A new semester brings a new schedule to get used to, which means shuffling things around to fit in blogging and writing time. I was trying to stick to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday (or some combination of those days) posting schedule for OSG, but based on my courseload this semester, that doesn’t seem realistic. I’m tenatively committing to Monday-Thursday, hence the post today!
Four weeks in (!) and I’m still getting my footing on this semester. When do I have time to work? To write? To blog?
That’s where my planner comes in! I’d made a planner last semester that I thought covered everything I needed. Then I joined some planner communities and started eyeing the Erin Condren LifePlanner. Now I don’t know what I need! Finding Planner Peace is one of many steps I’m taking to be more focused and organized this semester, which is something that’s repeatedly on my semester resolutions lists.
Since I always have my phone or iPad on me, I use a lot of apps. So here are 25 organization and productivity apps that I think are super helpful for students.
Dropbox is my go-to file dumping grounds. I have an old desktop and a newer laptop that I switch between for working at home (depending on if I want to work in bed or in the office), plus I use the computers in the campus library and resource centers every day I’m on campus. And if I need to reference something in a group discussion, I can easily pull it up on my phone or tablet.
Dropbox is better for me than flash drives, because I never forget to take it out of my computer before I leave for class. It’s always there, no matter what device I use.
I’ve seen a lot of great posts about setting up an ITTT system to automatically catalog everything into Evernote, and maybe I’ll level up that much one day, but for now it’s mostly a way to save class readings and notes and to track projects I’m working on.
Google Drive is my favorite cloud-based document creator–partly because it’s Google so I’m always logged into it anyways, and partly because of its collaborative features. I co-write a lot of documents using Drive, and I like having the ability to sort everything into folders. Unless I’m working on a printable or graphics-heavy document, I write everything in Drive because I can access it anywhere and without the extra download-open steps of Dropbox.
If you don’t like paper planners (why not?!) and would rather have everything on your phone, Studious and My Study Life are great apps for keeping track of your classes and due dates. To me, they look like they’re just specialized Google Calendars, but I see them recommended enough as paper planner-alternatives that they seem worth a mention.
If This Then That Web
ITTT is an incredible task automation tool that syncs up a huge variety of apps, sites, and even social networks. Just set up a code to convert if this thing happens, then this happens and save yourself a lot of time that you would have spent on menial jobs.
Focus & Productivity
Final Grade Calculator Web
At some point, we all freak out about our final grades. Whether you want to get as close to 100% as possible or you just want to know how to get the bare minimum of passing, grade calculators help you reach those goals. Put in the grade you have now, what your final is worth, and the final grade you want to get, and it will tell you how well you need to do on the last project or exam of the semester.
These browser extensions are the key to getting things done while you’re at the computer with the whole internet available at your fingertips. How do you focus on what you should be doing when there are so many Buzzfeed quizzes and cat videos out there? These extensions help you filter out the websites you shouldn’t look at so you can focus on the things you have to get done.
If you don’t know what distracting websites and programs to block, Rescue Time and Time Doctor are programs that help you monitor what you spend your time doing online, to help you cut out the distractions. They both have free trials to get you started, but they are pretty expensive after the trial, so be sure to cancel if you don’t want to be charged!
Pomodoro timers are some of the most popular productivity methods: work for a set amount of time, then take a break; work for a set amount of time, then take a break… Studies show that you retain more information if you study in chunks than if you cram all night, so take some breaks and give your brain a rest!
Forest is an app that guilts you into focusing on a task. You open the app on your phone and it plants a seed while you commit to a set time to work. If you open anything else up on your phone, it kills the tree. Who wants to kill trees? Note: The Android and web versions of Forest are free, but the iOS app is 99c.
It’s not exactly an app to streamline a bunch of tasks, but Unroll.Me will help you clear out all the unnecessary and unwanted junk email you get every day–and if you’re like me, those notifications for pointless emails throw you off when you’re trying to get stuff done.
Formerly called Habit RPG, Habitica is basically an adulting game–it incentivizes tasks that you are bad at following through on (taking your meds, getting out of bed at a certain time) by rewarding you with prizes when you successfully complete them on a regular basis. As someone whose favorite game is spending hours building Sims houses but never engaging with the families, this obviously does not work for me as well as it would for people who are more into video games.
I learned about BeeMinder from Thomas at College Info Geek, who uses it with Buffer to wake himself up in the morning (otherwise a tweet will go out promising people money). If you’re like me and you struggle with self-starting, BeeMinder will let you set up the perfect threat to get you to Do The Thing.
“Hold up, Cordelia,” I hear you saying. “LinkedIn is a social network. How does it keep you organized?” I try to hit as many networking events and conferences on campus as I can, which means I get a lot of business cards. I may use a Filofax, but I’m not totally stuck in 1993, so I don’t keep a Rolodex on my desk. LinkedIn is how I keep my networking and work contacts together.
I first heard of GroupMe last year when one of my classes decided we all needed a way to talk to each other to complain about our awful professor.
In conjunction with GroupMe, a lot of my grad school friends love using Trello to work on group projects or even to just work on their own personal projects. It’s big in the freelance community as a way to break up projects into manageable actions, which I love.
When I first started a gig doing social media management, I needed a way to keep track of all my accounts, lists, and notifications–and schedule tweets ahead of time so I didn’t need to be completely connected 24/7. Enter Hootsuite, which allows you to connect up to three social media accounts (for free; more if you pay) and keep them separated into tabs and columns: my preferred organization of Twitter feeds.
I use Hootsuite for my professional accounts and Plume (Android-only) for my personal ones, just to keep them even more separated, because the last thing you want to do is pull a Donna Meagle and tweet about some nasty fireman’s abs on your work account.
I recently started using Buffer to schedule the OSG Facebook posts and I am tempted to upgrade to the paid version already because using the extension in my browser and having it synced to Feedly and Pocket makes it so easy to schedule posts. With the free version, you can have 10 posts in your queue at a time, which may seem like a lot until you save a bunch of blogs on Facebook and Feedly.
There are tons of money apps I can recommend, from paid survey sites to receipt prizes to coupon apps, but I will leave you with the two money management apps that I can’t live without:
YNAB changed the way I budget. You have to manually enter every transaction, which keeps you more accountable for your spending and gives you a more accurate picture of your current balances. It also forces you to plan and adhere to the amount you set for each category every month so you can track and fix your spending habits.
I used to be terrible about buying groceries and then going out for curry all the time. Working from home has helped this a lot, but setting a strict restaurant budget has also helped me to decide whether I really want bdubs or if I can just make some wings at home with food I already have.
It’s also helped me stop buying so much yarn and books, which is a problem I’ve had for years. If I don’t have a category for something I buy, it makes it harder to track my spending and harder to fit a transaction into an existing category–I’m lazy, and that’s too much work, so it’s easier to just not buy things that aren’t set out in my budget because then I don’t have to work to justify them.
In conjunction with YNAB, I also have Mint, which tells me the current balances of my accounts. The benefit of this is to see when checks clear and also to remind me that sometimes I forget things in YNAB–I didn’t realize until today that I hadn’t made an allocation for my Netflix subscription because I have it set to autopay so I never actively pay it. Mint is like an extra layer of accountability on top of YNAB.