10 Free Productivity Tools for University Students

If you’re a university student, chances are, you’re trying to get that 5.0 CAP or 4.0 GPA, stay involved in your CCA and leadership roles, maintain your family and social life, and even work part-time for extra pocket money.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re trying to squeeze 60 hours into 24 hours, these different productivity tools are for you! While they cannot help you time travel like Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner, they help you organise your life efficiently and maximise your productivity.

Here is an overview of the 10 productivity tools and their features:

ToolKey Feature(s)CollaborativeComplexityConnectivity
NotionNote-taking, project and task organisation, scheduling      ComplexSyncs across app and desktop
TrelloTask organisation      ModerateSyncs across app and desktop
Google KeepNote-taking, task organisation, reminders      EasySyncs across app and desktop
TodoistTask organisation      ModerateSyncs across app and destop
CanvaDesign posters, presentation slides, diagrams, and more      EasySyncs across app and desktop
MiroDigital whiteboard mind maps, flowcharts, diagrams, and more      EasySyncs across app and desktop
Google JamboardDigital whiteboard for mind maps, flowcharts and diagrams      EasySyncs across app and desktop
When2meetCollate availabilities of a group of people      EasyNA
Google CalendarScheduling      EasySyncs across app and desktop
ZoteroReference management, in-text citations, bibliography generation, and note-taking      ModerateSyncs across app (only iOS) and desktop

All-in-one organisational tool

1. Notion

Credits to: https://www.notion.so/

Notion is a versatile tool that can help you keep all your university-related information in one place. You can create pages for different classes, projects and assignments, and even share them with your classmates. Notion is especially great for collaborative projects, as it allows you to assign tasks and track progress.

Unique functions:

  • Customise according to your needs — from simple to-do lists to more complex project management systems
  • Use available student templates such as Student Dashboard, Grade Calculator, Cornell Notes System, and more!
  • Create Teamspaces where you can organise content and collaborate for group projects

To-do lists

2. Trello

Credits to: Trello

Trello is a project management tool that uses boards, lists, and cards to help you organise your tasks. You can create different boards for different classes, and add cards for assignments, readings, and study sessions. Trello also has a mobile app, so you can stay on top of your tasks on the go.

Unique functions:

  • Clear visual interface, which makes it easy to see what you need to do at a glance
  • Collaborate with teammates and organise tasks, delegate tasks, as well as monitor the progress of tasks
  • Satisfying drag-and-drop functionality for moving tasks up and down in the same list or between lists

3. Google Keep

Credits to: Google

Google Keep is a simple note-taking app that lets you jot down ideas, make to-do lists, and set reminders. You can also add images and voice memos to your notes, and they’ll sync across your devices. If you’re looking for a simple platform for short notes, to-do-lists, and reminders, this is a great option!

Unique functions:

  • Clear visual interface and simple to use
  • Colour-code your notes to categorise them and keep them organised
  • Google Keep is integrated with other Google apps, such as Google Drive and Google Calendar, making it easy to access your notes and reminders anywhere

4. Todoist

Credits to: Todoist

Todoist is a powerful to-do list app that can help you stay on top of your assignments and deadlines. You can create different projects for different classes, and set due dates and priorities for each task. As with the previous organisational tools, Todoist allows you to collaborate with other users on shared projects.

Unique functions:

  • The “Today” view shows you what you need to do each day
  • Todoist’s gamification features, such as streaks and karma points, can make productivity feel like a game (albeit a very serious one)
  • Use labels to tag each task, such as the importance level of tasks, the nature of tasks, estimated time taken for tasks, and more!


5. Canva

Credits to: Canva

Canva is every graphic-design-challenged student’s best friend — whether it’s posters, presentations, or infographics, Canva’s got you covered with a wide variety of templates. With the help of the graphic design tool, you can create professional-looking visuals in no time. You can also create mind maps, timelines, flowcharts and more!

Unique functions:

  • Very beginner-friendly for those with no designing experience!
  • Versatile and can be used for different subjects — from chart elements for data visualisation, to mood boards and visualising frameworks
  • Wide variety of free templates for you to choose from

6. Miro

Credits to: Miro

Miro is an online whiteboard for visual collaboration — be it brainstorming and ideation, mapping and diagramming, or strategy and planning. Business students might find some of the available templates handy, such as elaborate customer journey maps, campaign planning timelines, and matrix frameworks. This suits visual learners who want to make their projects stand out.

Miro also lets you work with your classmates in real-time. You can create digital whiteboards, flowcharts, and mind maps, and invite others to contribute.

Unique functions:

  • Infinite canvas — you can create digital boards as large as you need and include a lot of details — zoom in and out to see the big picture or go into important details
  • Versatile and can be used for different subjects
  • Wide variety of free templates for you to choose from

7. Google Jamboard

Credits to: Google

Google Jamboard is a digital whiteboard that lets you sketch out ideas and collaborate with others in real-time. You can add images, sticky notes, and even post-it notes to your board, and share it with your group mates. Google Jamboard is perfect for brainstorming sessions and group presentations.

Unique functions:

  • Simple and easy-to-use interface for simple brainstorming
  • Laser function comes in handy for presentations
  • Google Jamboard is integrated with other Google apps, which means that you can easily share your board with others and access it anywhere


8. When2meet

Credits to: When2meet

When2meet is a simple scheduling tool that lets you find the best time for a group meeting. You can create a custom calendar with available time slots and share it with your group mates. When everyone has filled in their availability, When2meet will generate a schedule that works for everyone.

Unique functions:

  • Simple and straightforward website to visually identify common time slots

9. Google Calendar

Credits to: Google

Google Calendar is a no-brainer — it’s a simple yet powerful scheduling tool that helps you keep track of all your classes, extracurricular activities, deadlines, and more. You can create different calendars for different aspects of your life, and colour-code them for easy reference. To coordinate schedules with classmates or even your friends and family, simply share your calendar with others to view each other’s schedules and common free slots.

Unique functions:

  • Schedule recurring events such as classes or meetings for a specified timeframe
  • Colour-code your calendar for easy visual reference
  • Google Calendar is also integrated with other Google apps, such as Gmail and Google Meet

Writing & Citations

10. Zotero

Credits to: Zotero

Zotero is a reference management tool that can help you keep track of all of your sources for papers and projects. You can create bibliographies and citations in various formats, and Zotero will even automatically capture information from websites and PDFs.

Unique functions:

  • The Zotero extension allows you to save sources from your browser in one click.
  • The Zotero word processor plugin assists you with in-text citations and bibliography generation.
  • Share folders with group mates to collaborate on reference lists.

So there you have it: 10 free productivity tools that can help you manage your busy university life and collaborate with classmates. Don’t underestimate these humble tools – they can potentially save you lots of time tracking sources and writing bibliographies, help you to overcome the inertia to organise and manage your tasks, or even bring your projects up a notch with impressive and engaging visuals!


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