Productivity tools for both work and study

The world of work is very different from the student days I’ve left behind. But, when it comes to working efficiently the approach is largely the same. These tools bridge the divide, having helped me both in my degrees and in the workplace. All of them are easily accessible and are free (or have useful free versions), so there’s no excuse not to give them a try:

Sumnotes – good for summarising PDFs

I credit this handy little tool with saving my dissertation. Half my degree involved reading and digesting PDF articles tutors sent me. You could copy and paste key passages, or try and copy them down, but that often felt labourious. Plus, formatting was a constant nightmare.

Sumnotes makes it easy. It takes your highlights and puts them into text format with page numbers and everything. It’s perfect for condensing academic articles when you study. In the workplace, I use it to pick key points out of documents such as legal judgements and press releases.

o.Transcribe – transcribe audio with ease

Transcribing made easy. With this site, you cut out valuable time wasted switching between tabs to pause your audio. You upload the file into the same, distraction-free interface that you type in.

o.Transcribe lets you set keyboard shortcuts to streamline your transcribing. You can pause, skip, restart, switch speeds or insert a timestamp with one button. Student? Type out recorded lectures in no time. Working? O.transcribe is a life-saver when writing up interviews or taking meeting minutes.

Toggl – track your time

This site and app let you track how long you’re spending on each project. As a student, it helps you see how much time you’re spending on, say, your reading for each module. You can use it to track hours for freelance work. Or, in the office, you can use it to track your tasks, a back up if anyone asks what you’ve been up to.

It’s a great way of tracking your productivity, and it’s also super satisfying to see all the work you’ve done. Toggl has helped me learn how much time to give to certain tasks, based on how long they’ve taken me before. It’s a lot easier to be productive when you know where your time is going.

Keep – organise your notes

I’ve tried a lot of to-do list and notes apps. One of the better ones was Evernote – a handy product for syncing notes across devices, with a paid and free version. But, I found it was much easier to do my lecture notes on Google Drive. And, as for to-do lists and jotting down quick notes, nothing beats Keep.

Made by Google, Keep is a platform for digital sticky notes. You can upload text, photos and voice notes. Or, create reminders that sync to your calendar, and organise everything with hashtags. It’s free and syncs as you go, so you can access your notes anywhere you’re logged into your Google account. Notetaking, but simplified.

Trello – manage a project

I used this project management tool in my first marketing job. Sadly, that means it does give me some unfortunate flashbacks. But, I’ve still used this platform in my own time to keep me on track. You can create boards, categories and cards that are easy to move and organise.

It’s perfect for tracking your revision or trying to keep on top of a project. During both my degrees, I used it to keep track of deadlines and organise my revision. In the workplace, it has a huge range of applications from managing projects to organising rotas. Trello is just a really good way to visualise lots of things at once.

Hemingway App – simplify your writing

Write like Hemingway with this handy editing tool. It’s intended to make your writing bold and concise, and scores on your copy’s readability. It can be a little overzealous but taken with a pinch of salt this handy app is a perfect stand-in for an editor.

You can use it to condense your essays, make your report pop or trim the excess from your article. Either copy and paste your work in or write straight into the Hemingway App website. Switch to edit mode and you’ll see handy, colour-coded pointers on how to simplify your writing. And, if you really like it, there is a desktop version you can buy. The online version is completely free, though.

Google Search – search better

Google handles practically all of our online searches, so make sure those searches work for you. There are dozens of shortcuts you can use when you search to refine it towards exactly what you’re looking for.

You can search from just one website, search a range of sites, exclude searches containing certain words and more. There are cheat sheets out there to teach you the shortcuts, or you can just use Google’s advanced search feature. Useful in all areas of life, including work, study and play.

BlockSite – block out distractions

The biggest enemy of efficiency is procrastination, and the home of procrastination is social media. The BlockSite Chrome extension lets you block certain sites, or limit your daily time on them.

It’s a great way to nudge you away from your distracting Facebook feed and back towards the task in hand. Sure, you can just delete the extension, open another browser or use your phone to distract yourself. But, at least with this extension you can try to streamline your time a little.