Navigating the academic world online is no easy task. What chance do we have when the best brains of our generation are obsessively focused on making sure every distraction is just a click away.
With tons of assignments to complete, deadlines to meet, and a humongous amount of coursework to study, these distractions can be all the more tempting. A cute cat video? Count me in!
Luckily, there are productivity applications for students that intend to free up your mind space and mute the noise. You know what they say: As tech takes away, so tech gives.
The wrong app will likely send you grappling with complicated interfaces and more features to push you down the rabbit hole. This is why while creating this list, we wanted to make sure the applications are
- Free or reasonably priced
Before we move on to the best productivity apps for students, let’s delve into the purpose they would likely serve and why.
8 Productivity tips for college students 2023
To ace as a student, here are 8 essential tips that will help you stay productive and focused throughout your college.
1. Track your time
Our brain often tricks us into believing what we want to. So if you wish to study for 8 hours a day and study for 2, your brain would conveniently inflate the number to reassure you with a false sense of accomplishment. This is why time trackers help you get a drilled-down overview of where you are actually spending your time, not where you want to.
Regardless of what project you get, start by breaking it down into smaller chunks and assign it the time you think you would take to get through it. And then track it.
Eventually, you will get into the habit of accurately predicting how long a task will take and plan your week accordingly.
Time management is an essential skill that not just promises success in academics or, in the future, your worklife, but also allows you to make time for your other interests, and to take care of yourself both physically and mentally.
2. Plan ahead
You can either focus on repeatedly recalling everything that needs to be done or you can actually get down to doing the things.
Enter to-do lists where you can dump the tasks that need your attention. By using to-do applications or old-school pen and paper, you free up the brain to not be overwhelmed with everything at once and concentrate on one priority at a time.
3. Mute the noise
The big techs are tirelessly working round the clock to get you to spend your hours liking, scrolling, commenting, or engaging with all things social.
See yourself reaching for your phone every time it blings or pops or buzzes? We agree; Endless scrolling is super appealing in front of work that’s not.
With increasing online distractions, whether it is social media (yes, even the harmless ones like Reddit, 9gag, or Youtube) or attractive websites filled with stuff you should know, attention wanders.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with killing time online, if you really need to buckle down on an important job, it’s important to mute the noise.
4. Stay focused
Our current times have wreaked havoc on our ability to focus and deep work - the idea to focus on a subject, task, or project for an extended duration of time.
Stipulated times for focus allow us to get more done. I've used the Pomodoro Technique or variations for more than a decade. While it didn't single-handedly get me through my college degree, it helped me get better grades with less effort.
The Pomodoro Technique or any variation of it that you may like is pretty easy to implement. For me, a 25-minute work session is long enough for me to stay engaged and make real progress, without feeling like a grind, while the 5-minute breaks, which never feel far off, give me a chance to take a breather without disrupting my work.
Be so focused that time flies by and you accomplish a lot. That’s the goal worth going after, every day.
5. Create a timetable
The best thing that helped me stay on track with exam preps was creating a timeline for myself. They were filled with the days I would need to dedicate to a chapter or subject with buffer days to include cushions for extra hard topics, breaks, or missed syllabus.
Doing this, ever so often, allows you to break down the ginormous amount of syllabus that needs covering into manageable chunks.
Parkinson’s Law gets it right: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Defining the time is bound to give you a sense of what’s a priority, what to do with the day, and be well prepared for the exam regardless of whether you started studying a month ago or a week.
6. Take notes
One of the best tools at your disposal as a student is extensive notes. Whether it is your teacher’s lucid explanation of a concept or a friend’s handy advice, or even a brain wave so illuminating, you can’t help but feel inspired.
These notes can serve as study guides, help you review for exams, and provide valuable insights into how other students are approaching different topics. Plus, they're mandatory if you want to retain information and facts from lectures!
You can use whichever device you are most comfortable with and sync up your computer, phone, or tablet to a cloud storage platform where everything resides in an organized plus accessible manner.
7. Active recall
When I was a student, I particularly disliked memorizing things. Later, I chose to be a writer and I was stuck with lists of thousands of words to improve my vocabulary.
What’s greatly helped me are apps that promise to make remembering easier so they can either greatly decrease the time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount one learns.
One super-efficient way of learning things is active recall, a memory technique that makes use of props such as flashcards.
8. Stay consistent
No great change in life is a result of great habits abandoned midway.
To build habits, creating a routine that works for you is the key. You need a system to actively reward and motivate you until you can repeat what you are doing when you are doing it, day in and day out.
These are some smart techniques you can use to increase your productivity and ensure that there is time to lead a balanced life.
To write this article, we spoke to thousands of educators, downloaded and used multiple apps to make sure we weed out the chaff from the rest. Each app is the best in its category to reinforce everything we have learned until now.
8 best productivity apps for students in 2023
Automatic time-tracking and time management
Here’s what RescueTime can do:
- automatically track your time in the background without any input from your end
- categorize where you are spending your time
- enable you to block distracting websites with its paid version
Its free version allows you to download the app and track your time on all the platforms it comes in - Mac, Android, iOS, Windows, and Linux.
It is the go-to productivity app for not just students but working professionals around the world who don’t want to actively use any app to get the results.
We found RescueTime to be the perfect app for students as it emphasizes time tracking as a means to become more productive with gamification, simple reporting, and website blocking.
Find everything you need, instantly
OSlash makes it dead simple for you to connect to the resources and applications you use every day.
With your work scattered across multiple platforms—Google Docs, Google Sheet, Slides, Trello, Notes, etc.—it becomes difficult to find, open, and share docs you need every day.
With OSlash you can name any link using a simple shortcut you want such as o/physics-notes or o/to-do-list to get to where you want to in an instant.
OSlash is a great tool to save ~9 hours every week and keep all your information and resources organized, structured, and in one place.
The toughest website blocker on the internet
Cold Turkey does exactly what its name suggests. One of the most recommended applications for a writer, it also is a great tool in the arsenal of any student.
It is the “toughest website blocker in the world.” And nope, they’re not kidding.
If you struggle with self-control and always get your way around what you want, then you have to have this application. It allows you to block websites, games, and applications to boost your productivity and reclaim your free time.
With Cold Turkey Writer, you can transform your computer into a stubborn typewriter for as long as you don’t meet your day’s word count. If you have an upcoming project, once you do your research, try out Cold Turkey Writer and watch your productivity soar.
Focus timer for productivity
Forest is without a doubt one of the most loved productivity apps in the world. Why? Because it brings together essential functionality and a wonderful design with a great cause. One recipe even Professor Utonium will be proud of.
You plant a tree in your in-app "forest" whenever you wish to start a study session. The tree would grow from a seed or sapling to a tree in the time duration that you decide.
To follow the Pomodoro Technique, I plant the tree for 25 mins. The tree will grow as you work, but if you pick up your phone and exit the app, your tree will perish! The more you concentrate, the more trees you may collect and add to your forest.
In hundreds of nations, the company even plants real trees! It's a win-win for both you and the planet.
This app takes on a creative approach to help you stay focused. Try it out and join the millions of people who instantly fall in love with it.
Free spreadsheet editor
To create a timetable, keep your life simple and use Google Sheets. No spreadsheet software can beat its simplicity and affordability.
Here are a few tips to create the right timetable that will help you ace your exams:
- work backward from your test date and figure out how much time you have to prepare for each subject
- break down days for each subject and divide the time period according to the difficulty and the number of chapters to be covered
- keep a few buffer days to relax, unwind, or cover topics that take more than the time you had appropriated for them
- do not create an hourly timetable as it becomes restrictive and can be a recipe for disaster
Organize all your notes
No productivity discussion can be complete without mentioning Evernote.
I have used too many note-taking apps to know that none of them works great across devices the way Evernote does.
Evernote is a powerful note-taking app that boasts a wide array of features that will allow you to make the most of your university learning. Along with the basic features of a digital notebook, Evernote allows you to also retrieve text from images, make to-do lists, scan physical documents, and save web articles and PDFs to annotate inside your notes. On your phone, you can even search, edit, and create notes straight in Siri or Ok Google.
True, that it’s put a lot of customizations behind the paywall but as a student, it’ll be distracting to demand many.
Learning tools & flashcards
With expert explanations, an AI Learning Assistant, and flashcards, Quizlet brings to you a complete suite of science-backed study tools at your fingertips.
Quizlet is the easiest way to practice and master whatever you’re learning. It makes studying languages, history, vocabulary, and science simple and effective. Plus it's free.
With the Quizlet app you can:
- learn with flashcards
- share flashcards with friends, classmates or students
- get ready for your exams with Learn mode
- put your memory to the test with Write mode
- learn foreign languages
- learn about science, math, history, coding, and more
Habit tracker & goals
Everyday is one of the most charmingly simple habit tracking apps available on every conceivable platform.
All of the action takes place on the app's simple visual interface, which displays your habits vertically on the left and a timeline that proceeds to the right to the current day.
The app's main principle is to perform daily routines and not break the chain or streak. When you complete a habit, you mark it as completed. On the right, you can see how long your current streak has been going, as well as your previous best score and the total number of times you've done a habit in its lifespan.
Bringing them together
As a student, you don’t have to use all the applications but by imbibing some of the tips we mentioned in the article, you will be able to see a marked difference in how you feel about productivity.
While you do that, remember:
- Productivity is not an innate human trait. It can be taught and honed with practice over time. So don’t feel bad if you don’t feel productive right off the bat
- Some people work best in the early morning hours while others feel most productive in the silence of the night. Find the time that works best for you
- Monitor your progress regularly to see what is working for you
Bonus tip: To supercharge your productivity easily as you switch between multiple apps, links, and Zoom calls, use OSlash - the easiest way to find, access, and share links in an instant!
You would be able to save time, effort, and feel less frustrated as you bring everything you need at your fingertips without the hassle of wondering where your links lie.
With that, we hope you’re able to crank it up a notch as you prepare for your next exam!