While productivity should always stem from your personal motivations and desires, having tools that can help to organize your thoughts and assignments can absolutely help you do your best work.
In this blog, I want to share what I used throughout college to help keep me on track. I primarily used three pieces of software for my productivity needs: Google Calendar, Trello, and Notability.
Since I go to UC Berkeley, using Google Calendar is almost a necessity. There’s a massive culture here around using Google Calendar, or “bCal” (Berkeley Calendar), to organize everything from club meetings, homework sessions, and even lunch hangouts. As soon as I know what my class schedule looks like, it goes straight into my bCal so that my weeks are fully planned and mapped out. While it sounds so simple, putting everything into Google Calendar can save you so much time and possibly save you from accidentally missing a class. I know a common alternative to this is just taking a screenshot of your classes schedule and referencing it for the rest of the semester, but using an actual calendar app allows you to input things like the locations of your classes (which will integrate with the Google Maps to give you directions if you don’t know where your class is) and Zoom links you can directly access through the app.
Trello is a web-based project management tool that I love to use for its simplicity and flexibility. I primarily use it as a way to keep track of all of my tasks, whether they’re homework assignments, work for my student organization, or even grocery shopping. Trello lets you make different “lists” that let you separate out your various workflows, and then within those lists you can create different “cards” that can act as tasks that you can knock off if you finish them. You can also add important information to these cards such as dates, locations, audio clips, pictures, and even other people if you want to make it a collaborative effort.
Finally, I use Notability to take notes on my iPad with the Apple Pencil. I used to think that getting an iPad just for school was totally unnecessary, but after I got one and started centering all of my school work around the app, I just couldn’t go back. Notability is extremely easy to use for note taking during lectures. I will usually download the lecture slides ahead of time and then write on top of them so that I’m not just rewriting information that’s already there. Since I’m an Econ major, a lot of my work revolves around drawing complex graphs and doing some math, so being able to take these kinds of notes on top of my lecture notes is extremely helpful. There’s a ton of different pens and highlighters that you can use within the app that make the virtual note taking experience as close to the real thing as possible.
The organizational tools in Notability are super helpful as well. You can create separate folders for your classes, and within those class folders create different sections like “homework” and “lectures”. Once you finish assignments, it’s super easy to export the pages as PDFs and send it to your computer so that you can submit it. There’s also a desktop app available that automatically syncs the work you do on your iPad to your Mac. While getting an iPad and purchasing the app can definitely add up to a steep price, I would happily recommend making the investment. I promise I’m not sponsored. 😅
David is a Consultant on the Study Hall Consulting team. David is currently a fourth-year student at UC Berkeley studying Economics and minoring in Data Science. Going into his junior year of college (Fall 2019), David transferred from UC Santa Barbara to UC Berkeley. For more application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.