Productivity Tools for Academics, Grad Students, and Scholars

by Anna Blanch on November 10, 2011

Just over two years ago I wrote a post offering some advice and links to productivity tools I found useful. I thought it was time to revisit the topic and reflect on what I’m finding most useful now. If you haven’t seen it, then you might find The Basics helpful. The Basics is an area of Goannatree where general and introductory advice for research tasks and professional development, like using research libraries, reading and note-taking, submitting and presenting conference papers and journal articles, can be found.

Technology and Programs

Lifehack: includes a list of Free Computer programs as well as other applications useful for scholars.

FreeMind: a free, fully functional mind mapping program! I’ve been using it for quite a while now.

FocusBooster: This is free timer that I highly recommended. It will also help you if you are applying the Pomodoro technique to your academic (or any other kind of) writing. If you’re using an android, try pomodroido.

GIMP: While i love photoshop, GIMP is a free version that has many of the same features. Although you really need to be connected to the net to make full use of the help, manuals, and hacks.

Lightroom: I highly recommend Lightroom. I use Gimp in conjunction with Lightroom for a fully functional post-processing suite.

One Note: this is often included in the Microsoft Office suite but if it’s not for a few dollars more you can buy it as an add on. I use OneNote and Outlook for my version of GTD. I love the way they work together so I an keep my Inbox at zero as much as possible and my life with some direction.

Smart Phone Applications

This is a category that didn’t really exist the last time I wrote about productivity for researchers!  I’ve found quite a few to be useful, so I’m in the process of writing an entire post about them. Look out for that next week!

Bibliiographic Solutions

Use something!

There are lots of solutions on the market. I use Endnote. I know quite a few people who use Zotero and another few you use RefWorks. Find something that allows you to Cite while you Write (CWYC) – that integrates with whatever wordprocessing program you use). This has saved me hours and hours and hours. Referencing and citation is enjoyable rather than a chore. Start this early – I started as an undergrad and I am appreciative for this almost everyday!

Blogs and Websites

Academic Lifehacker: Advice for students with an emphasis on time management and academic efficiency. This post on dividing your workweek has me thinking about changing things up a little.

It is a general site, not specifically for academics but I find the approach of What’s Best Next interesting and useful! What’s Best Next has great advice on project management including planning, multitasking and controlling your inbox.

I’ve been working on applying GTD to my life and work for a few months now. I’ve Mike Kaspari’s Getting Things Done in Academia helpful along with GTD for Academics.

Charlotte Frosts’s Phd2Published. I’ve committed to the AcboWriMo initiative Charlotte coordinates in the hope it will help me knock the draft of my thesis out of the park!

GradHacker has some great material on how to actually be productive rather than just looking like you are.

Protoscholar has the tagline, a Phd is just the beginning. Navigating the twilinght zone of moving from Student to Scholar. Examines productivity tools that can help you stay ahead of the curve (or just make your life easier). Also has basic advice about the Dissertation writing process and generally negotiating the PhD.

Dave Parry (academicdave) of ProfHacker still produces some of the best material, advice and keeping track of things around.

Academic Productivity: This is an interesting little blog by a group of researchers. The design could use some work and it appears they aren’t posting much anymore but the content that is there is excellent!

Productive Scholar: a website devoted to being more productive as a scholar, includes work and life balance, technology, research optimization (including ways to keep up to date on the latest research in your field automatically).

Are there any others you’d suggest? What tools/programs/tech do you find most add to your productivity levels?

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Anna Blanch is founder of Goannatree, and a PhD candidate in the Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland. She is also a regular contributor to Transpositions  and the Big Bible #digidisciple project.


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