Students’ calendars are jam-packed with classes, coursework, extracurricular activities, group projects, meetings with professors, and maybe even a part-time job to boot. And the reality is, as workloads increase further into the semester, it becomes even more challenging for college students to keep up with all of these responsibilities and still maintain a healthy school-life balance.
In fact, 87% of students recognize that better time management and organization skills would help them get better grades at school, and 88% want to improve their ability to manage their time. And with so much on their plates - not to mention the active social calendar of college life - it’s not surprising that almost half of college students say they don't have enough time to complete their school work.
So how can students develop lifelong time management skills and better organize their busy weeks to balance school work and a personal life (without the dreaded all-nighters)? In this blog post, we’re going to go over some key productivity tips and highlight the top 5 apps students use to optimize their time management this semester so you can get on top of your schedule and maximize your success in college!
Why a time management app?
Okay, so we know that time management is a critical life skill that helps busy people make the most of their weeks. But what is a time management app, and what can it offer busy students? A time management app is an organizational tool that helps you organize, track, schedule, and complete all the things you have to get done within your actual availability. Incorporating apps to support your time management efforts seriously delivers on benefits for students.
Top time management app benefits for students:
- Stay on top of your to-dos and know what you need to do, when.
- Prioritize your work so you focus on the most important tasks first.
- Get things done faster by limiting context switching and maximizing focus.
- Achieve more goals by aligning your weekly availability to your priorities.
- Reduce procrastination by minimizing decision paralysis.
- Calm stress and time anxiety by getting things done before your due dates.
- Boost confidence by staying on top of responsibilities and expectations.
So if you’re ready for near-flawless time management for your college career and beyond – let’s take a look at the absolute best organizational tools on the market that will immediately maximize your productivity, and help you develop the valuable capacity planning and task prioritization skills you’ll need for your long-term professional career.
Top 5 free time management apps for students
Better time management with time blocking for students
Before we dive into these awesome app recommendations, let’s cover the ultimate tip for improving your time management, productivity, and organization this semester. Have you heard of time blocking for students?
Time blocking is the habit of scheduling literal time ‘blocks’ on your calendar for a specific task, class, habit, or event for however long you think it will take to complete. Many students swear by time blocking and you might have come across other students’ time blocked calendars on Tiktok, Youtube, and Pinterest – school weeks filled with color-coded blocks planning out every day. While these calendars might seem very ‘busy’ at first glance, actually creating a weekly plan for school and time blocking all of your available time in your calendar can boost productivity by up to 80%!
By scheduling actual time in your calendar for everything that you need to get done - from ultra productive deep work sessions to write your research paper, to doing your laundry, or getting to a pilates class this weekend - you can be sure that nothing on your to-do list falls through the cracks. If you’re interested, but don’t know where to start – check out this in-depth time blocking guide for all the info you need.
Now that we’ve covered the essentials of time blocking, let’s dive into these 5 top productivity apps for students that you need to try this semester to get the most out of your limited time every week! Bonus – they are all free to use and work amazing with a time blocking approach.
5 best free student time management apps
1. Google Calendar - for central overview
Google Calendar is the #1 digital calendar app in the world that helps you organize and visualize your weekly schedule of classes, events, and tasks on your plate. And by using Google Calendar with a method like time blocking, you can get the most out of the app by building out one centralized place to plan exactly what you’re going to be doing, and when.
48% of students manage their assignments and deadlines by physically writing them down, but scheduling these in a digital calendar offers more benefits like embedded links to virtual classes, drag-and-drop rescheduling, quickly changes to an event, and easy access to your schedule from any device - no more forgotten events because you don’t have your paper planner with you! You can even import your class schedule into Google Calendar so you can see your availability every week around your courses and how to best allocate your time to other responsibilities and goals.
If your school provides a calendar with their email server, you might be thinking “why bother making a separate Google Calendar?”. Having your own calendar allows you more privacy and flexibility to build out a time blocked schedule that includes, not only academic to-dos, but your personal routines, social events, and other responsibilities too. Plus, you can continue to use Google Calendar beyond your college years (and you’ll already be a pro at it!) as you embark on your professional career and lose access to your school accounts.
Price: Free for personal use, paid plans starting at $9.99/month
Student discounts: No
Free trial: 14 days
Platforms: Web, iOS, Android
2. Reclaim.ai - for automated time blocking & priority planning
Did you know that 58% of students submit their assignment in the last 24-hours before they’re due? Whether this is thanks to a lack of organization, not recording your due dates, or just procrastinating on starting your projects – effective time blocking can help you create a manageable action plan so you never have to suffer through an all-nighter again. (not a good time, trust us).
Reclaim.ai is a smart time blocking app for Google Calendar that automatically schedules time for your tasks, before they’re due, around your existing availability — helping you avoid this exact scenario! For example, if you have an important chemistry lab report due next Friday, you can create a new Task in Reclaim (or integrate your existing task list) with the due date and estimation for how much time you need, and Reclaim will automatically schedule time for that task around classes and other events in your calendar. And best of all, Reclaim will auto-reschedule that Task when your schedule changes, or a more important Task comes up, so you don’t have to manually move things around.
You can even create recurring healthy Habits - like exercising, a lunch break, or making time to read - and Reclaim will defend time in your week for these routines. There are a bunch of other nitfy time management features too, like syncing all your different calendars and availability, auto-scheduling breaks, and auto-color-coding your calendar so you can quickly visualize your day by event type!
3. Todoist - for your to-do lists
When you have school assignments, to-dos, personal responsibilities, event invites, and more coming at you in every direction from every inbox and platform – it can very quickly become hard to keep track of everything you need to do.
Todoist is a popular time management app that puts a more efficient spin on the classic to-do list. Instead of having your to-do lists scattered around on sticky notes, papers, journals, your inbox, or docs – Todoist allows you to create digital lists for the day with organized categories, due dates, and subtasks. 23% of students try to keep track of their tasks and to-dos by memory, but by planning out a list of your daily goals - and compiling all future to-dos in one master list in Todoist - you can better track what you have going on (and save the time you’d need to sort through emails and papers in the depths of your desk).
Price: Free starter plan, paid plans starting at $4/month
Student discounts: No
Free trial: No
Platforms: Web, iOS, Android
4. Pomofocus - for maximizing focus
The Pomodoro Method (one of the most popular time management hacks ever) was actually created by a college student, Francesco Cirillo, in the 1980s when he decided to use a tomato-shaped kitchen timer (which is where the name comes from - the Italian word for tomato!). This method maximized his productivity by allowing him to focus on one task for 25-minutes until the alarm went off. He then took a five minute break to regroup, before setting another 25-minute session for totally distraction free focus time.
And don’t worry, no need to get a kitchen timer to take advantage of this time management method! Pomofocus is a free online Pomodoro timer app that allows you to set the duration and breaks for your focus sessions. This simple time management method is perfect for those smaller tasks and shallow work, as well as studying. While lots of items on a to-do list can feel overwhelming – ‘25 minutes’ is a very manageable amount of time for most people to dedicate full focus to one task. By reducing context switching and managing distractions, these mini work blocks can boost productivity and help you power through. Try time blocking a few afternoon sessions a week for Pomodoro focus time, or break up bigger study days into 25-minute blocks.
Student discounts: N/A
Free trial: N/A
5. Notion - for all your notes
If there is one thing students have plenty of, it’s notes. Running lecture notes, research notes, group project notes, scheduling notes, and reading lists are just some of the materials that might come out of a busy student’s week – but only 21.7% of students actually organize all of this information using any kind of database software.
Notion is a powerhouse project management app perfect for students to record and organize their many class notes, school materials, academic goals, lists, reminders, links, and files. As a fully customizable workspace with countless template options for students (from Notion or other students) – you can build out your completely unique database to store, access, and track everything you need in one place so nothing gets lost in the shuffle again.
Price: Free for students and educators, paid plans starting at $4/month
Student discounts: N/A
Free trial: N/A
Platforms: Web, iOS, Android, desktop
Less stress, more success! 🎓
Time management is a lifelong skill, and there’s always room for new improvement and approaches to make more of your limited hours. College is the perfect opportunity to gain experience to the very challenging task of balancing work, responsibilities, and a healthy personal life with only 24 hours in a day.
But with the help of the best apps for college students we’ve highlighted above – you can help set yourself up for success by organizing your materials, defending your availability, and automating your scheduling so you’re on top of what school life throws your way (hopefully with a little less stress).
Already using some of these tools? Excited to try something new? Tweet us @reclaimai with your student time management questions to get in on the conversation! We love hearing from you. 👋