Tips for Grads: Utilizing apps for productivity

By Olivia Gacka, PhD Student

Now that it is somehow August (cue my internal panic) it’s a good time to start reflecting on all the things we learned this summer about managing our projects and tasks and how we’re going to bring them with us into the academic year. One solution with hundreds of different options is utilizing technology. There are a seemingly endless stream of online tools and resources to help us succeed, so to help you narrow it down, here are a handful of my favorites that I will definitely be using in the fall:
  • Apple Reminders: This summer, all my lists and tasks have been kept in Apple’s Reminders app. Transitioning from physical lists to electronic ones was tough for me, but I have to say that being able to immediately edit my entries whether I’m at work, the store, or suddenly remember something important in the middle of the night was the selling point for me. Plus, as someone who is very fond of seeing all the crossed-off things I’ve accomplished on my handwritten lists, I love that Reminders lets you choose whether to hide completed tasks or keep them visible. For non-Apple users, there are a number of close alternatives, like Microsoft’s To Do.
  • Tomato Timer: Whether you’re already a fan of the Pomodoro Technique or want to start trying it out for the first time, Tomato Timer is a fantastic alternative to just setting the timer on your phone or watch. I appreciate that having an app specifically dedicated to the technique takes away the extra tasks of having to set the right time and remembering to start the timer when it’s time for my break. Plus, it has customizable features that let you change the length of work and break sessions, the color scheme, and the alarm noise that goes off when you’ve finished.
  • Fudget: Did I spend too much money on ice cream this summer? Yes. Do I regret it? No. But do I need to deal with it because I also need to pay rent and utilities? Sure thing. I’ve been turning to Fudget for my budgeting and spend tracking. The app is known for being a comparatively simple one by design, and one of the only ones I could find that specifically doesn’t sync your banking and credit card accounts but personally, that’s my preference. The more hands-on and manual I have to be about the process of budgeting, the more accountable I end up being.
If you’re interested in learning about even more examples of technology and apps to help you manage your tasks and to do’s, join us for our upcoming workshop Cool Tools: Apps and More to Increase Productivity on September 1!

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.