Managing Your Productivity in Grad School + Undergrad

To manage your life in school takes a serious balancing act – I know this is a little departure from Mass Communication Theory but anyone who reads this site can learn something from my experience as both a student and professor. There are a few things that you need:

  • File Management
  • Task Management
  • Timeline Management

As someone who was recently a graduate student, has adjunct-ed a handful of classes in the last few years, and is currently a project manager I’ve gotten a great 360 degree perspective on how to juggle these things and what apps/processes work best. So first, file management. You have only two options here that are agile and free.

File Management

Dropbox – if you don’t have a dropbox account, go there and sign up immediately. You get a few free gigs of space just for signing up and don’t have to pay a cent if you don’t want to. Dropbox is great for two reasons – one: cloud storage (for both working and backup), and two: accessibility. The Web interface is easy to download/upload and you can access your files anywhere and it has amazing apps. Now there are quite a few other products that do this but here is where dropbox is different:

It creates a folder on your computer just like any other folder that will automatically sync itself to your account in the cloud. Boom. Never lose anything again. Computer blows up? No problem. All your files are sitting in your Dropbox account. No lost papers, theses, or research data. You can back up photos, everything. It also saves previous versions – you accidentally save after deleting half your paper? No worries – restore the backup. If you download the app, it works in conjunction with the Mailbox app to allow you to attach files to on your phone or tablet. Awesome. I don’t think I could survive without it.

In terms of collaboration you can share only specific folders with other users (think group projects) – this makes everything super easy to access and no more emailing around presentations. I highly, highly recommend it. Apps for all OSs and work beautifully even on those crappy library computers. Get it now.

Second is Google Drive. I use Google drive in conjunction with dropbox – most colleges use the gmail apps with your email address so there is a good chance you already have a drive account. I use these mostly for working documents that I’ll need at a moments notice and that get updated regularly – maintenance records, password and logins to every random thing you need to sign up for (Protip: Don’t type the whole password, just part of it so you can remember which one it is).

If you’re going to write it, save it, move on, I’d use Dropbox to store it – use Google Drive for collaboration documents that will need to evolve.

Either can work fine on their own, I’d suggest playing with them to see what combo works best for you.

Task + Timeline Management

Task management is a tricky one – but as you’ll have a good pile of deadlines to keep track of throughout the semester I’d recommend at least putting those in something digital.

Calendar Apps

Simple and often effective –¬†Google Calendar and iCal are the two best – they sync to your phone, desktop and cloud. Always, always – at the start of a semester go through your due dates and enter them ALL in your calendar with a 1 week and 1 day reminder time. Best advice I’ve ever been given, you’ll stop missing deadlines and losing points on your papers needlessly.

Task Apps

wunderlist

By for my favorite task app is Wunderlist, It lets you set due dates, reminders, flag and assign (it offers shared to-do lists), attach files and have a list of sub tasks. Easy. Cheesy.

Also of note is iProcrastinate, very similiar but they have recently started charging for it. Native for Mac – worth a look if you aren’t a fan of Wunderlist.

Good old Pen and Paper – the old stand by, you can’t go wrong here – it’s cheap, doesn’t crash, and never needs to be charged.

Hopefully these tips can help you and your students – please share or leave any questions below!

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