one I’ve read was that, in order to get more engagement on your photos, you have to be active commenting and liking stuff 15 minutes before AND after sharing a photo. Sure, engaging with others helps you to get more visibility on Instagram, but we have a life to live! And we can’t beat bots (that people hire to do the dirty work for them), so why bothering.

I’ve spent 2017 forcing myself to make it work for me and my blog, to still use social media to get visibility, in order to prove that on my résumé, to let people know that I can use tools like Buffer, Later and Hootsuite. But, in the end, it didn’t work and it deeply affected the way I approached my life online. It doesn’t matter if I was scheduling my tweets or my Instagram photos, I was still spending too much time online without even getting the results I wanted.

Taking a 48h break from Instagram during Christmas made me realize that the problem wasn’t the blog, the problem was my relationship with social media! Since then, I decided to take it easy, I was very stressed by my last University exam, some health issues and things like that and the fast-paced nature of Instagram (thanks to Stories) didn’t help me at all. I decided that, in order to follow my word for 2018, I’m going to take more breaks here and there more often. I already crafted two little rules that worked very well so far:

  • Don’t check social media before noon.
  • Take Sunday off.

Here is a more in-depth look at my accounts (maybe this will also help you understand where I hang ou the most).

Instagram. Let’s start from my favourite one. I used to participate in so many different challenges, take lots and lots of photos in batches and schedule them in order to always have something to publish every single day. It was just too much for me, so now I post when I have something to share and I try to not stress too much if I miss a post or two from my favourite accounts. Same thing with Stories. This is the best place to reach me out, after the blog, because it’s still the platform where I’m most active (except for weekends, you still have my Contact page for that). 🙂

Twitter. At the end of 2017, I had tons of applets on IFTTT to automate all the things, then I decided to quit and keep my profile only as a placeholder. Then I thought about tweeting the old way (in real time without scheduling nor automating) and, while I enjoyed it more than I expected, I felt like I was talking with a wall since the engagement was basically zero, meaning that my links didn’t even get clicked once, so what was the point of that? I blame the algorithm. To be fair, the only tweet that got some engagement was Tolkien-related and this means that 80% of my followers are still fellow Middle-earth nerds, so I should probably consider that in the future. For now, I will just automatically share my posts through WordPress (no more IFTTT recipes), but I’m not planning to engage there anymore, that’s why I removed the icon here on the sidebar. Last but not least, this is the platform that brings less traffic to my blog. It used to be the first one, but now things changed and so I think it’s useless for me.

Facebook. I deleted my “official” profile 3 years ago and I never looked back. Now I have an anonymous-ish one that I use to interact in a couple of Groups and to manage pages, including one where WordPress automatically shares my posts that I created solely to let people know that I have a blog if they visit my profile from a group (since links aren’t clickable in the Fb bio). I check it only once or twice a day just to catch up with Groups, so it isn’t an addictive platform for me anymore.

Pinterest. The only reasons why I keep it are: you can’t actually delete your profile, it brings a lot of traffic to my blog. Currently, I just use it to do some research and nothing more (it’s the best place to find laptop/phone wallpapers FYI). 😉

Goodreads. I still use it to read book reviews and find interesting readings, but I’m not sure if I will keep updating it, to be honest. I stopped joining the Goodreads Challenge because it gave me too much anxiety and, for now, I feel like a simple list in a notebook works well enough for me.

That’s it! Writing this post gave me even more clarity on how I’m going to approach my online life and helped me to finalize some points.

 

How are you using social media in 2018? I’d love to hear from you!

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. ❤