My Top Five Productivity Applications

A little while ago, I went on the hunt for applications or study strategies to help me succeed further in my studies. I found myself always getting distracted and losing my focus due to Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, and literally every other social platform. It was–and still is–much more gratifying to look through aesthetic photos than it was to do my assignment.

I’m pretty sure this was what my brain was saying the entire time I was studying for exams:

And at some point, that mantra of “procrastinate” turned into this:

Screenshot 2015-10-12 19.58.27

So to avoid struggling to remember what you were studying for and why you came to college in the first place, I’ve put together a brief list of applications (for Windows and Mac) that have helped me get to where I am today. I can only hope that they’ll take me even further, and help you out too.

1. SelfControl (Mac) or Cold Turkey (Windows)

Screenshot 2015-10-12 20.04.48

SelfControl Logo

I personally use SelfControl. After discovering it at the start of my freshman year of college, I began using it almost all the time and it was often a lifesaver. It’s unique in that when you add websites to its blacklist (the sites that you want to block), you cannot access them no matter what. This means that even if you log out of your account, shut down your computer and restart, or even uninstall the app, you will not be able to access those websites. But of course it doesn’t last forever! You can set the time limit to anywhere between 15 minutes and 24 hours.

2. Calendar

Honestly, ever since I started putting my class schedule into it, I’ve noticed that my life is a lot easier. I can put in travel times to get to classes, because for me, it takes about an hour of travel time to get my class on Douglas from Busch if I want to accommodate all sorts of delays that could happen or if I need to eat before or print notes out before class. I also still use the autopilot schedule, as championed by Cal Newport, the Study Hacks blog writer. I wrote a post about it a while back here. You can also put meeting times into it and study times, and it’ll remind you when you need to do specific things. It’s a literal personal assistant in an application. It also syncs between your iPhone and your Macbook, if you have both of those. I’m unaware if it does so for Windows, but please let me know if it does!

3. Wunderlist

When I first downloaded this tool, I didn’t think I was going to use it. Why did I need an online list-maker if I could just write lists by hand? It turns out that I ended up using it daily. Not only did I use it to write homework assignments, but I also wrote other reminders into it. I wrote things that I eventually wanted to do one day, or movies I wanted to watch, or CDs that I wanted to buy. (Yes, I still buy CDs. I like physical copies of music I thoroughly enjoy.) I even wrote in reminders to clean every week, (as if I could forget the mounds of empty water bottles littering my desk.) Here’s an example of what my list looks like for running this blog:

Note: There's a lot of work I've done that's unaccounted for because it's not on this list. It's all in a handwritten list.

Note: there’s a lot of work I’ve done that’s unaccounted for because it’s not on this list. It’s all in a handwritten list. I cross-check these lists, usually.

And the best part about Wunderlist is that it syncs between Apple products, just like Google Calendar. It’s pretty wunderful. 

4. Gmail for mobile

This one applies more to those who have iPhones. Although the Mail app comes with the iPhone, it jumbles together all emails into one giant list. (Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve used Mail that I don’t really remember what it looks like.) When I downloaded the Gmail app at the recommendation of a friend, I was pleasantly surprised; it was definitely better than the Mail app. You can add different email accounts and their inboxes will show up separately. Also, because Gmail filters out Primary mail from Social, etc., Gmail’s application logo will only show the number of new emails in the Primary section. No more 1000 unread emails!

5. Willpower

If all else fails, there’s an application called Willpower out there. It’s automatically available. It has been the most helpful application I’ve ever come across, ever. (Did I say ever enough times?) To access it, you have to search deep deep deep deep deeeeeeeeeeeeep within yourself and scrounge enough willpower to finish your assignments. I’ve learned the hard way, though, that willpower is not pure motivation; it is a combination of motivation and discipline. Motivation can get you going, whether it holds out for two weeks or two minutes, but it is discipline itself that keeps you going even when you have no motivation. It’s not something that can be downloaded, but it is something that can be learned and if used wisely, can take you far.

Note: this blog post is not affiliated with any of the products/applications/people mentioned above.

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