#OldSchoolBlogging and Why I’m Tired of Fake Experts Online

I was planning to write a blog post about the snow we’ve been lucky to have (it basically never happens before Christmas here), but then I stumbled upon an article that made me realize how much tired I am of self-promotion and why I want to go back and write just for fun in my accounts.

Back in 2009, I was struggling with my hate for studying (yes, I’m getting my MA in archaeology and I hated studying) and I had to graduate from high school. I was completely burned out and depressed, so my mom started looking for tips and advice on the internet. She found a nice Italian website (I’m not going to mention it because I don’t want to appear as a rude person, even if it would deserve it) with lots and lots of tips and tricks and advice on productivity, how to beat procrastination, how to study better and things like that. I loved reading it, it was something completely new to me, back then I didn’t even read in a different language than my own (Italian) and outside of my comfort zone (personal blogs).

I followed and supported the author for several years, even during the beginning of my university career, and I even bought a couple of ebooks by him. Then, I discovered the joy of reading English websites. There were a lot more topics out there, so many people writing about so many different things. After a couple of years, I started realizing that that guy didn’t invent anything, he was just reading a bunch of famous blogs and books written by American productivity gurus and repurposing the content for his little Italian blog. Nothing wrong with it, I mean, he wasn’t breaking the copyright rules, but he wasn’t sharing what he learned, he was just sharing stuff as if it was his own personal knowledge using titles tailored to impress the audience (like How to Study a 500-page Book in 3 Hours). I didn’t like that and it wasn’t even useful anymore.

I moved on from that blog and I started following other people I enjoyed more.

I don’t even know why I typed the URL of his blog earlier today, but I did and I noticed that the content wasn’t changed. The same topics over and over again, after 8 years he keeps writing the same stuff, using the same impressive titles. However, I stumbled upon an article that looked interesting and I started reading it. It was about how people are addicted to their smartphones and gave a couple of advice on how to stop it. The last one made me shiver because it wasn’t even crappy marketing, it was a pure mockery.

If your issue with notification often brought you to scroll Facebook, a solution to stop was to like his page and choose the option “View First”, so every time you’d open Facebook you’d see his posts first and that would remind you to not waste your time on social media. I mean, really?? We all know that this advice is crap. This is just a way to get more likes and self-promote your stupid page.

And the best part is that, in the comments, nobody even mentioned it. They all wrote how useful the article was (and I bet they liked his page).

This made me think once more how blogging has changed over the years and how we are all in search of more likes, more followers, more page views, more money. I don’t want to be like that, I don’t want to write a productivity article in disguise, that looks like it would help people but then it’s just another miserable way to get more followers and it isn’t helpful at all.

I’ve seen more and more bloggers and friends writing about how they want to start blogging about personal stuff again in 2018. I think we should start a movement, a community, a hashtag (what about #oldschoolblogging? LOL). Please, don’t get me wrong, I don’t criticize all the people who monetize their work, I’m the first one who writes as a paid contributor and will keep doing it, I’m just against fake experts and people who cheat to get more followers.

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.

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!