BY ALEXA CHERRY
For the UAS Whalesong
When the end of summer and winter break roll around, the patterns in my internet history undergo an abrupt change. While I may have spent most of the break swapping back and forth between the same six or seven websites, the last two weeks find me zeroing in on multiple different websites that all have one thing in common: they’re related to studying. Whether it be study habits, cool stationary, or master lists of relaxing music and helpful web resources, I am on the hunt for anything and everything that can help me improve the upcoming semester over the previous one. As of this past winter break, I did some research, and found several apps that I plan to use over the course of this semester in order to try and keep myself more organized and better-scheduled. So, I thought I’d write an article detailing what I found and how I’m using them, and maybe do a check-in article later in the semester letting you guys know how and if they are working for me!
Google – Google everything is a crucial part of my life, especially as someone who uses an Android-based smartphone. In fact, a large part of why I upgraded from my old Samsung Galaxy S3 (a long time ago, don’t worry, I’m not that far behind the times) was so that I could have the software update that would allow me to use Google Keep. This is essentially a notepad app; however, it’s really easy to use, which is a bonus in any app for me. You can make notes of any length, checklists, add photos and pictures, and quickly and easily discard and retrieve any notes whenever you need to. It’s also full of bright colors and makes use of a very readable font. In addition, it connects to your main Google account like any other Google app, which means that if you’re glued to Google like I am, you can access it easily on any device. This is great, because in my experience, a productivity app is only as effective as its accessibility. It’s only too easy to accidentally forget your tablet, computer, or even your phone, and decide not to work on or complete a project because your notes and information regarding it were on the device that you don’t have with you.
Inbox is another Google app that I’ve found really useful, and have in fact used to replace the Gmail app on my phone. It’s basically the same thing as Gmail, except more organized; while you have a free reign with customization, upon download it sorts your E-mail inbox into neatly labeled categories like Promos, Purchases, and Social. You still have one main inbox for everything that remains unsorted, but the category inboxes make it a lot easier to see your actual important E-mails, while things like your online shopping receipts and updates from Pinterest and Tumblr are neatly tucked away for you to deal with later. It also allows you to “pin” important E-mails to the top of your inbox, and check E-mails as being done – which is really nice, because it tidies your inbox without you having to delete everything and then worry later about whether or not particular E-mails that are now gone forever were important.
Music Apps – It’s fine to listen to your own music when you’re studying, but sometimes you want something different or without lyrics. For this, it’s really useful to have some kind of music app on your phone with preloaded playlists that you can pull up in a jiffy. Spotify and Pandora are two of the most commonly known music apps; the latter is a pretty basic internet radio system, while with the former you can put together and select playlists on your computer and play them on your phone/tablet/device of choice later. However, it’s worth noting that unless you’re willing to dish out some cash for Spotify Premium, there will be occasional commercial breaks and you will only be able to shuffle-play the songs if you aren’t using Spotify on your computer. Other apps that I would recommend are 8tracks, where you can both find and make your own playlists for anything under the sun as long as it contains at least 8 songs; Songza, which is another playlist app that offers lists of playlists for specific situations (sleeping, waking up, studying late at night); and iHeartRadio, which is good for if you have a particular radio station that you like to listen to back home.
To-Do List Apps – Some people like to keep a paper to-do list going, which is totally fine! However, I find that I tend to lose paper like it’s something I’m deliberately trying to get rid of, so I like to make a virtual to-do list and then write it down on actual paper if I feel like it. I’ve been trying out a couple different to-do list applications, and I think the secret for me is finding one that I like the look of, is easy to use, and which I can get downloaded on multiple different devices.
Todoist is one that I’ve used for a while. It’s pretty straightforward; you have a list of “projects” that you create your lists under (academic, personal, work), and then you can create to-do tasks either under those projects or just within the generic inbox whenever you feel like it. It also has a nifty feature where it will E-mail you at the beginning of the year to let you know how productive you were in the previous year, and give you stats on things like what your most productive days were. Unfortunately, it’s a little lacking in areas like setting up due date reminders, which is a feature that it only allows you to use if you’re willing to get the version that costs money. So I also downloaded Wunderlist, which someone from BuzzFeed said they use as their primary to-do list app. It seems to be a little more streamlined than Todoist so far; instead of having to navigate to a list of “projects,” like in Todoist, in Wunderlist your projects list is the first thing you see. That way, you can choose where you’re going to put your to-do option, rather than have it automatically go into a generic inbox that you then have to go into and sort.
General Productivity/Habit-Forming – Two cool “habit apps” that I’ve found recently are 7 Weeks and HabitBull. In both, you input a habit that you would like to build, and then you basically just check off each day as it passes. I prefer 7 Weeks because I think it has an easier-to-use interface, but as far as I can tell it’s intended for daily habits, like making your bed and brushing your teeth. HabitBull varies from this in that you can set a specific time period and goal for your habit. For example, you can put in that you want to do yoga at least 3 times a week. Then, once you’ve done yoga 3 times a week, the app congratulates you and encourages you to continue. As far as general productivity goes, Fabulous is a fairly new one that I’ve been trying out; it helps you create a daily routine to help structure your life, and issues “productivity challenges” that you can accept or reject as you see fit. It also includes motivating letters, advice for helping you focus, and morning/afternoon/evening rituals that you can customize. (For example, my morning ritual includes making a to-do list, and my evening ritual includes drinking tea.)
Finally, an app that I use for my computer is Momentum. This is a “new tab” extension for Chrome; every time you open a new tab, it displays a picture in the background (a new picture every day), the time, and an inspiring quote-of-the-day. I like this app because it’s nice to look at, and it has a place for me to write my primary goal for the day so that I get reminded every time I open a new tab.
Hopefully you find some, or at least one, of these apps helpful! I’m going to continue using them, and also continue to do some research into ways to assist with productivity, so stay tuned for any update articles. Until then, you have no excuse for not being organized! So go, be free, and get things checked off.