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Tools I Can't Live Without as a Grad Student

By Yanelle Cruz

A piece of advice I received when I was preparing for graduate school was that I needed to figure out how to organize myself. Many told me this was because life as a graduate student is very different from being an undergrad. Now that I have been a graduate student for a year, I have somewhat perfected (let’s be real, can it ever be perfect?) my organization system and in this post, I want to share some of the tools I cannot live without.

I cannot believe I did not discover this when I was an undergrad because Zotero is the best way to keep track of all my readings, research, and citations. Now that I am working on my thesis, it is actually proving to be invaluable. Zotero allows you to organize your readings by folders (or however you prefer) and it will automatically create citations for you. It links to Microsoft Word and Google Chrome, making it a seamless process to access when you’re using those applications.

Aside from academic responsibilities, I am involved in many different projects and initiatives so Notion helps me keep track of everything. I love how versatile it is, you can use templates and mold them to fit your needs. Workspaces can be shared with coworkers or classmates, so you can all keep track of tasks or important information. I also use Notion as a way to keep track of my readings - both academic and personal ones - and I even keep track of podcast episodes I listen to and want to remember. It truly is a tool that can adapt to your needs which is why I love it so much.

This iPad app has simplified my life when it comes to note-taking, journaling, and planning. In an effort to be more environmentally conscious, I decided to use digital tools for graduate school notes. Goodnotes replaced all of my physical notebooks, journals, and planners. I love that the app gives you a notebook look and I love how versatile your notes and projects can be. I use this as a way to have digital notebooks for all my courses, as a digital journal for my daily gratitude practice, and I even plan my meals for the week with a digital meal planner.

Sometimes, our busy and hectic lifestyle can lead to burnout (I’ve been there before, it’s not fun) so for me, Headspace has become a staple in my daily life. I try to do a guided meditation as soon as I wake up and I always do one before I go to sleep. I am also a big fan of their short yoga workouts, dance breaks, and mindful cardio routines. I try to do those when I’m taking a break for work to ensure that I remember to move my body every day.

In addition to the tools above, I make use of Pomodoro timers to structure my work sessions. If you get easily distracted like me, I highly recommend that you try the Pomodoro method. I have found it to be the best way for me to have productive work sessions that do not feel draining or overwhelming. Lastly, these tools can be useful for any student - undergraduate or postgraduate - and it is important to remember that you should find what works for you. These tools might be my favourites but they may not work for you and that’s okay, the important thing is that you take time to explore and find your favourite tools, but I hope these are a useful starting point for you.

1 Comment

Apr 25, 2022

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