Best School Organization Apps for Time Management, Note-Taking & Mind Mapping

in Research   Posted on January 19, 2021  Author: Imed Bouchrika,

Student life is tough. On the one hand, there is the pressure to excel in your academics and on the other, the expectation that you possess the dexterity of a professional juggler—multitasking, keeping up with assignments, and getting things done on the dot.

If you feel like you are all over the place and need help to stay on top of school work, these school organization apps and time management apps for students can just be your lifesaver. Of course, our list is not only helpful while you are in school. Some of these apps are also very popular among working professionals, entrepreneurs, and organizations.

best school organization apps

School Organization Apps Table of Contents

  1. Student Planner Apps
  2. To-Do List Apps
  3. Note-Taking Apps
  4. Writing Apps
  5. Project Management Apps
  6. Pomodoro Apps
  7. Flashcard Apps
  8. Mind-Mapping Apps
  9. Distraction-Blocking Apps
  10. Habit-Tracking Apps

Academic factors and school stress can be significant sources of anxiety for students. According to the 2018 National College Health Assessment, 63% of college students in the U.S. experienced overwhelming anxiety in the past year, while 23% said that they have sought professional help for their anxiety problems in the past year (LeBlanc and Marques, 2019).

When students are not able to effectively organize and manage their time, they miss deadlines and risk performing poorly at school, which in turn adds to their anxiety levels (Simmons et al., 2018). In order to help students succeed in this critical time of their lives, educators are increasingly integrating technology into classrooms (Arnett, 2012 cited in Simmons et al., 2018). The findings of Simmons et al., for instance, demonstrated that an automated homework reminder app helped increase students’ organization and time management skills. The use of such an app led to more completed homework, less anxiety over forgetting an assignment, and increased overall satisfaction with the course (Simmons et al., 2018).

College Anxiety

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Source: Fall 2018 National College Health Assessment

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1. Student Planner Apps

The best student planner app should help you keep track of more than just homework. The app, MyStudyLife, for example, can send you reminders on upcoming exams, revisions to your assignments, or rotating daily or weekly timetables. The app can also notify you of incomplete tasks so you know exactly what projects or assignments you still need to work on.

Additionally, you can get reminders for upcoming classes, which means you have one less thing to worry about when it comes to managing your class schedule. MyStudyLife is a free app that syncs your entries to all mobile devices and is available on Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, Windows 8, and web browsers.

MyStudyLife is a free app that helps you keep track of assignments, tasks, and upcoming classes.

Another popular student planner app is myHomework. The app combines calendars and widgets to help you track assignments, projects, important events, and upcoming exams. You can opt for the free version or choose the ad-free paid subscription for $4.99 per year. The paid plan has advanced features such as file attachments, external calendar access, and share planner or homework. You can use the app on mobile devices such as iPads, Chromebooks, Android, iPhone, Windows, and Mac.

myhomework

myHomework dashboard.

 

2. To-Do List Apps

You have many things to do, but how can you remember them all? To-do list apps like Remember the Milk (RTM) and Todoist can help.

RTM is a free cloud-based app that lets you quickly get your thoughts out of your head and into the app. This way, you do not need to constantly remember what you need to do; the app will remember it for you. Berger described it as an app that plays a key role in her personal efforts to “get things done” (Berger, 2014).

Moreover, RTM allows you to schedule a task either as a one-time task or as a recurring one. You can also set priority levels for each task and add subtasks to each task category you create. RTM seamlessly integrates with other apps like your email, Twitter, and calendar app. The latest updates now include integration with Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa.

remember the milk

RTM is a free cloud-based to-do list app.

Todoist has similar features as RTM. The standout feature, perhaps, with Todoist is its natural language processing. For example, you can simply type “Chemistry project meeting every Tuesday,” and the app will automatically create a task named “Chemistry project meeting,” and set a reminder every Tuesday.

If you are working on a project for school, Todoist can also serve as a great task management software where your team can create and assign tasks, comment, and share files related to the project. Functions like Labels, Filter, and Calendar Feeds make it easy for your team to organize tasks and know exactly what to work on next.

todoist

Todoist’s natural language processing makes it easy and quick to assign due dates to tasks.

3. Note-Taking Apps

Note-taking apps are digital “notebooks” that let you jot down your thoughts and much more. When it comes to note-taking apps, Evernote is one that has been around for a while and consistently tops this category.

Evernote helps students organize a wide variety of file formats into individual notebooks including text, contacts, task list, and image files, such as photos of class discussion notes and paper handouts (Korzaan & Lawrence, 2016). You can also attach audio and videos files, PDF files, and Microsoft Office documents. If you want to create notes on multiple devices, you can do so since Evernote syncs all your digital notes across devices and backs up data to the cloud.

In the educational field, Korzaan and Lawrence particularly cited two Management Information Systems (MIS) classes where Evernote can have a positive impact: project management and application development (Korzaan & Lawrence, 2016). Students in a project management class, for example, can use Evernote as an Agile virtual storyboard (Barato cited in Korzaan & Lawrence, 2016). The app lets you share reminders and ideas with others so that it can also be used as a tool for collaboration.

evernote

Evernote is not only a note-taking app. It also lets you collaborate with others.

Another note-taking app that has equally useful and excellent features is OneNote. It also lets you organize text and multimedia documents into separate notebooks and add subsections within notebooks. You can document ideas on the go by recording audio and video into your notebook.

OneNote is accessible on multiple devices, can be used for real-time collaboration, and lets you scan your handwritten notes and convert them to text. Being a Microsoft product, OneNote will be easy to use if you are already a user of OneDrive or any app under the Office 365 suite.

onenote

OneNote lets you organize your notes into sections and pages.

4. Writing Apps

If you are going to write long-form material such as your school essays, articles, academic papers, or even a novel, it is best to use a writing app. Perhaps the writing app that the world is most familiar with is Microsoft Word. But if you need something with robust organizational features, there are options available. Scrivener is one popular choice. It has drag-and-drop and digital corkboard features that make it easier to organize and rearrange chapters or sections of your writing project. For example, if a new idea comes up, you can write it immediately and worry about where it fits in your work later.

If you need to refer to your research material while writing, Scrivener lets you access your references on the background and view them right next to your work. Scrivener works on macOS, Windows, and iOS. You can download a free trial or buy the software for a student discounteded rate of $41.65.

corkboard

Corkboard feature of Scrivener.

It can be difficult to keep track of your writing, especially when you are producing hundreds of pages. Your drafts can sometimes come out verbose and in a jumble. You can use writing assistant apps like Hemingway to help make your sentences more understandable and succinct.

Hemingway will highlight issues in your writing such as passive voice, complex sentences, adverbs, etc. It will also bring your attention to parts of a sentence that you can shorten or big words you can replace with more simple ones that are easier to understand. You will also receive information that can further improve your writing such as readability, word count, and estimated reading time.

hemingway

Hemingway app will highlight issues in your writing.

You can combine Hemingway with another very helpful writing app, Grammarly. Even the best writers can sometimes make mistakes with the mechanics of English writing. For those times, Grammarly comes in handy. The app conveniently underlines spelling, grammar, and usage issues on your document. You can then either accept its recommendations or ignore them.

For more efficient editing, you can install Grammarly as a browser extension and it will check your writing work on any online text editor. If you want to work offline, you can download it as a stand-alone app and use it with Microsoft Word.

grammarly

Grammarly dashboard.

5. Project Management Apps

Working on a project for school? You can better manage your team using project management apps. Depending on the sophistication of the software, project management apps can allow teams to keep track of all key facets of a project, such as task scheduling, document reviews, and progress reports.

Although project management can be complex, your project management tool should not be. A user-friendly example is Trello. This app uses the Kanban-style of project management, which helps increase motivation among team members and helps managers have better control of project activities (Ikonen et al., 2011 cited in Saltz, 2020).

Imagine Trello as a virtual whiteboard where you can create post-its for a task and further customize each one depending on your project requirements. You can have multiple boards for different projects and delegate each post-it to team members. When someone finishes his/her task, you can see the task move to the next stage until they are completed, which is a highly visual representation of your project’s progress.

trello

Trello dashboard.

Another easy-to-use yet powerful project management app is Basecamp. The app has been around since 1999 and still remains as one of the highly-rated apps in its category.

Basecamp breaks up your work into individual projects. Each project contains essential features such as to-do list, a messaging board, docs and files folder, among others. You can then add people assigned to each project and communicate with team members via real-time group chat.

A feature that comes in handy for every project manager who wants to reduce meeting times is Basecamp’s Automatic Check-Ins. These are recurring questions that allow team members to not only report on their progress but also provide ideas or any other suggestions on how to improve the team’s workflow and processes.

basecamp

Basecamp dashboard.

6. Pomodoro Apps

If you have ever searched for efficient ways to study, you have probably stumbled on the Pomodoro technique. The basic concept behind the Pomodoro Technique is the creation of focused, timed work sessions during which you focus on a single task (Burton, 2016). Timed sessions are usually set in 25-minute intervals with five-minute breaks in between. The efficacy of the technique is due to four principles: it limits the time the brain has to focus, prevents you from procrastinating, reduces distraction, and pushes you to complete a task rather than just keep working on it (Zahariades, 2015 cited in Burton, 2016).

There are many Pomodoro apps to choose from. One of them is FocusBooster. It is a lightweight app that has an unintrusive mini timer so you do not use a lot of screen real estate while working on your tasks. You can choose between a dark and light theme, save unfinished sessions for later, and gain a deeper understanding of how and where you used your time via detailed time tracking reports.

If you are using other productivity apps such as Trello, Todoist, Basecamp, or Evernote, we recommend trying out PomoDoneApp. It integrates seamlessly with the aforementioned apps and you can also download it as a Chrome extension if you want to track your time right on your web browser.

Other great Pomodoro apps include the Marinara Timer, which allows you to complete Pomodoro sessions with your team,, FocusList, which acts as a daily planner with a list of tasks you need to accomplish for the day, and Forest, which adds an extra layer of motivation for you to finish your task by using a tree that will grow as you move on with your time. If you stop, the tree will die.

focus

Focus booster timer and dashboard.

7. Flashcard Apps

The need to organize and memorize information will always be a part of a student’s life. Using flashcards has been a tried and tested technique to effectively learn different topics, from medical terms to historical figures, foreign language, and even mathematical equations. But who has the time to make flashcards the old-fashioned way?  Thanks to technology, flashcards have become even more powerful and less messy to manage—no more heaps of paper clutter!

When it comes to flashcard apps, Anki is popular among learners of any subject. It is a free, open-source program that uses the spaced repetition technique. Kang (2016) points out that practice is more effective when spaced out over time compared to cramming. “Spaced practice enhances memory, problem-solving, and transfer of learning to new contexts.” (Kang, 2016).

You can create several decks in Anki for each subject or topic you need to learn and fully customize the formatting of your cards including text, color, and layout. You can also adjust your review timing and how many cards you want to study per day. Best of all, you can make media-rich cards and embed audio, images, videos, and scientific markups. Anki is available for Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, iPhone, and Android.

anki

Anki allows you to create media-rich flashcards.

If you enjoy learning through interactive tools and games, Quizlet is a great online flashcard app. Once you register for an account, you can create your own flashcards or study decks made by other students. There is a wide variety of topics you can study, from computer science to sports, languages, arts and humanities, etc.

The app has several study modes you can choose from depending on how you want to learn. For example, the writing mode shows you a term then you must write the definition that goes with it. The Gravity mode is based on gaming concepts and shows definitions scrolling down the screen in the shape of asteroids. You need to type the term that goes with the definition before it reaches the bottom of the screen.

quizlet

Quizlet uses interactive games to help students learn.

8. Mind-Mapping Apps

Just like the traditional way of making flashcards, you can make mind maps using paper. However, as your maps become larger and you brainstorm with more people, paper can be a very limiting canvass. This is where mind-mapping apps come in.

With apps like SimpleMind, you can create editable mind maps that you can reorganize and customize to your needs. You can even have multiple mind maps on one page and unlimited page size and number of elements. Layouts such as vertical, horizontal, top-down, and list auto are also available. Plus, you can enrich your mind maps with pictures, videos, or voice memos to make your ideas more understandable.

If you need to collaborate with other students, Coggle is a mind-mapping app that allows you to quickly make notes and flowcharts and share them with team members, friends, or collaborators. This app is web-based (no need to download or install anything), so you can access it from anywhere and instantly share or invite people to work on your mind maps.

coggle

Sample mind map diagram from Coggle.

9. Distraction-Blocking Apps

Concentrating is your most important skill. That is why you should safeguard it with distraction-blocking apps. An easy to install option is the Google Chrome extension, StayFocusd. It allows users to set self-imposed time limits or predefined periods of time during which social media use and web browsing are allowed (Watson & Slawson, 2017).

StayFocusd prevents you from visiting time-wasting websites so you can focus on your task. You can tweak settings to either allow or block entire sites, specific paths, pages, and subdomains, even specific in-page content such as videos, images, forms, games, etc.

For a stand-alone app, you can try Freedom. The paid app has a free trial version and can block specific sites, block distracting apps like games and email, and can even block your internet connection for that added boost of focus power. Freedom is also able to provide insights on which apps or activities you are spending your time online.

If you are easily distracted by social media apps on your phone, try using AntiSocial. It blocks all social media sites for preset periods of time (Watson & Slawson, 2017). Anti-Social was highlighted in the Watson and Slawson commentary in a case study that looked into the health impact of excessive social media use.

Aside from blocking social media apps, Anti-Social can also track the time you spend on these apps. You can get information on how many times you unlock your phone and what apps you often access. You will also get a score that compares your usage amount, open rates, and other data with your peers.

antisocial

AntiSocial helps you focus by blocking social media apps on your phone. 

10. Habit Tracking Apps

Want to improve your time management skills? Try tracking your habits. Habits are routines that you tend to do regularly and occur subconsciously. A common denominator among successful people seems to be that they follow routines that help them stay productive and efficient.

You can make habit tracking a more enjoyable activity by using Habitica. This free app uses gaming concepts to help you stay motivated in achieving your goals. You can share goals with friends or other app users, which can also be an added motivation for you to keep working on your goals. When you complete a goal, you earn rewards that you can use to power up your avatar and unlock in-game features such as battle armor, magic skills, mysterious pets, etc.

If you are more of a solo doer, a simple habit tracking app like Habitify might just suit you. The app lets you create a list of habits you need to accomplish for the day and you can simply check them off once you have completed them. It will send reminders for habits you need to do and you receive weekly and monthly detailed reports on your habit streaks.

habitica

Habitica uses gamification to help you stick to your habits.

Productivity Beyond the World of Apps

We hope the apps we highlighted in this article can help address your school organization and time management woes. Aside from the free browser extensions you can use immediately, we also recommend taking advantage of free trials so you can test features and see if the app is something that can work for you.

Apps can certainly make life easier for students. But as a caveat, using too many of them might work against your objective of achieving better productivity. They are, after all, just one aspect of the productivity equation. The habits that you form, your ability to focus intensely on your task, and your self-discipline still take precedence over the apps installed on your devices.

 

References:

  1. LeBlanc, N., & Marques, L. (2019, May 28). Anxiety in college: What we know and how to cope. Harvard Health Publishing.
  2. Simmons, L., Crook, A., Cannonier, C., & Simmons, C. (2018). There’s an app for that: The impact of reminder apps on student learning and anxiety. Journal of Education for Business, 93 (5), 185-195. https://doi.org/10.1080/08832323.2018.1441120
  3. Berger, M. (2014). Tech services on the web: Remember the milk. Technical Services Quarterly, 31 (4), 414-416. https://doi.org/10.1080/07317131.2014.943042
  4. Korzaan, M., Lawrence, C. (2016). Advancing student productivity: An introduction to Evernote. Information Systems Education Journal, 14 (2), 19-26. ERIC
  5. Burton, L. (2016). Can a tomato increase your productivity? Journal of Research on Christian Education, 25 (2), 95-96. https://doi.org/10.1080/10656219.2016.1191926
  6. Saltz, J., Heckman, R. (2020). Exploring which agile principles students internalize when using a Kanban process methodology. Journal of Information Systems Education, 31 (1), 51-60. https://jise.org/Volume31/n1/JISEv31n1p51.html
  7. Kang, S. (2016). Spaced repetition promotes efficient and effective learning: Policy implications for instruction. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3 (1), 12-19. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2372732215624708
  8. Watson, K., & Slawson, D. (2017). Social media use and mood disorders: When is it time to unplug. American Family Physician, 96 (8), 537-539. PubMed