All About Podcasts and Why I Love Them

I’ve never been a podcast enthusiast, I never listened to the radio because I just wanted to listen to music rather than people talking and hearing annoying ads. But then my favorite bloggers and YouTubers started their own shows and I decided to give it a try a couple of years ago.

Initially, I listened to my favorite podcasts on my laptop, because I found it easier to just click the play button in the embed player on the browser, but then, after consuming all my data with Spotify (I don’t have Premium) during my commute, I decided it was about time to test some apps. I didn’t want to pay since I didn’t want to fully commit before testing all the free options. But it turned out that free podcast apps suck. They are full of ads, you can’t decide where downloading the episodes (if you aren’t an iPhone user you usually have the option to have an SD card with additional memory space in your smartphone), and most of the time they crash or stop playing if your screen goes on standby.

After struggling for months, I caved and I purchased Pocket Casts…the best 2,99€ I’ve ever spent! The app works very smoothly, no ads, you can save the downloaded episodes in your memory card, the widget is awesome, the search bar works amazingly well. The list could go on and on!

Now the podcasts. My subscription list looks long, but I don’t usually listen to every single episode of every single show. I prefer to pick just the ones that interest me after reading the blurb and the show notes. My top favorites:

Tea and Tattle is a recent discovery and, well, I do listen to every single episode of this podcast because Miranda and Sophie are my favorites. I love the topics they discuss and I also love that the episodes are around 30 minutes, the perfect length for my commute.

Portrait of a Freelancer is a nice show by Ariel Bissett, my favorite booktuber. She chats about her life as a freelancer and now as an MA student.

The Lavendaire Lifestyle is the podcast by Aileen Xu, probably my favorite YouTuber ever. I have to admit that I don’t care too much about the interviews because I never know the guests, I prefer the episodes where Aileen shares her own thoughts and advice.

The Minimalists show was added to my library after watching the Minimalism documentary on Netflix. Despite the length of the episodes, I really enjoy them, so many great advice.

The four podcasts above are my top favorites and I usually listen to all the episodes, the other 2 rows are all about productivity and I basically just pick the topics I really care about. What Should I Read Next is all about books and Elise Gets Crafty is probably the very first podcast I ever listened and the host, Elise, usually invites fellow creatives I know (like Ali Edwards and Emma of A Beautiful Mess). The Tolkien Professor is my dose of Middle-earth nerdiness and I can’t wait to listen to his new series Exploring The Lord of the Rings. MuggleCast is the very first podcast about Harry Potter, it’s been around for years but I discovered it just a couple of weeks ago, so I still have to listen to it. Finally, a couple of podcasts about LOTRO, my favorite computer game ever, to keep myself updated on all the new things and in-game events.

Not being able to afford audiobooks, podcasts have been a game changer lately. I don’t listen to them only during my commute, but also when I play LOTRO or when I have some free time but I don’t want to stay in front of a screen. I love this medium because the episodes are usually around 30 to 60 minutes and I can choose to learn something new or just listen to someone chatting about my favorite topics. YouTube is great for the same reasons, but I it makes me fall into the comparison trap and want to purchase expensive things (journals, geeky merch, stationery, and so on), not the best if you’re trying to live a more intentional life.

Do you like podcasts? What are your favorites?

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!

Do-A-Thon: Intentional Living for One Week (May 1 – 7, 2017)

Better later than never they say. I finally decided to join Mollie’s Do-A-Thon for the next week. I never joined a Read-A-Thon before, because I can’t finish a book in 7 days with my schedule and not even think about 3 books in 5 days or things like that, but when I saw Mollie’s challenge I thought I could at least try participating. In Mollie’s words:

What if we applied intentional “marathoning” to our lives outside of books? […] I want to devote a week of my time to doing the things I always say I’m going to do or want to do. […] This isn’t bucket-list-athon (though it absolutely can be about those bucket list items). 

The DO-A-THON is meant to be broad, because we all have different tasks, dreams, goals, fears to overcome, and desires. However, to choose intentional goals, the following may serve as a great guide for you:

  • Do one thing that scares you or do something that challenges the story you tell yourself.
  • Complete a project (creative or otherwise) that you’ve been putting off.
  • Do something that involves someone else or do something for someone else.
  • Learn something new.
  • Do something to foster a calm or welcoming environment.
More info can be found on the original blog post and this introductory video.
***
Well, I don’t have a task for every single point of the list, but I had to make actionable plans, since I’ll have classes from Tuesday to Friday next week. Here are my Do-A-Thon goals:
  • go to the dentist: I already scheduled an appointment, but it was something I kept postponing, since it’s always super expensive.
  • contact 2 professors of mine for exam programs: again, another thing I kept postponing, this time only because I’m afraid of the amount of stuff I’ll have to study, ugh.
  • finish reading The Fellowship of the Ring: I started rereading LOTR in March and I still have to finish the first book, because I lost my focus and I read 2 other books at the same time this month, but I’m very close to the end so I want to finish it!
  • write another article for Middle-earth News: nothing crazy, but I have tons of ideas and I keep procrastinating, I really want to get better and publish, at least, an article per week.
That’s it! Here are my super simple goals for the next week. I never did a challenge like this before, so I don’t know what to expect from myself, I don’t even know how I’ll keep you updated (since I’m supposed to be on a self-imposed Twitter ban, haha), but I hope that writing this down will motivate me to complete this tasks.

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!