This page is mostly advice for my academic advisees, but research students and others might also find this information useful.


Here are some useful (and free) programs that you should use. Many of them can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection, including your phone. Let me know if you have questions on any of them.

  • Evernote: their motto used to be “save everything”, because you could. Keep notes, reminders, lists, photos, ideas, priorities… everything!
  • Mendeley: a program to keep all of the references you use for your papers. Generates perfectly formatted bibliographies.
  • Google calendar: Can sync with your phone (ask me how). Use this for your class schedule, reminders, due dates, etc.
  • Dropbox: save and access all of your files online.
    • lots of other options out there, including these

Here are some additional tips

Finally, you should have a plan that you’re working toward. Use the steps below to review your progress toward that plan. At the end of each week, take 10 min to ask yourself the following:

  1. What have you accomplished over the last time period (day, week, month, etc.)?
  2. What setbacks have you encountered over this time period? How did they affect you? How did you overcome them (if you did)?
  3. What are your specific plans for next week? (Keep in mind that vague goals like, “work harder” aren’t useful, whereas specific goals of “write 500 words a day” are.)
  4. What can you, I, or your friends do differently to help you increase your productivity?

2 Responses to Advice

  1. Cody Rule says:

    Which of these 4 would you say is the most beneficial for class?

    • pvanzand says:

      It’s hard to say for me. I think you could get by without any of them for class. I use each of them on a daily basis, so I think they all will be helpful for this and all other classes. I know that adopting new programs and changing habits can feel like a burden, so if I had to pick the one that would have the most impact on a daily basis I’d say Google calendar (but this is assuming that you don’t already have a cloud-based, and therefore available everywhere calendar system). Here is a page with advice on using calendars for school: After that, I’s probably say the next most useful of these would be having a Dropbox account. You can store and access files from everywhere (phone, campus computers, etc.). Evernote is awesome for storing information of all kinds, and it will quickly become essential once you start using it. Mendeley just does references, so it will mostly be helpful as you’re writing papers.

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