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I know a lot of you are busy planning for your year away from home and dive into the deep waters of the Strathclyde MBA. At this moment, you must be more concerned about getting accommodation in the city. However, MBA is a big commitment, includes innumerable deadlines and embracing technology is key to keep yourself organized, boost productivity and make the process of your MBA as painless an experience as possible. As a current Full-time MBA student, I give you 5 apps that will definitely help you stay on top of your MBA work load.
The Strathclyde MBA has a strong focus on group work for assignments and case studies. Most of the times you’ll be in a team of 5 or 6, trying to get your head around a mammoth assignment that you have just been given. As the process of writing the assignment unfolds, you’ll end up with a stack full of files on your computer related to the assignment. You may be working on v7, but one of your group members is working on v6. After wasting time figuring this out, it will give birth to v8 and this process may go on till the end of time. You definitely don’t have till the end of time to finish your MBA.
That’s where Google Docs comes in. Its not only a document editor but also a collaboration tool. All of you can work from a single document. You can keep tab on who is doing what (keeps the Project Managers amongst you happy). It keeps logs of all the changes that are being made to the document. Multiple people can edit the document at the same time and there’s no hassle to keep track of any versions of the document. It increases productivity, promotes collaboration and definitely reduces a big headache for the organizer/compiler in the group.
Of course, you can also use OneDrive, which is just as good, and may be more helpful when your assignments that need Excel sheets.
MBA has a strong research component. Over the course of the year, you’ll end up reading huge chunks of research for most of your assignments and will quickly realize that keeping track of the references and citations can become a huge pain in the backside. To tackle this, you need to familiarize yourself with a good reference management system. That’s where Paperpile comes into the picture. It lets you collect papers from online sources, downloads them and organizes them for you in one place. It saves all your files in Google Drive, renames them, includes Abstract in description and lets you add notes on individual references. It also has an extension for Google Drive, so when you’re collaborating with your group, you can add citations while you’re typing and once you’re done, it automatically creates a bibliography of all your references. I used this app pretty late in the program but it is a must have for a Google Drive enthusiast.
If you’re using Microsoft Office, Endnote works just as well but it may not be as straightforward to work with as Paperpile.
Evernote is a note-taking app that also lets you record audio. I am a guy who does not enjoy “writing” notes since my handwriting is not great and I definitely do not organize them well enough to have any kind of use after I am done writing them. Evernote has been a life saver for me. I always end up writing notes from class in Evernote, tag them and voila! When I went back to exams and wanted to search for important information related to Operations Management, I typed in exactly that and it gave me all the notes that I had tagged “important” and “OM”, thus providing easy access on my fingertips. There’s also a video from The Verge that can help you master Evernote further: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bit63T-97Eg
Please note, Evernote does not work well if you want to annotate pdfs. OneNote is pretty robust too and has deep integration with Microsoft Office apps. However, all lectures have pdf versions to them, so it should not be a big issue.
MBA is full of deadlines and it is very easy to lose track of things, especially in the later half when you’ll also be applying for jobs, managing interviews etc. Any.do is a standalone To Do list manager that has extensions for Chrome and has apps for both iOS and Android. The app is visually pleasing and gives you automatic reminders everyday to keep track of your To-Do items. It gets better with the addition of Any.do Cal app, which is a calendar application that combines your To-Do list with your calendar appointments. Google Calendar is great but it is very clunky when it comes to integrating these components. Any.do is easy to manage and I love the fact that I don’t have to open two apps to manage my To-Do list and calendar. They both integrate pretty well with Google Calendar.
This is an absolute must for the tube-addicts amongst us. I have a deep interest in all things digital and more often than not I get distracted by social networks, Reddit, Feedly feeds and cosmos documentaries on YouTube (this one is pretty cool: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG7ScOiZf8I). As I am currently writing my thesis, I have realized, internet is the number one enemy to my productivity, especially when working all by myself. Stayfocusd is a chrome extension that lets you “nuke” websites such as social networks, Youtube etc. and doesn’t let you access them or limits access to them to a certain amount in a day. Obviously, you’ll give in and run for disabling the extension but there’s a way to disable disabling the extension! Its cruel. Its painful. But it gets things done. It is a must have for an MBA student.
Hopefully, this will help you be prepared for your first day of lecture and group work, and beyond! It can also help you get started talking about the tools you may need to collaborate in your group. The beauty of the above list is that all the tools are online or in the cloud. If you do not have enough “cash” to buy a shiny new 1000+ pounds Mac or Windows laptop, a 150 pounds Chromebook will work just as well 😉 Web has come a long way. Good luck with the year ahead!
You can follow Ashwin on twitter @ashwin_gupta