5 ways to boost your productivity with tech

We all know time can easily be whittled away by scrolling through social media or falling down a YouTube rabbit hole (may or may not be speaking on personal experience…).

But technology is a double-edged sword and can be also be used to boost our productivity – here are 5 ways to do so.

Disclaimer: I have recommended apps that I use, though please research them before downloading/purchasing as I am by no means a technology expert.

1. To-do list (Microsoft App)

What is it?

An app to write to-do lists in

Why do I use it?

It seems too obvious to state, but a good to-do list app can be extremely helpful in not only keeping track of tasks but also in achieving them.

    • I have used a roster of apps and have found the ‘To-Do’ list app by Microsoft the easiest to use consistently
    • It can be seamlessly linked between desktop and mobile, and the app itself is simple. It is ideal as it means fewer distractions and less time invested in curating a to-do list that will never see the light of day again
    • The app also lends itself to making tasks more achievable. Breaking tasks down into smaller steps is instant, and makes large projects less daunting to start
    • Time-oriented lists also allow for easier prioritisation of tasks, another important consideration when you have an avalanche of degree-work to wade through

Alternatives available:

    • Habitica (‘gamify’ to-do lists)
    • Todoist
    • Countless others on the App/Play store

2. OneNote

What is it?

An app to write notes in – that is much easier to format than Word.

Why do students use it?

Disclaimer – I don’t use this personally for academic notes, but I know a lot of students do.

    • One Tablet is a lot lighter than several lecture note booklets
    • Lecturers (at least in MechEng) also often make slides available beforehand, making it easy to annotate notes/diagrams as you go
    • OneNote is a lot less ‘rigid’ than Word, making it easy to paste in and edit diagrams as naturally as you would by hand
    • All of your notes are in one place, easy to access on any device and quicker to access than getting out subject materials for each module.

3. Spotify (streaming desktop apps)

What is it?

A music/podcast streaming service

Why do I use it?

    • The desktop app allows you to listen to music and podcasts without accessing portals of distraction (namely your phone or the web).
    • Once you have made a playlist (don’t spend too long on this!), it can be a seamless part of your studying setup. Having the playlist available will remove any time wasted in choosing what to listen to each time.
    • If music is not something you can (or like to) listen to whilst studying, then podcasts or even white noise can be helpful in getting the study mindset started

Alternatives available

    • Deezer, Amazon music (I’m sure there are others – use what works for you)
    • Streaming services often have student discounts, capitalise on it whilst you can

4. Reminders and timers (phone/desktop)

What is it?

Alarms/alerts set up for certain times

Why do I use it?

    • It can be important to put reminders in your phone so you remember to do important tasks
    • If you find it easy to lose track of time – set up reminders at the start of the week of where you need to be throughout the week
    • Also, use to co-ordinate studying (so don’t end up spending too much time on one module and neglecting another)
    • Outlook itself can be set up to give you reminders on timetabled events (can add your own ‘calendar’ with study sessions to automate this)
    • Even errands/self-care can have reminders so you don’t lose track of yourself – from reminders to drinking water regularly to getting groceries

5. Apps to focus on (e.g. Forest)

What is it?

An app to stop you from using your phone

Why do students use it?

Disclaimer: I have not used the app recently – features and usability may be different to what I remember

Sometimes putting your phone away is not enough, and this is where apps like Forest can help you focus

    • Easy to set up timed sessions – often you just need an impetus to start a task and set a timer that will not let you access other distractions can be invaluable for at least a short, focused period of work
    • The rewards of trees/plants gamify studying, giving a small dose of dopamine and a visual sense of progress. This can often keep you going for longer on days when you may otherwise struggle to focus
    • The prospect of a tree dying if you leave the app works to make you pause before mindlessly accessing social media websites. Often this pause is all that is needed to prevent you from veering off track with studying

Alternatives available:

    • There are alternative, free apps available with a similar premise – the options vary for iOS and Android, so may require some research before downloading
    • On PC, it is easy to get browser add-ons to prevent you from accessing distracting websites as and when needed. For example ‘LeechBlock’ lets you timetable sessions to block off websites. This automation makes reducing distractions even easier over time

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