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Finishing up the Fall Semester

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Princeton has a strange schedule. Not only do we have tons of breaks during the fall semester, but we also have our fall finals after winter break.After two years of spending that entire break constantly worrying about my finals, I’ve decided that this year I wouldn’t worry until after the new year. And I haven’t. But since it’s January 5th already, it’s about time for me to get working.

At the moment, I have two papers due on Dean’s Date, one take-home final the day after, and one sit-down exam on the 22nd, while I’m in Morocco. It’s not too bad of a schedule, but I do need some organization in my life to get everything in on time and keep myself productive. Here is a timeline of how I’d like to get everything done:

  • Jan. 5: get both outlines done for my philosophy papers
  • Jan. 6: crank out a draft for one of them
  • Jan 7: write up the other draft, edit the initial and send it in for revision
  • Jan 8: edit the second draft while on the train back to Princeton and start reviewing for my take-home final
  • Jan. 9: pack up all my stuff at school and get any last-minute things done on campus (not academic)
  • Jan. 10: edit the second draft again, as well as the first if my professor has given it back to me
  • Jan. 11: create flashcards for both finals
  • Jan. 12: do any last-minute editing and keep studying for my finals until I have them

So as it stands, I have a lot of work ahead of me. But like I said in my last post about must-have iPhone apps, I love to find things that will help me be more productive and make my life easier. Here is a list of mac apps and websites that really help me to focus and crank out those papers!

  • Wunderlist: I have searched far and wide for an easy, beautiful, and convenient to-do list, and Wunderlist has definitely come out on top. I love this app because like Evernote, it syncs across my devices so that I always know what’s up. They just revamped Wunderlist, and now you can make repeating to-dos, have new background choices, among many other things that have made it easy to complete your tasks. I use this app on my mac and sync it to my iPhone, and it’s wonderful because they both send me notifications about things that I need to complete. An added bonus is that there is a “week view” that shows you not only what you have to do today, but what will be coming up in the near future. And the fact that I can add so many different lists (I have one for each class, plus a few extra) is truly amazing for a free app.
  • Evernote: Of course. I use this app on my mac to take notes during class (I actually started doing this when my Microsoft Word kept crashing in notebook view), so it’s easy to find anything that I want by searching a single note, notebook, or my entire account. For more of my fangirling over this app, refer back to my last blog post on must-have travel apps.
  • Mindnode Lite: This little handy application is great for gathering all of your thoughts in an organized, non-linear manner. I love to outline (it really is the most important step in the writing process), and instead of making a bulleted list all the time, I like to change it up a bit by making a mindmap. I feel like every time I write a lengthy philosophy paper, I pull this out from my collection of apps to use, and it’s great. The best part is that the lite version is simple, uncluttered, and all I really need. I have enjoyed this app so much, though, that I will be purchasing it for the iPad (when I get it–squee!). Like I said before, if I really enjoy an app, I won’t hesitate to give the developers some of my hard-earned money.
  • GoogleDocs: I cannot even begin to tell you how useful GoogleDocs are. I reviewed the GoogleDrive app for the iPhone previously but failed to elaborate on how I use them for study. Basically, I love to work in groups. I believe that study groups are one of the most useful ways to review for a test because you get to pool the knowledge of many individuals and collaborate to understand the concepts. So what I’ve done for the past two years in many of my classes is to get a group of three to six people together, split up the information to be reviewed, and then hold everyone accountable for that small section of the guide. Because GoogleDocs has this wonderful sharing capability that everyone can edit a document at the same time from different locations, this is perfect for people who can’t all agree on a time to meet and study in the same place. Also, I like to back-up files to my GoogleDrive because I know that if my computer crashes or I won’t be able to use my own computer in a certain situation, I can access it online (and now offline, too!).
  • SelfControl: I discovered this app my freshman year of college, and boy does it work wonders. This application basically locks you out of any website you choose for a period of time that you choose as well (blacklist). Or, you can block yourself entirely from the internet except for select sites (whitelist). I love this app because it’s very simple and easy to use, works like a charm every time I need it, and it really forces me to focus on my work that is usually based off-line anyway. My only qualm with this app is that it inadvertently blocks some sites such as Google Translate, and I have no idea how to fix that. Also, I usually forget that I have this app installed, so the fact that I have to remember to use SelfControl is another level of self control entirely.
  • FocusBooster: This is a very simple timer app that you can set an amount of time to study and then set an amount of time to reward yourself with a break. I love to use this app when I have a marathon of writing or studying. I like that you can set the break time because I usually will lose track of time on a break and end up spending more than the time that I was writing doing unproductive things. Usually when I use this app, I turn on either white noise for serious crunch time or the sound of rain paired with piano solos if I’m more relaxed with my schedule.
  • Write or Die: Speaking of crunch time, my preferred method of cranking out hundreds of words in a short time would be by using this in-site app. I love Write or Die because you can set a word count to complete before a certain amount of time. You have to write at a steady pace during that time, and if you are inactive for too long, the app will prod you to start writing again by blasting really annoying sounds at you (in normal and gentle modes). Or, if you choose kamikaze mode, it will actually start deleting what you’ve written if you’re idle. Don’t worry, you get an adequate warning, as the screen will gradually turn redder and redder the longer you sit. I personally work best this way: just to get everything written down and then edit edit edit later. So please keep that in mind; if you are the kind of person that has to edit every sentence you write as you’re writing, then this is not the app for you. Oh! And I almost forgot, there is a desktop edition and an iPad edition (although apparently it’s not available in the US?) that you have to pay for, but I liked it so much and thought it was so cool that I went ahead and paid the $10 for that fine piece of programming. Now I don’t have to be connected to the internet to use it!

Wow. I didn’t realize that I would be writing another app overview so shortly after my last. But don’t worry, that’ll be it for a while. Now if I can just sit down to start working on this outline while I use all these cool tools that I just raved about… Wish me luck!

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