PhD in Progress Podcast

Productivity Web Tools for Graduate Students

July 4th, 2014

“Productivity” can be a hairy subject. The goal is to get the best results out of your time investment but not become a fully automated robotic cyborg with the sole mission of completing task after task. With this in mind, we want to introduce a few resources we find useful in our own searches to get the most out of the time we spend working and living.

Why be “more productive”? What are the pitfalls? Doesn’t it seem a little pointless?
I recommend visiting A Year of Productivity, where Chris Bailey chronicles his experiences of living out different methods of being productive. Not everything works but it is interesting reading his thoughts while living in nearly complete isolation for 10 days or drinking only water for a month.

We recommend not trying a full makeover in a short amount of time. This might cause burn out and much discomfort in your personal life. Try a method or a tool for a bit, see how it might fit into your life and your goals, then move on.

Software and Website Tools

  • Papers (34 for students) 

    PapersIconThis was my first PDF management program and I loved it. My friend called “iTunes for academic research”. If your research articles are all over your computer or just lazily thrown into a single folder, Papers can help you organize it by reading the metadata of the PDF files. It can rename your files (e.g. “Smith_2014”) and you can place them into different reading lists.
    The program started off as Mac only and remained the best Mac solution for a while. If there is something much better, let me know!
    The full retail price is €71 but it is 34 for students.  Again, I have not used this program for the last few years but it now available for PC and can be used cross platform with your current iOS devices.


  • Mendeley (free)
    After I switched to my MendeleyIconcurrent Windows PC laptop, I bemoaned the fact that Papers for Windows really was not that great. However, people used Mendeley. I’m happy to say that over the last 2-3 years, Mendeley has become a MUCH better program than it was.
    Mendeley and Papers both fill the same functional role: organize and catalog all of your PDF based resources. Mendeley, however, is free. You can save your library to the cloud and then have your iPad or other computers sync with it. When I travel, now I load up on research papers and just have to bring my iPad.


  • Google Calendar (free)
    GoogleGoogle Calendar is invaluable. There really are way too many uses for it, whether it be tracking your work or coordinating dinner with your family.
    There are a ton of articles out there on taking advantage of Google calendar


  • Mint (free)
    MintPeople who are uneasy or scared about their financial situation are often distracted and cannot do their best work.Are your finances all in a mess? Do you even know how much money you have to your name? No fear, Mint’s web application (which also syncs with your mobile devices) can help set you straight.
    For me, the budgeting tool has been a great asset. By staying on budget, I cut down on the amount of choices I need to make on a daily basis, and direct that brain power towards achieving my goals.One warning: If you’re worried about much of your personal finance information being on one site, you may prefer the numerous other offline products available. I have personally not run into any trouble with but I’m also aware that nothing is ever completely safe on the internet.




Great collection of apps mentioned over here. Any graduate student cannot reach out to the target without a proper set of tools those are by hook or by cook plays a very important role in the segment to reach out to the target. Similar way one tool which I use in my professional career is the cloud based task management tool from Replicon ( ). The hassle free tool featured with the user friendly and calendar based interface makes it an all intuitive tool to work with. I would like to recommend this tool as well to be one of the best tool considered.


I've tested my share of productivity apps. Here are a few that might be of interest to grad students.

- TimeTrade - it helps you schedule meetings without lots of back and forth. It's especially good for scheduling ffice hours with students.

- Asana App or TeamworkPM (now just - these are project management apps that help you track goals and milestones on projects. They are great for teambased projects. No one person has to remind everyone to complete tasks because auto reminders are set up at the beginning of a project. all team members can see progress on a task, how long it took a colleague to complete the task (hours and days) and notes on the task. 

- Boomerang - this is a secret weapon of mine. I like to send emails at night once I'm winding down with a cup of tea. However, I prefer that my addressees not know that the email was sent at 1am. Isn't it better to see a message come across at 6am? wow, she's committed and is an early riser. Well, both are true but there's a negative bias against working late into the night. Boomerang allows me to schedule emails into the future so the message composed at 12midnight comes to you at a more respectable hour. 

PhD in Progress Podcast
PhD in Progress Podcast moderator

@FatimahWilliamsCastro Thanks for your suggestions! Although I have not tried TimeTrade, Asana, or Teamwork, they sound like they would cut down a lot of the annoying back and forth e-mails that take up a good chuck of my time.

However, I HAVE tried Boomerang and it's great. In addition to scheduling e-mails when you want them to go out, you can use Boomerang to remind you to follow up on messages you've received before. This has been very helpful for my networking efforts. 

Thanks again Fatimah!


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