Apps and tools to boost study skills
Luckily, we live in an era where having Internet access means finding a solution to almost any problem, and student life can be easily kept on track with the help of a myriad of apps and web pages.
Luckily, we live in an era where having Internet access means finding a solution to almost any problem, and student life can be easily kept on track with the help of a myriad of apps and web pages designed to overcome the most common problems of a student. Yours truly has gathered this manageable list in the hopes that you may find something useful in it.
FOREST – to focus
Do you have trouble putting down your smartphone (check your email too much, use social media, etc.)? Then Forest is the app for you. The idea behind it is very simple: you plant a tree (with a timer) that will only grow as long as you do not press the ‘Home’ button of your phone. In other words, it will only grow if you do not go out of the app. Once you are out of the app, the tree dies within 8 seconds. If your tree manages to grow successfully (you focus on your task until the timer goes out without using your phone), you receive gold (in-app currency) that you can then spend in purchasing other breeds of trees and bushes. Your forest will also create a graphic of how much you have focused in any given task, which days you focused, etc. This is useful to evaluate when or under which conditions you are in your prime for studying. In addition, you can save in-game currency and donate it so the enterprise behind the app will donate to Trees for the Future and plant a real tree somewhere. So, in addition to focusing and being more productive, you can also help the environment! One thing I regret is that there is not an app for the computer desktop.
QUESTIA – to organise resources
Essentially, Questia is a webpage with paid membership that gives you access to journals and books from a wide range of disciplines. Now, you may think this is just a glorified bookstore, but there are two things that make Questia a good place for students. One is that you can organize your readings and books under projects with minimal fuss, so everything related to one topic or subject will be in the same place. The other things is that, as long as you have Internet access, you can access your projects and books anywhere, and this is great because it means not carrying around a lot of books and being able to study even when you are traveling. For those students that have to be in and out of their permanent residence every now and then, Questia ensures access to study materials. It also has other features, such as a the possibility to highlight and write notes in a text, bookmark chapters for future reference and the very handy writing-center. On the down side, there is not a free trial, so you will have to believe in my word!
If you loath to spend money on resources, memberships and apps, remember that the Athens account provided by the UoL will grant you access free of charge to services such as JSTOR, or you can always take a look at the Online Library.
ANY.DO – for task management
Any.do is both an app (for iOS and for Android) and a webpage. It is a good old task organizer, minimal and simple. If you are anything like me, you love organizers, planners and all these things, which means you get lost researching and trying these types of apps, seeing which functionality they have, etc. And this means you lose (valuable) time. Any.do is designed to be simple in usage and in aesthetics, so you will really use it as a way to have all your tasks grouped. Although I have tried many organizers, including some specifically designed for students, this one has been the most pleasing. However, planning apps tend to be more personal than you might think, so you might want to research a few other apps.
30/30 – for time management
Sadly, this one is only for iOS. If your issue is time management (when to stop a task and start another), then this app is for you. You set a task list and a time for each task, and then let it run. It is easy to navigate and use and minimal in aesthetics, so it will not be another source of distraction. This means that you can run on automatic pilot smoothly for a few hours at a time, without having to decide in between tasks what to do next.
Ana is studying the BA English by distance learning in Luxembourg.