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How I Stay Digitally Organised & Productive in College

To ensure that I’m organised and able to complete work at the speed that I can think, I’ve created a digital productivity system that works for me. This post goes over some of the programs and methods I use to stay productive.

File Storage (OneDrive)

Since I began following an entirely digital productivity lifestyle in Year 9 (aged 15), I have relied on OneDrive to be my center of storage and file organisation. My family uses Microsoft 365 for the whole office suite, which is helpful as it includes access to desktop programs for Word, Outlook and PowerPoint (my main office suite uses) — including one terabyte of OneDrive storage (as of writing this post, I’m using 200GB).

The root directory of my OneDrive folder, showing Education, Employment, Financial, Projects and Tertiary folders.
My OneDrive “Root” Directory

My file structure follows a tree system, starting with the type of file – documents, music, pictures and a shared project folder. The majority of my time is spent in my documents folder, but I use the music folder to transfer music I’ve bought to my phone, and pictures to hold some shared photos that I’ve taken, etc.

Documents Structure

Inside of documents, I’ve split up my folders into 5 sub-categories.

  • Education
    • My secondary school and college files. This is my largest folder currently as I am a media student and am constantly working with tens of gigabytes of footage and photography. Using cloud storage when working in Premiere Pro is a breeze as I can switch projects from my laptop to my PC and am only limited by the speed of the internet connection I’m using.
  • Employment
    • This is where I hold my most up-to-date resumé, business cards and personal statements.
  • Financial
    • As a freelancer, it’s really important to stay organised with your finances to ensure that all purchases and invoices are paid and accounted for.
    • Inside of Financial, I’ve split into folders called Banking, Invoices and Purchases — banking holds all my bank statements, invoices, all client payments and purchases are anything that I’ve bought and need to hold record of.
  • Projects
    • This is where I hold any file assets for projects I’m working on. When I can, I use GitHub (code repositories) or Notion to hold my project files, but for some planning or bigger projects, I prefer to use OneDrive just to follow my standard file structure.
  • Tertiary
    • This folder holds anything other that I need to store, sort of like a “catch all” folder. Currently it holds any video assets I’m working with – dust particles, green screen effects, etc. along with a backup of my Premiere Pro presets.

Notion

Screenshot of a Notion database taken from Notion's website (https://www.notion.so)
Notion Example Home Page
Screenshot of my Notion assignments database
My assignments table in Notion

Notion is… Notion is a lot of things, it’s difficult to explain to someone who isn’t very experienced in technology because it can do so much. The way that Notion is marketed is it is “one tool for your whole team.”, which is a very simplified description.

The way it works is that you have pages, like a website, and inside of the pages, you can put tables, galleries, Kanban boards or just text (in markdown format).

The way I use it is I have split my workspace into four pages, each with multiple sub-pages. The four pages I have are LifeOS, my private life planning stuff Articles & Research, where I put any Twitter posts or articles that I read that are insightful, along with any website designs, code snippets or articles that I’ve personally written – College, which holds all my assignment information, contact details for teachers and my timetable and lastly I have Projects, where I have sub-pages for each one of my clients that I work with, with their contact details, project plans and any other information relating to their company/project.

One example of the table view is how I work with college assignments in Notion. I’ve setup a template so I can add a new entry to the database/table with the template “Assignment”, which will have pre-set fields for the date and time it is due, what lecturer and unit it is for, and have I uploaded it to OneDrive or Microsoft Teams.

The thing I found with Notion is that it’s quite a daunting program to start using. I’ve wanted to use it for a couple months since it became free for anyone to use on their free plan, or with the premium plan for free if you have a .ac.uk or .edu email address if you’re a student or lecturer. Getting started with Notion is difficult because of the amount of features it has – which returns to the everlasting issue of trying to have one tool for everything.

Once you’ve got an idea how you will lay out your Notion workspace and you’ve setup your pages, Notion is a great program to use, but if you don’t know how to get started and you’re daunted by the blank interface initially, it might not be for you – however, there are definitely alternatives in multiple programs such as Trello, Google Sheets and standard bookmarks.

Inbox Zero

This isn’t a program, but it is a mindset and technique that you develop in your email program/provider. Inbox Zero is the process of deleting all your emails and getting to zero emails in your inbox at the end of the day.

Now, sometimes this isn’t always possible – but it is also a technique to use your inbox as a to-do list rather than just a list of messages and work through your emails to complete a task.

The first step is usually to unsubscribe from any emails you receive as part of an email marketing campaign or mailing list. Those emails you get sent from YouTube about your favourite creators, H&M’s new Summer sale, all those types of things — unsubscribe from them! However, if you do genuinely read these emails, definitely keep them. There’s a line between the engagement and interest in the emails you receive and unsubscribing from them just to get to that inbox zero goal.

By using the Inbox Zero technique, I can find information I need from lecturers, companies and clients in the first page, because I normally only have 5 emails in my inbox at any one time.

Alternatives

The programs and technologies I’ve mentioned in this post is just what I personally use to optimise my digital lifestyle. Prior to settling for these programs, I’ve used a number of others – all just as good as each other, however the ones I’m using now, I’ve set up to be most optimised for my workflows.

As an alternative for Notion, you can use apps such as Trello, Todoist, Things, or even just a basic spreadsheet in Office Excel or Google Sheets.

As an alternative for OneDrive, you can use Google Drive, iCloud, Box, Dropbox or even a network-attached-storage (NAS) system. It depends on what ecosystem you are currently using. I’m personally floating between the Google and Microsoft ecosystem as I use a Pixel 2 as my daily smartphone and an XPS 15 as my laptop, running Windows 10. As with everything mentioned in this article, personal preference and experience is a key factor in your decision.

Roundup

This was an insight into how I’ve managed my digital organisation. This is always improving and as I find new technologies to stay as efficient and organised as I can to keep my projects and ideas flowing.

No programs, apps or technologies mentioned in this article are sponsored or are product-placements and are used by me and all my opinions are my own.


Thank you for reading my blog post, if you have any feedback or questions, please email me and I'd love to have a conversation with you! This article was written on September 25, 2020.

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