I knew from very early on that I wanted to be a teacher. We had independent work folders. I loved working at my own pace and not having to wait for others. I remember thinking very clearly, at the age of seven, “I’m going to use folders like this in my classroom.”
In the years that followed, I tried many planners, lists, folders, and eventually technology to give me that same sense of organization and productivity. My system is still a work in progress.
Which has led me to my favorite apps for time management!
I love a good productivity tool. I crave lists and organizing structures. In fact, I like the system-creating part so much more than I like the actual doing part. Oops. So if an app is going to help me be more productive, it has to be simple to use, integrate smoothly with my other tools, and avoid stealing my limited attention. I’ve tried them all, so if you’re looking to get yourself more organized or if you’re looking for the best apps for time management for students, I’ve got you covered!
My favorite apps for time management
Keeping track of time – clocks and calendars
Calendar: Google Calendar is my go-to app for time management for students, and for myself. For students, plugging in their recurring commitments (lessons, practices, games, family commitments) gives them a visual of how much time remains for their work. The thought “That paper isn’t due for a week!” is easier to defeat when they can see that 4 of those 7 days have after-school activities.
Clocks and Timers: I use my cell phone clock for just about everything. Alarms remind me to get up, pick up the kids, take things out of the oven, and leave for events. For my kids, asking the smart speaker to set a timer is the simplest way for them to remind themselves. My son sets one for his after school break to remind him to start his homework. Set recurring alarms for daily events, or set them as needed for anything you might forget to do (or forget to stop doing!)
Advanced tip: Label your alarms. One goes off at 8am every day here, when everyone but me has left, and I have NO IDEA what I’m supposed to do at that time. I haven’t cancelled it yet, because I’m afraid I’ll never figure out what I was supposed to do!
Work time: When I am having trouble getting started on a task, or when something feels like it’s going to take forever to finish, I use the Pomodoro Technique to manage periods of work and breaks. The technique involves setting a timer for 25 minutes of work, then a 5 minute break timer, and repeating this pattern until the work is done or you get to a “long break,” which for me is either lunch or the end of the work day. I usually use the web-based timer at pomofocus.io. Forest is a cool app for Apple and Android that represents each Pomodoro/task as a tree. To care for your trees, you have to finish your task!
Keeping track of tasks
The simplest way to keep track of what needs to be done is a list on a whiteboard or scrap paper. If the person you’re trying to help with time management is a child or teen, hanging a whiteboard in their workspace (or in a common family space) is a very simple way to make tasks – homework or chores – visible.
For a more high-tech solution, I recommend Google Keep for anyone with to-do’s in just one or two domains. You can have a single “Homework” list and add and delete things. A new note for each homework task works, too. But if there are more than you can see on the screen, it can get overwhelming pretty quickly. You can copy cards, share notes, set reminders, and archive notes you don’t need anymore.
For complex organization needs, like keeping track of tasks for a whole business or a family, I recommend Trello or Notion. I think if you’re looking for best apps for time management for students, Trello and Notion are probably too powerful and complex for what students need. But for parents, teachers, and professionals, I think they are amazing. I am in the process of moving my lists and systems into Notion and I’m finding it exciting but overwhelming. With templates for recurring things like my blog, I can make a quick copy for a new task. I’m also still working on setting reminders that work.
Keep track of care and feeding of humans
As I sat down to write this section, I realized I never finalized my grocery order for the week, which is Bad News Bears because I’m working with a narrow window for picking groceries up this afternoon. And my family is weirdly obsessed with eating several times a day. So I know about the struggle of making sure I – and everyone in the house – get enough food, water and sleep. And I also know how hard it is to keep track of those things on a busy day (especially for certain kinds of brains)!
The best apps for time management around taking care of your body and brain depend on which things you are responsible for. For a student who needs to remember to unload the dishwasher, drink water and remember to stop for lunch, an app like Habitica might be the solution you’re looking for. Habitica is an app that gamifies completing routine tasks. You pick the task and how often you want to do it, and the app prompts you to get it done, then gives you points for doing it! To keep your avatar alive and healthy, you have to show up consistently and do your habits.
Habitica works for many adults, too, but for me, I’m juggling too many different things. Putting it all in the app became overwhelming very quickly.
Although I use Notion for work stuff, Trello is still my favorite solution for all those family management tasks. I use it to plan meals, including dragging and dropping favorite recipes from old lists. I use my grocery store’s app to fill my cart and comparison shop, then pick up my groceries curbside. A timer reminds me when I need to leave my desk and cook dinner.
I also know a family that loves the Paprika app. You can import recipes from anywhere online, or type in your own. Paprika can sync between devices, track your pantry, and help build your shopping list. With Paprika, the main shopper can
Keep it simple!
You must remember that old Apple slogan, “There’s an app for that!” It’s tempting to go for a high-tech solution, one more app to help you become more productive. But sometimes the best “apps” for time management for students are actually low-tech. Things like whiteboards, or features on a device that you already have are sometimes best. Keep things simple and keep your focus on the task at hand.
So what are you waiting for? Make a list, set a timer and get something done!
If any of the homework on that list involves writing, grab my FREE Editing and Revising Checklists down below.