We are almost to the halfway point in the semester, and truthfully, things are going a bit off the rails. Everyone seems a little more rushed, a little less forgiving, and there’s an air of “when will it be over?” in the air. Of course, maybe it’s just me.
At any rate, this is the time in the semester when I’m particularly thankful for the productivity tools I have in place. I’m able to just rely on them to do their jobs while I go on auto-pilot for a while just concentrating on whatever comes next. In my last blog post, I discussed general principles of productivity and outlined my basic workflow. This time, I’m going to focus on some specific tools to add to your productivity toolbox.
One caveat before we begin: I use Apple products (Mac computers and iPhone), so some of the programs I use won’t work for non-Mac people. But my goal isn’t necessarily to get you to use what I use; it’s more to show you what’s possible so that you can find the tools that will help you the most.
So, let’s get started!
Productivity Tool #1: Spark
Spark is free for individuals but has a charge for teams. It supports the typical email clients and is used as a stand-alone app on macs and iOS devices. Here’s what you can do in Spark that makes it my favorite:
Productivity Tool #2: Fantastical
I have several specific rules for any calendar/task program I consider:
Fantastical is a bit on the pricey side relative to some of the other options out there, at $49.95 for the desktop program, but that one-time charge gets you the software on multiple devices without any sort of subscription fees later (unfortunately, the iOS version is a separate fee).
Fantastical does everything I outlined above and more. It reads directly from the cloud, which is very convenient and means that you can manage apple reminders and ical appointments right alongside your google calendar. Also, this means that any 3rd party device that can add tasks or reminders to the cloud (read: Siri and Alexa) play quite nicely with Fantastical. It has the absolute best natural language parsing I’ve ever seen (and wait until you see it in action – everything you type “falls” into the correct field and is immediately populated on the calendar. SO GRATIFYING). It just works well.
Productivity Tool #3: Trello
I’m going to talk more about how I manage my Trello boards in a later post, but I want to briefly introduce you to this amazing tool now. Trello is where I keep my long-term projects (essentially, anything that merits a more holistic picture) and things without specific due dates. To borrow from a common metaphor, Trello is like looking at the forest while Fantastical is focused on the trees.
I suggest signing up for an account (Trello is completely free and multi-platform; yay!) and playing around with it. They also have an excellent blog that will give you tips and tricks to help you use it to its fullest potential. Check out this post to get started.
One thing to consider when looking at productivity tools is how they work together. For example, Spark can automatically send an email to a Trello board of your choosing (and it will ask you which list you want to attach it to) or create a new reminder or appointment from an email. This is a definite advantage of using programs that are more popular – the more well-known a program is, the more likely it is to play nicely with others. As I discussed in my previous blog post, tech tools are only beneficial if you’ll actually use them, and no one wants to manage a million separate apps and programs. Having them all integrate with one another is one way to make your life simpler and more productive!
Written by Jenel Cavazos
Dr. Jenel Cavazos is an Associate Professor and Master Teacher in the Department of Psychology at the University of Oklahoma. As the Introductory Psychology Program Coordinator, she teaches an average of 1500 students per year, supervises sections of PSY1113 taught by graduate students, and conducts a graduate mentor program for teaching. Her emphasis areas include curriculum development, the implementation of technology in the classroom, and program assessment. Her research focuses on transformative learning experiences in Introductory Psychology, with an emphasis on first-generation students. She has received several university teaching awards and was named a College of Teaching Excellence Faculty Fellow for 2017-18. She is currently serving as a member of the STP Presidential Task Force on Re-Envisioning Introductory Psychology.
You can follow Jenel on Twitter with her personal account @jenelcavazos and/or her course social media: @psychwithdrc (Twitter and Instagram) Psych with Dr. C (Facebook).