Educators wear many hats. As a professor, you’re often balancing the demands of teaching and grading alongside your own research. From developing syllabi to applying for grants to writing letters of recommendation, your workload can look radically different from one day to the next.
Much of the existing technology that is meant to make work simpler and faster focuses on “hacking” the traditional work day, with apps designed by technology companies for technology companies. Yet many of these apps and software can work just as well for educators, especially when it comes to managing workloads that require you to be a teacher, mentor, and independent scholar all at once.
Below, we’ve rounded up our favorite apps and platforms for streamlining tasks and maximizing productivity—many of which have already been given a gold star by professors in our network.
(Did we miss your favorite? Let us know!)
Planning & Scheduling
Calendly / Youcanbook.me
Eliminate (some of) the endless back-and-forth scheduling emails with an app that enables students to view your calendar and schedule meetings based on your availability. These apps sync with your existing calendar and update automatically when a student books a meeting.
A simple, straightforward calendar and to-do list app with reminders and weekly overviews. Busy semesters require strategic scheduling, and an app that enables you to block time off on your calendar for teaching, grading, research, breaks, and more, can help you productively balance your workload.
A productivity-focused Chrome extension that customizes a distraction-free personal dashboard with soothing images, inspiration, weather, and to-do list functionality to keep you focused on what matters. (We especially love this for re-focusing on research projects.)
Toggl, Centered, Amazing Marvin, RescueTime
Tracking your time can feel like micromanaging, but these apps can provide you with vital data on how much of your time is dedicated to certain tasks—especially helpful if you need to self-report data to your administration, such as hours spent advising students, on research, etc. (They are, incidentally, also a great way to figure where you might be wasting time, which brings us to…)
Beloved and loathed in equal measure, Freedom is a browser extension that allows you to disable access to certain websites (or to the internet altogether). It’s a sort of virtual slap on the wrist.
Marinara Chrome Extension, Forest
Research shows that the brain responds positively to change. Short breaks between intervals of intense work enable better concentration overall. There are numerous browser extensions and apps that allow you to set timers for work sessions—we’re fans of the Marinara Pomodoro extension and Forest, an app that rewards you with virtual trees for distraction-free work sessions. (You can also convert your virtual forest into real trees planted in deforested areas.)
Collaborative project apps like Trello and Asana are targeted to large companies managing complex workflows, but they can be just as effective for small teams or individuals with variable daily tasks or long-term projects. You can create your own to-do lists and break down major projects into component parts, setting due dates along the way.
Organize your browser with an extension like OneTab that allows you to group tabs by subject matter or that simply rounds up your tabs into list form on a single webpage, both freeing up disk space for better performance and freeing up mental space for, well, better performance.
Pocket saves articles and webpages from your phone and desktop to a universal TBR list. These can even be accessed offline, which is great for your commute (remember those?).
Manage your passwords, digital wallet, and make filling out forms simpler and quicker with an app like 1Password.
Finally, while paper planners and calendars may be analog, they are also simple, functional, and effective (sometimes even more so than their tech counterparts).
Reading & Writing
Use Loom to record classes or create video lectures; or, as an alternative to written feedback, record video responses which can also help personalize the experience in a virtual setting.
Roam Research, Bear, Google Keep: A notes app can help you centralize all your various ideas into one location—a slight improvement over post-it notes and random notebooks. Different apps use different formats, so it’s worth experimenting to find one that best mirrors your own method of brainstorming and note taking.
Roam Research, for example, uses knowledge networks to help you build ideas and make decisions—in the form of a sort of living, dynamic, and electronic mind map—whereas Bear is a flexible app for everything from note taking to long-form writing that allows you to link research and images to particular notes, and to sync your work across devices.
Cut out the busy work: you’re busy enough. Sites like Zotero and CiteULike can help you build research bibliographies by quickly creating citations from journal articles or websites. Additionally, they’re able to adapt the citations to various style guides.