Work Effectively, Wherever You Are
10 Tips For Staying Productive on the Go
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Summer, sunshine, vacation... as soon as you finish up that one thesis chapter, that is.
If time is tight and you've got a bit of a journey ahead of you, you might decide to take your work with you and finish it on the go. The bus or train ride back home or the departure hall of an airport can be great places to get some work done. Then, once you reach your destination, you'll be ready for some well-deserved R&R with family and friends.
If travel is part of your daily life, you can stay productive on the go at those times as well. For example, if you get an idea during a subway commute, you can quickly make note of it so that you haven't already forgotten it by the next stop.
With our ten tips for helpful software, apps, and offline tools, you’ll have no trouble getting down to work – wherever you are and whenever you have some extra time.
If you want to work on your thesis at any time, make sure to save your Word document in the cloud. OneDrive is a good option, since the file will still be available even if your wi-fi cuts out. If you install the app on your phone, you can access all of your important papers at any time.
Another plus: backups are taken care of automatically, so you've got one less thing to worry about.
- Reference management in the cloud
If you want to work on the go, you’ll also need access to the sources for your project. For this, use a reference management program like Citavi or Zotero that lets you store your projects and full-text articles in the cloud. If you’re using Citavi, you can access your source information and full-text articles from any computer that has the program installed. (Soon it will be even easier with our upcoming web version and app!). To keep track of tasks related to your sources, you’ll need some kind of calendar. You can either use the one on your phone or Citavi’s Task Planner.
- Notes and to-do lists
If you just want to jot down some quick notes, you don’t necessarily want to open a Word document or start up another complex program. Instead, you can use an app to keep track of ideas, important points, or to-do lists. Some apps we like are Evernote, remember the milk, and Asana.
- Use Mindmapping software or mobile flash cards.
More of a visual thinker than someone who likes hierarchical outlines? To see connections between different ideas, Mindmapping software, such as Mindjet, can be very helpful.
Like to study for tests with flash cards but don’t want to carry around big decks of cards? Use an app designed for this purpose, such as Anki or Brainyoo.
- Your own university’s app
It may seem simple, but being able to locate your classroom or find out where that important lecture on your topic is being held are also important during your studies. If your university offers an app, make sure to download it, since it can be a big help in finding your way around and making use of all of the services your university offers.
- Scanner apps
You’ll come across a lot of encoded information during your studies – and not only in Genetics 101! QR codes are sometimes used for events calendars or for booking a study room. A QR code reader app helps you decipher them.
You can also use an app such as Adobe Scan to scan pages from physical books. For example, you could scan a contribution in an edited book if you want to be able to read and annotate it on the go.
- Extra batteries
Apps and tools aren’t very helpful if the batteries in your laptop or phone die. Just in case you’re not able to find a place to charge your devices, it can be helpful to have an extra battery or powerbank along. Powerbanks for your phone cost around the price of tickets to see the latest summer blockbuster – and will be helpful for you long after the movie has been forgotten.
- Headphones – with or without music
Headphones are an important tool for focusing on your work. It's nearly impossible to concentrate if the couple in front of you is having an argument or if there’s a crying child on the plane. Escape to your own world by blocking out noise with calming music or by using noise-canceling headphones. Headphones also show people around you that you’re not interested in striking up a conversation.
Of course, noise-canceling headphones can be pretty expensive. Simple earplugs work just as well, cost almost nothing, and can be found at any drugstore.
- Pomodoro apps
It’s especially easy to get distracted when you’re on the go. If you’re at home, you can simply close the door to block out loud roommates. Out in the world, you don't have this option. It can take a lot of concentration to mentally block out all the distractions around you.
We recommend using the Pomodoro technique to train yourself to concentrate for short bursts of time. For example, you can set a Pomodoro timer app so that you write intensively for 35 minutes. When the app notifies you that the time is up, take a small break: stare out the window or watch a short video online. Don’t want to install yet another app? If you’re on a subway, bus or train, time your sessions to coincide with the next stop on your journey.
- Handwritten notes
Sometimes it’s just faster to jot down notes on a napkin or in a notebook in your bag. To make sure you always have them at hand, scan or take a picture of them. You can then transfer them to your reference manager or MindMapping program. There are even notebooks like the Moleskine Smart Notebook Set or Bamboo Spark that can automatically save whatever you write online.
How do you optimize your time when you're on the go? Share your tips and favorite tools with us on our Facebook page.