Make working and studying at home more efficient, productive—and fun
At a time when faculty and students across the globe are trying out new strategies for teaching and learning from home, we want to share some virtual tools designed to help productivity. All of these apps offer at least a free trial, and most have a free version. Try out a few to see how they can help track your time, hone your focus, and make the most of breaks. They might even bring some fun and creativity into your new routine.
RescueTime: Bring more attention to your habits by recording the time you spend using each app, visiting each website, and taking breaks. RescueTime’s weekly reports generate insight and self-awareness. The paid versions block distracting sites and help you quantify your productivity goals.
Toggl: Do you ever wonder where your day went? With Toggl, you can track all the tasks, projects, and activities you do throughout the day. You can gain insight on how you’re spending your time, so you can make more strategic choices.
Strict Workflow: Strict Workflow is a free Chrome browser plug-in loosely based on the Pomodoro Technique of working in focused 25-minute bursts, followed by 5-minute breaks. It blocks distracting websites while you work, then lets you take a break as a reward.
Freedom: Freedom can block you out of distracting websites and apps for up to 8 hours at a time, while allowing access to sites you need to do research.
Pocket: It’s easy to get distracted by articles popping up on social media and news sites. Instead of disappearing down those rabbit holes, you can click on Pocket, an app that saves online materials for you to read later. It can get rid of ads and excessive graphics, making the articles easier to read.
Todoist: Todoist is a virtual to-do list that helps you easily organize and prioritize tasks and projects on your smartphone. To manage tasks among team members, you’ll want Todoist Premium, which lets you assign tasks to others, give them a due date, and get alerted when they’re done. It provides color-coded spaces for managing certain types of tasks, such as work, personal, and household.
Evernote: A user-friendly organizing and task management program, Evernote lets you create and sync all kinds of notes, such as text, web content, voice memos, images, and more. It’s suitable for both personal and team use. Excellent search capabilities make Evernote indispensable for finding important information quickly.
Zoom: We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Zoom, a videoconferencing service that’s fast becoming integral to our daily lives. Americans are conducting classes, meeting with clients, sharing time with friends, and even hosting dance parties and happy hours on Zoom. Check out these tips for optimizing Zoom.
Meditating and Taking Breaks
Insight Timer: Meditation is a great tool for improving focus and mental clarity. You can use Insight Timer to set timed meditations accompanied by music or Tibetan singing bowls. Many guided meditations are available, and the app has an extensive library of talks posted by meditation teachers.
SmartBreak: To prevent eyestrain and wrist injuries from too much computer use—and to give the brain a rest—it’s a good idea to take regular breaks. SmartBreak actively analyzes the way you spend time on your computer and then prompts you to rest when it deems appropriate, rather than at fixed intervals like other apps.
File Hosting and Backup
Dropbox: A file hosting service that offers cloud storage and file sharing with colleagues, Dropbox is an old favorite that now has more features. It integrates well with Google Docs and Zoom. Free storage up to 2 GB.
iDrive: A full-featured, cloud-based syncing and backup service, iDrive keeps your files safe and lets you easily access the most recent version of your files wherever you are. Free storage up to 5 GB.
Collaborating on Files
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides: This free program has an excellent feature set and is good for collaborating with your classmates on creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentation slides. You can work on the same material with others in real time and avoid version control problems with sending multiple files.
Doodle: Doodle’s tagline is, “It shouldn’t take 30 emails to schedule a 30-minute meeting.” Doodle takes the aggravation out of scheduling group meetings and events. So when you need to find the best time to meet with your classmates, have them take a Doodle poll. Doodle integrates with calendar apps and now with Zoom. Paid accounts have special features, such as automatic reminders.
Whether you use these virtual productivity tools on your laptop or phone, they can help you stay disciplined and focused as you create a new study routine at home. For more on this topic, check out our other blog posts on learning from home, time management, study techniques, and take advantage of our free printable student planners.