My whole entire life is on technology. My laptop is home to thousands of memories from pictures to old drafts of stories, my phone is everything from my to-do list to tracking my spending for the month. So, it just seemed like common sense to have everything I would need for my PhD on those two devices… right?
I use my phone more so than my laptop at times and recently was discussing with some friends what apps have come in handy during my PhD journey. Here are some of my favorites -
I live and die by my planners – I have two. A hard copy and my Google Calendar that alerts me to upcoming meetings, speaking engagements, and what schedule block (writing, social media content creating, video analysis, etc) is coming up next.
To keep track of all the thousands of things a graduate student has to stay on top of, a good task management app is crucial! There are tons to choose from (such as Slack and Asana) but Trello has to be my favorite due to the app allowing me to create visual work boards and fill them up with tasks, assign deadlines, make updates, and more. I can also share these boards with collaborators or my advisors, so they are up to date on my progress.
If you’re like me and love to-do lists, iProcrastinate is because not only can you set a priority level for each project, but you can break down bigger assignments into more manageable tasks. This can also be shared with multiple users! Need more help visualizing your week? iStudiez Pro is fantastic! It syncs with your calendar and alerts you when a deadline is fast approaching.
If I don’t take notes, I’m useless! I am constantly jotting down what people are saying or ideas that come to me (sometimes at the most random of times). That is why I think Evernote is one of the best apps a student can have downloaded onto their phone. It’s easy to search your notes, it can be synched across devices, and even allows you to audio record for those who prefer that!
Want to scribble your notes down (instead of typing them in a computer) but still have the ease of storing them in an organized fashion? Meet Penultimate! It’s an easy-to-use handwriting app for those who have iPads – just grab a stylus and get to writing.
You’re ready to sit down at your desk and do the thing: write your thesis! But where do you begin? Outliner helps you to organize your thoughts into an editable outline format – you can access this wherever inspiration hits you (if you’re like me, it’s usually the hour-long commute on public transport). Another handy thing I’ve downloaded to help me along the writing process is a Plagiarism Checker app that allows me to scan my work and detect duplicate content in it from popular search engines. A must-have for any student!
As you chug along writing, you probably are saving drafts of your articles. Make sure you download Dropbox a free app that allows you to share documents, videos, photos, and all sorts of other files with people. Tired of leaving comments on the margins of papers where you can barely read your own handwriting? Digitalize that process! PDF Expert is incredible for annotating and organizing those articles – and autosyncs with Dropbox, allowing you access wherever, whenever.
References are bound to be the bane of your existence if you don’t have a way to organize and search for them from the get-go. Thankfully, there’s an app to help you with that: Mendeley.
It’s a FREE application that automatically generates bibliographies as users write. Uh, hello, that is HEAVENLY when you are over 100 references deep for your literature review. It also helps find articles that are relevant to your specific subject amongst its catalog of over 30 million research papers – think of it like your own Fairy Reference Godmother.
I also am a HUGE fan of something my advisors turned me towards: Paperpile! Although this reference manager isn’t free, it’s another great way to avoid bibliographic burnout and works well with Google Docs (which is what I use to write papers with my advisors).
KEEP DISTRACTIONS AT BAY
Mind keep wandering off and feel like you aren’t being efficient with your writing time? There’s an app for that! In fact, quite a few.
One of my faves is Forest, a mobile app and browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that rewards 25 minutes of uninterrupted work with a tree. It’s a virtual tree, but the idea is that the longer you stay focused the more trees you get… until your attention to detail has created a forest. Sounds a little sappy, but this does have real-life implications! Users get awarded virtual coins that can plant real trees via Trees for the Future. Sounds like a win-win for me!
During a 5-minute break have you stumbled upon something interesting but don’t have time to check it out? Pocket allows you to bookmark webpages and article to read at a later date - even without WiFi!
Graduate school can definitely mess with one’s everyday healthy habits – we’ve all been there when we’ve gone a day without drinking or eating enough or are running on a few minutes of sleep. Sleep Cycle Alarm analyses your sleep routines/patterns and keeps track of how much sleep you should be getting/need to get that night. It’s a nice reminder for me to turn off my electronics & wind down for the night… rest isn’t a “reward,” it’s a human right!
As I unwind, I like to journal. It allows me to organize my thoughts, do a “brain dump,” and go into sleep with a clear mind. I love my physical journal but Day One has beautiful interfaces that are easy to use and organize. There is a passcode and Face/Touch ID login to keep your innermost thoughts safe, too!
WHAT SORT OF APPS HAVE HELPED YOU DURING YOUR PHD JOURNEY?
This isn't your average blog. THINK OF IT LIKE THE BRITISH LIBRARY, EXCEPT WAY SASSIER.
Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
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