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Tech Tips: Making your life as a graduate student a little easier


Classes are well underway, essays are due, tests needs to be marked and your own research still needs to get done somehow on top of that. How do you keep it all organized? It can be a difficult task to keep your life balanced, plan your time and to keep track of all the papers you’ve read, the notes you’ve taken and the little strokes of genius you come up with that unfortunately seem to disappear just as quickly if you don’t immediately write them down. This week’s blog post features a few tools I’ve either used  in my five years of graduate school to keep organized or ones that have been recommended to me. If you have any of your own suggestions, please feel free to add them in the comments!

Organize Your Life

Evernote: This was one of my first lifesavers when I began my Master’s research. Evernote is a program that you can use both online or download locally on your computer. It allows you to organize notes into folders and subfolders, but also allows you to link them via tags and puts them all together into a cloud that you can access anywhere. I have so many disparate notes and thoughts that I can group together using Evernote and not worry about losing them. Before I was using many, many word documents, but then I would often forget what particular file had the fact I was looking for. With Evernote, you can search through everything by keywords, allowing you to find related notes much more easily.

Bullet JournalThis tool may not be digital, but it can be just as helpful! It’s an innovative way to use a notebook/journal in order to organize your life. I started bullet journalling several years ago and I’ve found nothing that works better in keeping on top of all the tasks I need to get done. Check out this youtube video for an explanation of what it is!

Organizing and Citing Sources

Pocket: This is an app that you can download through your internet browser that allows you to clip articles and pdfs that you want to remember to read later when you have the leisure time to do so.

Zotero: Another app for your browsers, Zotero senses the type of page you’re on and with a click it can add a journal article or book from a university library catalog to your own personal library, and allows you to easily collect sources, sort through them and cite them. This is the more scholarly version of Pocket.

Mendeley: This program is another reference manager that allows you to easily cite, organize and annotate your sources.

Endnote: Finished your essay and faced with the arduous task of adding all your citations? Annotate as you go with this helpful tool that will speed the process up immensely!

Misc. Tools

Boomerang: Slightly different from the other tools mentioned, Boomerang is just as useful. This app attaches to your gmail and allows you the ability to schedule when your email is sent out. Working on that edited thesis till 4am and want to send it to your prof without letting them know just how late you stayed up? Schedule your email to send at a reasonable hour like 8am instead.

The Pomodoro Technique: This is the tool I think I use the most, and the best thing about it is you only need a clock to use it. There are a multitude of apps and websites you can use to help you with it though if you’re into that! Sometimes a task seems so daunting that you’re too afraid to even start and so you procrastinate. The idea behind this technique is you just sit down and do 25 minutes of uninterrupted work. 25 minutes isn’t that bad right? When you finish that chunk of time, you can take 5 minutes to check those text messages that came through, look at your emails, maybe stand up and stretch, but then after the 5 minutes you have to sit back down and work again for another 25 minutes. Once you do one 25 minute chunk of time, you realize that it’s doable. You can take a project one chunk at a time, and work through it. Before long the project starts to look more manageable!

What tools do you swear by?


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2 comments on “Tech Tips: Making your life as a graduate student a little easier
  1. Eruani says:

    Great post Isabel! I’m going to give Boomerang a try.
    My go-to tool is Scrivener, a software for writing. It has good functionalities and the interface to help you structure a big piece of writing (aka dissertation/thesis). You can use Scrivener to outline, create storyboards, create a simple database with different versions of your work, make notes, among other things. I find it quite useful and easy to use.

  2. Colette says:

    Love knowing about some of these apps. Would love to hear what else is out there!

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