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!

10 Years of Blogging: My Timeline

Few months ago, I share my thoughts after 10 years of active blogging. I was so emotional in that post that I didn’t even bothered to write an actual timeline, it might be a bit boring to read, since I didn’t save any screenshot of my past blogs through the years, but I know it’s something I’d like to see in my archives.

Summer 2007 – 2008

This is the year my dad bought our first laptop and, for the first time, he created a user profile just for me. I was 16 and the internet was basically just born for ordinary people here in Italy, having an email account was still something crazy and my parents were scared to death because of all those terrifying documentaries about the dangers of the internet. This is also probably the year we got a “faster” internet connection, the Adsl, before that it was all cables and weird sounds.

Thanks to my highschool mates, I discovered MSN, Microsoft’s blogging and social networking platform, which was the only popular one at that time (no Myspace or LiveJournal here in Italy). I remember spending so much time, especially in the Summer, chatting with my friends in the evening. Then I discovered blogs and, keeping an active paper journal since I was a child, I decided to give it a go. I remember that one of the posts I was mostly proud of was the translation of President Obama’s first speech. Even if I wasn’t into politics, I remember crying with my mom in front of the news listening to his (translated) words.

I loved playing with graphic and widgets at that time, it was like having a little virtual house to furnish.

My first time in London!

Summer 2009

The year I got my highschool diploma. MSN wasn’t fashionable anymore and I needed some distractions during the last days before the big final exams. So, I joined the online community of a magazine I was reading at that time, you could even have personal blogs there and join conversations in the forums. Unfortunately I didn’t meet many people of my same age, because it had an older audience that site, so I got bored after a couple of years.

When selfies were still just a hobby 😀

2010

My first full year at University was also when I finally caved and joined Facebook. My friends were begging me since the last year of highschool, I didn’t like the platform, but I ended up joining it because I desperately wanted to play Farmville. *face palm*

I think this is also the year I joined Twitter, or maybe it was 2010 (?).

April 2010

My very first blog was opened on Blogspot. The title was “Caro Diario”, which means “Dear Diary” in English. Super fancy, right? This is the very first button I got, made for me by a fellow blogger. Unfortunately our friendship didn’t last after she closed her own blog.
It looks so cute! So many great memories!

This blog changed so many names and graphics through the years. Here are some past headers.

It’s hilarious that some titles were in English even if I was blogging in Italian. 😀

Bloggers meet-up in Milan!

December 2011

I participated to my very first blogging meet-up in Milan, with 3 other internet friends. It was the first time I’ve met someone from the internet and it felt suuuper weird, but I really enjoyed that experience.

The year I got both a camera and a cat 🙂

2012

After changing my blog so many times, I felt very scattered and tired, I couldn’t find my own voice, I was tired of the kind of blogs available in Italian (mostly mommy and cooking blogs) and all the excitement for the upcoming Hobbit movie made me to dust off my English and I started interacting with other Tolkien fans. I didn’t even know the Tolkien community existed, after years spent neglecting my passion because I was the only “weirdo” around, I had finally found my people!

Also, blogging was changing with the popularity gained by social media. At the end of the year, I decided to close my blog for good, because I didn’t enjoy writing anymore.

When Middle-earth fully came back into my life.

April 2013

I joined Middle-earth News, probably one of my biggest milestone of my life. I’ve been asked to join the team by my friend Lily, who was enjoying my little side project: I had joined a network called MyMiddleEarth and I started sharing events from the books (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) on a blog, publishing them the exact day they were happening, according to Tolkien’s book Appendix. This is how my Saturday column, This Week in Middle-earth, was born.

At this point, I was feeling pretty comfortable with my English, but I wasn’t ready to commit to a full blog, so I tried Tumblr for some time, but I didn’t stick with it. The platform is cool, but I wasn’t in highschool anymore and building a readership only with original posts was almost impossible.

Summer 2014

My favorite blog of all time, A Beautiful Mess, that I was following since 2010, put its courses on sale and I purchased Blog Life. Shortly after, in December, I won Photoshop for Bloggers during one of their Christmas giveaways. I learned a LOT from them and it’s when I finally caved and decided to start blogging again. I was missing it a lot, but I didn’t want to open a new blog I would get tired of after a couple of months, I wanted to do it well. So, I started brainstorming a name, searching if it was already taken on the internet and, then, buying a domain.

August 4th, 2014 The Geeky Burrow was born.

*By the way, this post has been inspired by the one A Beautiful Mess published to celebrate their own blogversary. I’ve been a loyal reader of theirs since 2010.

2015

The year I graduated and I spent many months at home waiting to start my MA in September. I already mentioned it, but it’s when I started studying blogging and business just for fun, testing out some lessons learned on my own blog. Trying to cope with my post-Hobbit-films sadness, the struggle of not being a student and being unemployed and much more.

Needless to say that I got super burned out by the end of the year. Starting back University stolen basically all my free time and I thought more than once to close the blog.

The year I joined Snapchat 😀

2016

Last year I kept myself busy with Project Life. Becky Higgins selected me to be part of her creative team and I had a blast! I also discovered digital scrapbooking and I started to take photos just for me and my memory keeping projects again, instead of Instagram.

I started book blogging, but, despite my effort to socialize with others, I felt the community a bit locked, not very welcoming for new bloggers. Despite my huge love for books, I discovered I didn’t enjoy writing reviews and my reading numbers weren’t high enough for challenges and things like that.

I did my very first collaboration, cross-posting, with my friend Francesco (here is his post, here is mine).

This is also the year I’ve been contacted to review a mattress (all the way from US!) and some superheroes underwear. Yep, you’ve read it right. Needless to say I declined the offers.

2017

At the beginning of this year, I banned my editorial calendar and I decided to blog whenever I wanted. 6 months in and it feels so good, let me tell you!

I also started contributing for an awesome blog I was reading, Page Flutter. You can read my first article here.


Congratulations if you’re reading these words, it means you arrived at the end of this very long post! I had so much fun sharing my story with you all, I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. Blogging is always evolving and it’s very different from 10 years ago.

I hope to be able to write a 20 year celebration post one day. 🙂

The Month of Self Care

I’m so happy to report that moving to WordPress was the best choice ever, it worths the money and the time. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to fix the broken links yet, but you know when you push yourself too hard, you pretend too much from yourself and then your body lets you know it’s too much. Well, when that happens you have to slow down.

2017 has been a difficult year for me concerning health, my pollen allergies are evolved in a year-long kind of allergy bringing me chronic colds, I’ve been through 4 colds this Winter/Spring. Not the best thing to experience when you’re a student and you have to spend basically all day on books studying. This obviously slowed me down and made me accumulate more exams than I could manage, but I wanted to pass them all before the end of Summer. I had this big plan all laid out and I was very determined to make it.

But then other things happened and caused me even more anxiety than they should, because my body was already proven by months with an exploading head and unability to think, and I had a meltdown a couple of days ago, I had to tell my parents I couldn’t go on this way and I needed to slow down. Thankfully, they support me, but it isn’t easy, especially when you see everybody else getting a degree, while I’m always at home blowing my nose day and night. I tend to ignore my body, because I want to be stronger than it, but let me tell you friends, don’t do that. Always listen to your body!

I’m going to move 2 exams of the 3 ones I had to do to Semptember and I’m going to focus on one thing at a time. Earning my MA a couple of months later won’t be so catastrophic, jobs will still be unavailable, no matter what, and I’ll be unemployed either way (not to exaggerate, it’s just how things go here in Italy).

I’m so glad that Cori (TheResetGirl) organized her first Camp Reset this month (it’s totally virtual and free, FYI), because this is exactly what I needed, it was one of the things that actually made deciding to finally slow down and take care of myself. It’s like a camp for introverts and I’ve been journaling like crazy lately. July is going to be my month of Self Care and I hope you’ll follow my advice, friends.

Always listen to your body. ❤

A Fresh Start

After a few years, I finally decided to invest some money in my blog and I moved it here, on WordPress.com. I couldn’t go self-hosted, but this is already a big progress to me. During the next few days, I’ll make sure to fix all the broken links, unfortunately your comments are gone, but I’ll still be able to read them all on Disqus.

I’m still not sure if Bloglovin and Feedly will keep working, I hope so, since I know I’ve already lost some readers along the road, but it’s the price to pay, I guess. Writing this post in the new editor is already a pure joy for me, so I’m very positive about the “move”.

I tried to do my best with the theme of the blog, I hope it will make things easier than on Blogspot, since this is a truly responsive one and I didn’t have to DIY anything (yay!), you can easily use the buttons in the sidebar to follow the blog if you want.

My goals for the blog are still the same, I’m not going to treat it like a job anymore and I’m not going to have an editorial calendar, I hope you’ll find my content still enjoyable though, I miss the good old days of blogging when social media didn’t exist and the only way to communicate with each other was only through comments.

I hope you’ll stick around, starting this new adventure together, thank you for your support, friends!