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CamGuides: Software for Academic Use

Calendars and scheduling

A weekly planner on a desk, with a calendar on a phone, some pencils and a pair of sunglassesIf you don't already use an online calendar, this might be the time to get one. (Or, at the very least, a paper diary). Graduate students are usually exceptionally busy: with lectures and supervisions, attending events, getting involved in societies, and so much more. Setting up your system now so you can keep track of all of these events will be time extremely well spent.

There are several options available in terms of online calendars. You might be looking for something to sync with your devices, or your emails; something you can share with family, friends or coursemates; or just a really simple, straightforward one. Here are some recommendations.

 

  • Microsoft Outlook calendar: this comes automatically with your Cambridge email, and syncs with your email and contacts. You can use this to invite others to meetings and appointments, share calendars with coursemates. You can view your calendar both online and via the Outlook app for iOS and Android.
  • Google Calendar: syncs with a gmail account, shareable with others, and gives you the possibility of having multiple calendars. This is available as an app for iOS and Android too, and it also integrates with several other calendar apps (e.g. TimeTree, Readdle's Calendar 5) if you don't like the Google Calendar app. 
  • Or try one of the many, many apps available: TimePage, DigiCal, and more.

 

I have used my Google calendar more than I ever have in my life, that's for sure.

- MPhil (Part III) Maths student, 2017-18

 

Keeping on top of your workload

Some people working at computers, around a table, with coffeeThere are many ways in which you can use software and apps to help you stay on top of your workload. There are to-do list apps, project management software that you can use as an individual, ways to track how much time you're spending on your various commitments, and more. 

Some of these can be quite labour intensive, will take time to set up and sustain, and vary considerably in terms of their complexity, intensity and ability to make you feel guilty about your workload. So think critically about these options - and what you feel you actually need the functionality to be.

 

 

  • On the simpler end of the to-do list spectrum is Workflowy. It looks like a basic Word document - it's a single list, organised by bullet points, and as you 'complete' something it comes off your list. If you just want to be sure that you don't forget to do something, this might be all you need.
  • Other to-do list apps will allow you to prioritise the items on your list: for example, both Todoist and Wunderlist will allow you to set daily goals and targets, will send you reminders, and more.
  • Some are focused fully on your daily goals: Microsoft's To Do focuses around what you need to achieve on a particular day.
  • Trello is really designed for project management but works well for individuals too, especially if you have longer terms projects or assignments.

 

Productivity (and distractions)

Half a clock face against a white backgroundAs a graduate student, you'll probably have an extensive workload, and you'll need to be certain to use your time wisely, so that you can keep on top of things and ensure you have time to relax and take time away from your work. While it's much easier said than done, one of the more effective ways of doing this is to avoid being distracted by the internet, so here are some ways that you can do that.

 

  • Save things for later: using an app like Pocket will allow you to store away that interesting news article or Wikipedia page and go back to it when your work is done - it's a browser extension that saves the content of websites for you to read later.
  • Turn off the internet: there are plenty of website blockers that, once activated, simply won't allow you to spend time browsing the internet. These vary in terms of how easy it is to find workarounds for them, but if you think this would be useful then explore Self-Control (Mac only), or Freedom, or one of the many others available.
  • Try the Pomodoro technique: many apps which block certain websites are now integrated with Pomodoro, so they'll only work for 5 minutes every half hour - for example, FocusMeOr, if you're a Pomodoro purist, there's a website for that

 

Image credits

image #1: CC0 by Marjiana1 via Pixabay; Image #2: CC0 by rawpixel via Pixabay; Image #3: CC0 by Sonja Langford via Unsplash