Time management is overrated. Better learn how to organize your own content.

How to survive studying and working remotely without drowning in clutter

Nearly everyone knows the challenges of working remotely. Most people know the struggles of juggling working and studying at the same time. As you can imagine, when you do both remotely it quickly becomes very messy. Time management is a must, but a good organization of information and data is the key.

After finishing my first semester studying Content Strategy at FH Joannuem, I gained some experience surviving jumping between countless tasks and working on lots of content with tight deadlines. In this article, I gathered some of the most important learnings from the past two years when it comes to keeping your files and information organized…. and avoiding wasting precious time looking for that file 🔎

an extremely messy desk in an office, with piles of papers on the desk and on the floor
Let’s assume your desk is in a better status than this one. But what about your computer‘s hard drive? No, this is not my desk 😅 the photo is by @woderlane via Unsplash.

Let’s start with the basics: your computer. Pick a good device you like and use it for all of your needs: in my experience having a separate work computer does not help and is probably a waste of money — especially if you work and study at the same time. You’re going to consume way too many hours in front of it, so it’s important to get something you like and not a shitty, slow, noisy laptop you will quickly hate. Ah, and having a second screen is nice, but definitely not a must, especially if you find yourself struggling to find your mouse on your 13' laptop screen.

Tame the Tabs Elemental Forces 🌬

Now, you have the best laptop ever, and maybe a second screen. How does your browser look? Do you find yourself with a bazillion tabs open on your internet browser in a matter of minutes? I feel you! One piece of software that helped me a lot is Stack: technically a browser, but with a completely different UI and UX that lets you organize all the web apps you use every day (from WhatsApp to Slack to Gmail) and access them quickly all these services in a spatial design. One of the features I love is spaces, which allows you to switch between different sets of tabs and go from work mode to university mode with a click (or a keyboard shortcut, of course!).

screenshot: stack browser
Screenshot of Stack browser setup — jumping between Slack and Trello has never been easier!

Manage your files smarter not harder 😎

Next up is file management. I’m sure you know about the advantages of having your files on the cloud, but here are some aspects you might have not taken advantage of. Most of the cloud solutions offer a piece of software you can download and install, that allows a folder of your computer to be synced automatically to the cloud. This is especially useful for collaborative work with designs and 3D projects, or any file format that can’t be opened in a web app. Not only these files will be safely backed up in the cloud, but you can keep them synced across your team. Even if you work “just” with documents and sheets, there’s no doubt about the fact that the installed apps of most software are generally much snappier and more reliable than their web app counterparts. Once you are set up (it’s easy to set up, don’t be scared!), forget downloading and uploading manually or ping-pongs of email with attached files.

The last reason why you should use a cloud sync tool is to keep your files organized with ease. The web UI of most cloud storage systems makes renaming and moving files between folders slow and annoying, while that work is much better when done using your computer’s file explorer.
One extra tip: did you know that you can use emojis as a folder’s name?
If you don’t have a cloud storage space included with your work or university e-mail, a great free option with cheap upgrade options is Mega.

Go beyond files, folders and spreadsheets 🤯

Now that we hopefully got your files organized and your tabs number under control, let’s get to the next step: notes and information. You might have heard of Notion, a stunning no-code platform where you can put all the information you need to remember in a structured way. The app is great both as an individual and with a team, and I use it to organize all of my personal information, my university lectures and deadlines, and to manage some work-related projects.
Notion has a little bit of a learning curve at the beginning, but in my opinion, once you get your way around the tool it becomes your daily lifesaver.
If Notion is not your cup of tea, there are lots of alternatives out there with similar functions, such as Airtable.

screenshot from notion.so website
Notion’s homepage.

I hope these tips will help you sort out your content and make it easy to access — even when you are looking for it after years or a new colleague needs something. This system works for me and I think it can work for many other people. However, everyone has to find a system that works for him or herself and this might not be the best for you. It’s more important to be consistent, and making sure that the whole company is on board to unlock seamless collaboration ✨… but that’s a topic for one of the next posts 😉

Don’t make tech stop your creativity and your ability to create content, and if really needed switch to Woody Allen’s way of working with content, even though it might not be compatible with what we call smart working.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Some extra effort went into crafting this piece of writing, as it is part of the course Writing, Editing Curating held by Teodora Petkova, who revised the text and helped me improve it, and led me and my colleagues through an exploration of the semantic web 🚀

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Curious explorer and storyteller making content that matters

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Filiberto Daidola

Filiberto Daidola

Curious explorer and storyteller making content that matters

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