When asked what they do to procrastinate, most students would probably respond with ‘using my phone or computer’. And it really isn’t that shocking. There are so many interesting or merely just distracting things you can do on a phone or a laptop these days. However, at the same time, your computer at least is probably the most necessary tool for your study. And there’s the dilemma.
Thinking about this has made me want to write a blog post about all the reasons why your phone and your computer can actually boost your productivity (revolutionary, right?). And the reason (or reasons) why they are so helpful, are apps.
So here’s a list of 10 different types of apps that you really should download to give yourself the best shot at next semester.
Just bear in mind, these are ones that I’ve found useful and in no way is this an exhaustive list of all the handy apps out there!
Some phones already have useful anti-procrastination features, like the new ‘Screen Time’ feature of iPhones where you can set time limits for the use of whichever app you like. Alternatively, you can also download additional apps that can help prevent procrastination.
One great app that I would really recommend is StudyBreak. You can set timed study blocks and breaks, and the app will send you alerts if you try to pick up your phone at any point during your allocated study period. If you study in groups or have some friends at uni who are also struggling with distractions, an app called Flora allows you and your friends to plant a virtual tree that will be killed if any of the people involved pick up their phone!
In terms of planning study schedules and uni deadlines, lots of people these days find calendars such as iCal or Google Calendar really useful. I particularly like the fact that you can plan events, set reminders, and see everything laid out in different colours. They’re both super easy to use, and 100% worth the small effort to set up. They also sync across computers and phones and have modifiable notification features to remind you of what’s on your schedule.
Taking notes can be both time-consuming and somewhat unhelpful in actually consolidating the material you’re trying to learn. I’d recommend, especially if you’re studying something that requires a tonne of memorisation, getting into the habit of creating and using flashcards. There are a few good apps for this, Quizlet for example, or Anki (which is a favourite of medical students and requires downloading a few extra Add Ons to make the app more useful). Both of these apps also allow you to download shared decks created by other people if you don’t want to make your own.
Mindmaps don’t work for everyone, but if you’re someone who likes to brainstorm or organise ideas in mindmap format, having apps to do this can actually be really helpful (especially if you’ve got a long train or bus ride home from uni and feel like you need to do something useful). SimpleMind, which can be used across phones and computers, is a really popular app for this.
Phones these days have pretty good note-taking functions and document-writing apps like Pages, Google Docs or Microsoft Word. However, there are some note-taking apps that have been around for a while that many people find useful. For example, Evernote has a number of note-taking and planning features and has the added bonus of being aesthetically pleasing.
I’ve recently found that listening to podcasts related to my studies is a really good back-up when I’m too tired for more active forms of study. There are several platforms for listening to podcasts, such as Spotify or Podcasts, and endless educational channels/shows out there.
For some people, having a number staring you in the face is a really good motivating-factor when there’s a big exam or assignment coming up. Event Countdown is a particularly colourful app for this and allows you to add multiple deadlines. Another app, Big Day Countdown, displays bright and bold countdowns on your desktop.
Depending on what you’re studying, there might even be some apps out there created specifically to communicate educational content. For example, Khan Academy has a phone app (and website) with a huge amount of learning content from a range of different disciplines such as science and mathematics. This is especially useful for subjects that you might be new to, as it starts right from the basics. Otherwise, I’d also really recommend utilising Youtube and TED for educational and inspirational videos.
I couldn’t go talking about useful study apps without mentioning a couple that really helps me focus and keep on top of things. If you’ve paid much attention lately, you’ve probably heard a few talks here and there encouraging you to take up mindfulness or meditation. If you haven’t tried it already, there are some really great mindfulness apps with a lot of free features, such as Headspace, Calm and Simple Habit. These are really great for taking a few minutes out of each day to clear your mind and learn a new habit that can be extremely beneficial for your long-term health.
On a similar note, staying physically fit and exercising regularly really does help maintain a clear and focused mind. There’s a crazy amount of fitness apps out there, but I’ve found a lot catch you with in-app purchases for all their good workouts and other content. However, the Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club apps are both free, with lots of different types of workouts and no sneaky in-app purchases that I’ve managed to find yet!
Hopefully, by this point, I’ve been able to introduce you to a few different handy apps that will help you study and stay on top of things in general. My advice would be to start using new apps no more than a couple at a time. This is because using an app for the first time often requires creating and incorporating new, small habits throughout your day, which will be easier the less you attempt at once.
Everyone has their own styles and ways to approach a busy schedule, but luckily in this day and age, we have an app to help for almost anything!
Elisa is currently studying postgrad Medicine in Australia and working as part of the GradReady GAMSAT Prep Marketing Team. In her spare time (a rare occurrence these days), Elisa loves writing about all the ups and downs of uni life.