Productivity tools

[Photo: Inter-American Teacher Education Network]
“Productivity tools” are more than just buzzwords — they’re actually incredibly useful (and, at times, irreplaceable). Here are some that I find invaluable!

Google Calendar. I would be utterly lost without my calendars. I have over 10 sub-calendars, categorized by theme: School, Work, Health… I even have one for the time that I have to spend in transit. This is what works for my neurotic self, but I know others who live and die by Microsoft Outlook or their pen-and-paper planners (the DayDesigner is particularly intriguing).

Boomerang for Gmail (email scheduler). You might not think scheduling your emails is necessary, but I’ve found it very useful in two specific circumstances. (A) I’m up late at night and want to send an email. Rather than messaging someone at 2am, I can have Boomerang schedule the email to be sent at a humane time of day. (B) I receive an email and want to respond to it later. Boomerang can “ping” me by re-sending the email later, so that it appears in my inbox at a more convenient time.

Dropbox (cloud file storage). Dropbox enables me to easily save, back-up, share and remotely access my documents through the power of the world wide web. You can use it through many means: browser plug-in, desktop standalone, mobile app. Please note that Google Drive also does a great job of cloud storage, although it has the advantage (or disadvantage, depending) of allowing direct online editing of files.

XMarks (bookmark synchronization). XMarks is a plug-in that helps me sync my vast collection of Internet bookmarks. I always have my favorite websites at my fingertips, no matter what browser or computer I’m using. This was indispensable when I was working on grad school and grant applications, as I had to constantly consult and edit different webpages.

LastPass (passwords storage). LastPass, through very secure technology that I don’t quite understand, allows you to save and input your passwords. If you’re a Mac user, the iCloud keychain does the same thing. In any case, it is so liberating, freeing up all that mental space previously used to memorize passwords.

Zotero (references catalog). I have no idea how anyone made it through graduate school without bibliographic software. Many academics pay for the old standby, EndNote, to organize and edit their citations. Personally, I’m a huge advocate for a free, open-source version, which I’ve been using since my undergrad honors thesis days. Zotero plugs into your Internet browser and word editing software, enabling you to easily create and update your references. For example: it takes less than a minute to “download” a PubMed page into Zotero and insert the formatted citation and bibliography into my grant on Microsoft Word.

Evernote (note-taking application). Evernote sounds like a simple app — just a way to jot down notes — but its real strength is that it is cloud-based, highly organizable, and editable. I use it as a net to catch all the thoughts that I want to file away for a later time.

Today’s technology is continually innovating, so I’ll explore and report back when I can! Last updated: August 5, 2015