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?”

How I Use Google Keep As My Main Inbox

After the announcement of the upcoming Wunderlist demise, I started using Todoist for my daily tasks, I also moved there all my other random lists, but not having due dates, those tasks were a bit hidden to me, especially on the mobile app. Todoist is great if you basically only check the Today or Next 7 Days sections while on the go, but the rest of your projects aren’t immediately reachable, it requires too many steps for me to get there and this way I tend to forget about them. I know the desktop app is better and I use it to plan my week, but I mostly check Todoist on my phone.

That’s why I decided to use Google Keep as my main Inbox and Capture tool. The main reason why I love the app, in addition to the smartphone widgets and the Chrome clipping extension, is that, when you open it, everything is in front of you. Sure, you can archive notes (and I usually do that adding tags for things I want to reference in the future), but everything you add stays in this general space which is like an infinite inbox or, how I like to see it, a digital whiteboard full of post-its. You can drag and drop the notes, search them, and order them the way you prefer, but you can also pin them to the top or add tags to keep things organized. No notebooks, text formatting or similar though, Keep is super simple.

I started using it more and more after purging my accounts, because I wanted to simplify my life and it was nice having all in one place. I tried to use Evernote as my main capture tool for some time, because I wanted to take vantage of my Premium subscription, but, since I already used it as an archive for my articles and university class notes, I noticed the app was always working in the background using too much battery life and power of my smartphone. Google Keep, instead, is a super light app and works amazingly well on my Android devices.

Being able to add checkboxes and change the color of my notes makes Keep the perfect place for lists (grocery lists, book lists, movie lists, wishlists, you name it), for example, I share a note with my mom that contains the links to the websites of the cinemas we like, so we can easily check their timetables each week.

Other things inside my Google Keep:

  • ideas and random notes
  • books I want to check out at the library
  • articles I want to read later
  • websites to check out from my laptop
  • Instagram hashtags
  • photos of the products I have to buy (like medical stuff that are usually difficult to remember)
  • ebooks on my Kindle that I still have to use
  • drafts of articles
  • quotes

I usually process Keep once a day from my laptop and move tasks to Todoist, ideas to Trello and visit websites. But I don’t practice “Inbox zero” there, I still keep my lists for future reference, because, again, I don’t like the way they are displayed on Todoist. You can also add time/location based reminders (that are also connected to Google Calendar), but I don’t usually use this feature very often to be honest.

I couldn’t recommend this app enough, it’s free and connected to your Google account (so you don’t have to remember another password), it’s easy to use even for non techy people, it has a nice layout and it’s even connected to Google Docs.

If you like Google Keep, but aren’t still sure how to use it, I highly recommend this video, it gave me tons of inspiration.

How I Manage My Multiple Interests and Projects with Trello

After sharing (or should I say “confessing”? 🙂 ) my many interests and current projects a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been asked: “Have you done a post on juggling multiple interests? I’d love to read that for tips and advice!”, so I thought it might be easier to write a whole blog post about it instead of just a super long comment.

My secret weapon is, once again, Trello. I have a bunch of boards to manage my several projects and interests there, and I even shared my books and music ones few months ago. Here are the ones I use the most when it comes to blogging.

Not pictured above, I also have a board called University where I keep track of my exams, conferences, and seminars, inspired by Clarissa’s video.

I already shared my Editorial Calendar on my guest post for Francesco’s blog a couple of weeks ago, so you can take a look there. Travelling Geek Show and Middle-earth News are shared with my team members and we use them to organize our work for the websites, we basically have lists for each category of the website and cards for each task.

The Big Picture board is still a work in progress, but it’s like my big plan, it’s where I keep a list of all my current projects and I add info like links and schedules inside each card. Keeping them all together, makes me realize how much I have on my plate and what I should/would like to drop.

Then I have my Dashboard, this board stays open all the time, here I store all the info about courses and classes I purchased or I subscribed for free in the past few years. I have a list I use to bookmark links and tools I use, it’s easier having them all there instead of saved in Chrome, it had become too cluttered lately so I moved some stuff on Trello and now I can have a bird’s eye view of my whole internet life. I also keep some templates for my blog posts and things like that there.

The best part? Trello is free and you can use the app on your smartphone or tablet too. I used to store many of these things in Evernote, but it wasn’t easy to find them for me (no matter how organized my notebooks were and how many tags I used), with Trello I have everything in front of me!

An additional resource that inspired me a lot to finally move everything to Trello is this free video training by Dana Malstaff of Boss Mom.

I hope this post inspired you to give Trello a try and to not give up to your side-projects. 🙂

How I use Todoist as a Student

A guest post by Francesco D’Alessio.

Firstly, I just wanted to thank Alice for having me on this blog. It’s been an honor to read Alice’s blog posts on the Geeky Burrow over the last few weeks, I’ve especially liked her features on Bullet Journaling and book recommendations – if you haven’t read them, do check them out.

Over the last 3 years, I have been a student down in South west of the UK, in Plymouth. I’m a pretty average student when it comes to grades and results so there’s something special there, but I do have a handy app that helps me manage the work I do, the YouTube channel I run and also the university work (I should be doing).

That handy app is Todoist. Now you may have heard of Todoist before, it is one of the top to do list applications out there. On first glance it looks like a basic to do list application, and you would be right, but after using this wonderful tool for the last 3-4 years I’ve discovered a host of benefits from using it.

So, here’s how I use Todoist as a student.

TIMELINE

If I open up my Todoist, the first thing you’ll see is a well-coordinated timeline of tasks. I normally organise all of my tasks 4-5 days in advance so I have some clarity on what I need to do each day.

Start organizing your tasks/to do list based on time, so you have this running list of things you need to do across your day. You’ll work much smarter and much harder across your day when you know what you’re doing. For students, make sure to breakdown each task down so it doesn’t look so daunting. There’s nothing worse than seeing “Write 3,000-word report” in your tasks… Why not chunk it down to “Write 300 words for report” – you’ll spread the task out easily. Unless you are on assignment deadline day, avoid this tactic.

PROJECTS

Organise all of your project based on your module/topic. This is important for busy students. If you look at your Todoist – as you can see on mine I’ve done this for more areas of my life as I haven’t started the year yet, it’s a great tactic – once you have your timeline working – your tasks will have project names next to them and everything will make sense at a glance. Add emojis to your projects too – it’s a great way to make things interesting.

SETTING TARGETS

We all have targets. As a student, you might have some grade based targets or they might be society/club based targets. It’s important you have these front and center.

Create a project called GOALS. Add a list of your targets and goals. Set a recurring task daily to check in on those goals – it’ll help you keep on course and focused. See the photos I’ve attached above and you’ll see what I mean. Perfect for starting the day right!

BONUS TIP: DUE DATES

I see this a lot with students, when they use a task manager/to do list app, they add a due date to a task for example:

FINISH ENT300 REPORT – due: 18th October

They set this for then. The issue here is there are no milestones for them to complete the tasks. I’ve seen it with some students who do this and then forget they have even got the piece of work until the date it is due… Spread the work. It’ll help…

Some final advice:

Todoist and some other applications like Evernote and Trello will open up your time. It’ll help you organise, de-stress and plan everything. Now, you may be thinking that you can now sit back and relax. My advice would be not too. Todoist and these tools aim to free up your time or even help you focus on what is important. Use the time you create. I’ve done quite I lot outside of university thanks to good organization, and I’m only now starting to see the value in this effort I put in year 1 & 2. It pays off, so advice is to use the time you create.

SUMMARY

  • Organise your to do list based on time across your day (see image)
  • Break down tasks into bitesize chunks (300 words for…, Research 2 articles…)
  • Create project folders for each module of university work
  • Add emoji to project folders to help organise by icons (see image)
  • Add GOALS to a checklist so you can review them every morning
  • Set milestones not due dates – it’ll save you panic

Download Todoist: www.todoist.com
It’s free – there is a premium – only recommended for using

Contact Francesco: cesidalessio@gmail.com
Add Francesco on YouTube: www.youtube.com/cesidalessio


I want to thank Francesco for writing this incredibly useful guest post here on The Geeky Burrow. Whether you’re a student or not, I think you’ll find his advice useful, give Todoist a try and feel free to let us know what you think about it!