Like most students, I’ve got about a million things to keep track of. We’ve all got pretty full plates, between balancing our course loads, extra-curricular activities, volunteering or other commitments, maybe holding down a part-time job—not to mention trying to maintain some semblance of a social life! With so much going on it can be tricky to find your focus.
Plus, there are plenty of distractions to keep you from getting stuff done. You’ve got a bunch of notifications on your phone to check… why not kill a couple minutes watching that video your friend posted, maybe reply to a couple messages, or hop on your favorite website? You’ve got plenty of time to get your homework done, right?
The time-management struggle of student life is real, so I’ve put together a list of five free apps for your computer, tablet, or smartphone, to help you focus. They’ll help boost your productivity so you can get your work done and get back to your Netflix binge.
The StayFocusd browser extension for Google Chrome allows you to control when and what you have access to online during specific times of day, which is great if you find yourself easily distracted by the web.
If you tend to waste time on Facebook or YouTube when you get home from school, you can block those websites for the first few hours after class finishes. Guilty of staying up too late on the computer? Set your browser to only allow essential webpages after 10:00 pm. Need to catch up on studying for Monday's exam? Turn on “nuclear mode” (my favourite) and you’ll only be allowed to visit websites you’ve already OK’d. You can even block certain websites during class time to ensure you’re paying attention to your lectures.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a major productivity booster that helps you limit distractions and interruptions when you're working. It’s a digital timer app that guides you to work for 25 minutes at a time (totally doable, right?) followed by a 5-minute break. After the fourth Pomodoro, you get a longer 15-minute break.
Research has shown that sitting and working on the same thing for extended periods of time is not particularly efficient, so this technique is great for long periods of study. The five-minute breaks give your brain periods of rest to stay sharp.
If Pomodoro’s 25 minute intervals aren’t for you, the offshoot Marinara Timer allows you to choose between the Pomodoro, Custom, and Kitchen timer. The Custom Timer allows you to set your own periods of time, while the Kitchen Timer allows you to set a block of time and go hard without any breaks. If you have a deadline you procrastinated too long for this will allow you to find your groove and go!
Quizlet is a website that offers free learning tools and brings students together anywhere in the world to study and learn collaboratively. You can even search specific classes taught at your school, to find study material from other students taking the same classes. You can also make online study cards, or try "test mode" to assess whether or not you actually know your stuff. A few of my friends have sworn that Quizlet was the reason they were able to pass some of their classes!
StudyBlue is similar to Quizlet, and it's also a global website so if you’re thinking of taking a semester abroad or studying outside of Canada both sites will still be helpful. StudyBlue is especially good for accessing material from past or current students like exam reviews and class notes. You can even find test questions and answers from other students, which means you can do practice tests to study. This website is particularly helpful for first and second year courses.
F.lux is a free program that adjusts the backlight and colour of your computer screen according to the time of day. Let's face it, late-night cram sessions are brutal, especially if you're staring at a computer screen for hours on end. My eyes would always get so tired I’d need to “rest” them for a few minutes… resulting in me falling asleep on my books. With F.lux my computer no longer blinds me when I open it late at night.
When you first download the program you’ll enter your time zone as well as your usual wake-up time. With that information the program automatically adjusts the light and colour of your screen to minimize eye strain, so you can study late into the night without burning your retinas.
Read More Good Stuff
If you’re a student, chances are you’ve got a lot of feelings about the following topic: homework. Whether you’re the kind of person who get…