Best Productivity Apps for Engineering Students

Personally, I believe it’s best to be a minimalist when choosing what apps to use on our phone or computer. Too often, we go overboard with productivity apps and stop using them after just a few weeks/months. This is the criteria I use when trying to select productivity apps:

  • Easy to use
  • Quick to use
  • Cheap
  • Saves time in the long run 

If an app doesn’t meet these 4 criteria, it is probably a waste of time and money. Most “engineering” apps are a waste of time and money with the exception of Wolfram Alpha (which you can also just use on the computer for free, although buying the app also lets you access the solutions to problems you type in). After trying out dozens of apps during my years of engineering I’ve come to the conclusion that there are only three quintessential types of apps to help you be productive in university:

  1. Calendar
  2. Timer
  3. To-Do List/Habit tracker

1. Calendar

The life of a student is very deadline driven. We get the due date well in advance, and a certain amount of time to complete the task. For this type of lifestyle, a calendar is pretty much our best friend. At the beginning of every semester, my professors pretty much gave me all the due dates in the syllabus and I made sure to put these into a calendar right away. The main benefits of using a calendar are:

  • You won't forget important due dates because you can get a quick snapshot of what’s due in the coming days
  • You can balance your time better because you have an idea of what needs to be done immediately and what you still have time to accomplish

If you read my 5 Practical Time Management Tips from an Engineering Student article, you know that I’m a fan of Sunrise Calendar. Not only is it free, but it syncs with a laptop app and even a web-app. You are pretty much never without a calendar!

2. Timer

In my 5 Practical Time Management Tips from an Engineering Student article, I talked a bit about the Pomodoro technique. Because I am such a big advocate for that technique, I also recommend that every student use a timer! You can use the standard timers that come on your phone (which are free) or you can use an app. It doesn’t really matter. Personally, I use the “Pomodoro Timer” app which is $2.29, a bit expensive for an app but it’s been worth it for me. The main benefits of using a timer in combination with the Pomodoro technique are:

  • More focused during work sessions (I also found that I was much more focused when writing exams. Previously, someone tapping on their feet on the ground would bother me.)
  • Scheduled breaks, which reduce stress

3. To-Do List / Habit Tracker

I think most students will find that a calendar is far better than a to-do list. If you have a calendar, to-do lists just begin to feel repetitive and unnecessary. However, if you are juggling lots of different activities, clubs, deadlines, etc. a to-do list can become very useful. Conversely, I think a habit tracker is something that everyone can benefit from. The reason I put the two types of apps together is because there is one app that covers both very well: Habitica! It’s an app that is set up like an RPG video game, but for real life and it's free! It comes complete with a habit list, a “dailies” list, and a to-do list. As you complete tasks in each list, you level up a character and are rewarded with gold. You can also do things like join guilds and go on quests with friends. The RPG element of the app just adds a bit of fun to tracking habits and completing tasks on your to-do list. The benefits of using Habitica are:

  • You can create, track, and cultivate your habits
  • You can insert dailies, that remind you of what you should complete every day. This is also a very strong motivator for people like me who feel great about crossing things off a daily to-do list
  • You can track random/one-off tasks that don’t really fit into a calendar
  • It’s a fun way to do all the above

Conclusion

As you may have noticed, the apps I recommended are very basic but useful. Like I said, less is more. These 3 apps are easy, quick, cheap, and will save you lots of time in the long run. These are the quintessential apps for students, however, there are more productivity apps that are good if you do other activities like track your caloric intake, blog, etc. I will cover these in another article.


Do you agree with this list? What apps do you recommend in order to be a more productive student?