Studying Application Toolkit
For the past two years, I have been trying to become something called an ‘ORGANISED STUDENT’.
Through trial and error, I’ve tried a number of apps to suit my studying needs. Overall, it took me the entirety of my first year to settle into some semblance of organisation.
Hopefully this post will help you skip some of the trial and error. Also, I just wanted an opportunity to geek over some software – don’t judge, I study Computer Science.
Compared to school, taking notes at uni requires a wholly different strategy. It’s very common to type up notes – in my lectures at least, pretty much everyone has a laptop in front of them.
My naïve fresher self tried to use Microsoft Word to type up my notes from lectures, with a different document per lecture.
This worked fine until I actually needed to find information come exam season. Especially as I ended up with about 30 separate documents per module. I do not recommend this.
I realised that I needed a change in strategy; to find a way to keep all my notes in one place but have different sections for different topics… like a notebook.
Enter Microsoft OneNote, stage left.
BOOM! And just like that, my life changed.
As part of Office 365, a service we all get as students, we get a bunch of apps apart from Outlook, Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Do take some time to explore this – we’re effectively paying for these apps through our tuition fees, so why not take advantage of it?
One of those apps is OneNote, which is an absolute gem.
It literally does what it says on the tin. It’s a notebook, where you’re free to put text, photos, videos, drawings, links etc. anywhere on pages.
While Word places a lot of limits on formatting (how much effort is needed to simply move an image around without half the text flying off to neverland??), OneNote’s just chill. No margins, no fixed page size, no hassle.
Plus, it’s very reassuring that I can access my notes literally anywhere, as the notebook is linked to my Office365 account and not saved on my computer.
11/10 would recommend.
Above, I have created section groups (e.g. Year 2) and sections (e.g. CyberSecurity) to separate my notes for all my modules and more.
This one’s for the list makers. Writing lists on paper is sooo last year.
Let me introduce you to Trello, a popular Kanban-based app which I adore. I use it to keep a track of the smaller ‘activities’ that I need to complete per module or project e.g. completing an exercise sheet.
I set out my lists in terms of module/project/topic, but another way to set it out is to create lists based on the completion status of activities. For example, have three lists: To Do, In Progress, Complete. Initially, put on the cards in the To Do list. When you start working on a card, move that card to the In Progress list. When it is complete, move it to the Complete list.
What I really like about using this app – and what makes is much more preferable than other manual ways of writing lists – is that I can set deadlines and coloured labels on cards, as well as write more details about each of them.
Also, I don’t need to worry about losing my lists under piles of paper, which is big plus.
You may have heard about the Pomodoro technique, which is a method for time management. The idea is that you break down your tasks into 25 minutes blocks complete them with breaks in between.
Personally, I find that when I really get into a task – especially programming – I prefer to spend longer than 25 minutes at a time, but I find this technique really useful in these situations:
- I have a number of things that I need to get done and I want to avoid spending way too much time on one thing
- I’m struggling with motivation and I don’t really know where to start studying. Once I start the timer I force myself to get going – because disobeying the timer means I may get cursed
A traditionalist may use a physical timer or a phone timer, but that means you have to set the times and calculate breaks (too much effort, if you ask me). I prefer to use dedicated Pomodoro apps, such as PomoDone.
What’s really nice about PomoDone is that I can link it to my Trello boards to so that I can crunch through my tasks. How cool is that?? Love a good bit of integration.
Perks of being a student
As students, we get a lot of discounts and free stuff, and that includes apps. So why not take advantage of it? (The same goes for physical careers fairs – pick up those free pens!).
This one’s especially for the Computer Science students – as part of the GitHub Student Developer Pack, we get access to a ton of useful tools, which is where I found PomoDone. Have a look at them here.