Students in the Library

The following guides offer useful advice on staying productive:

Allen, David. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. New York: Viking, 2001. Print.
Suggests a method for processing tasks that “captures” all of the tasks that need to get done, determines which tasks need to be delegated or not done at all, and what actions need to be done to complete the remaining tasks. Emphasizes the importance of capturing all tasks so that there are not any open “loops” distracting one from their work. Recommends determining which tasks to tackle based on context, time available, energy, available, and priority.

Cirillo, Francesco. The Pomodoro Technique. Berlin: FC Garage GmbH, 2013. Print.
Recommends dividing work into twenty-five minute units with a five minute break, which he calls a “tomato” or “pomodoro.” Recommends working sets of four tomatoes throughout the day. Suggests using this method for tracking how long tasks take as well as the number and kind of interruptions that occur throughout the day.

Covey, Stephen R. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989. Print.
In the section devoted to time management, Covey argues that the tasks on which one should focus are those that are important but not urgent as they are often the tasks that will lead to long-term success. However, he notes that urgent and important tasks tend to take over. To minimize this effect, he observes that consistently working on important but not urgent tasks will help diminish the number of important and urgent tasks (which tend to be problems and crises).

Newport, Cal. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2016. Print.
Encourages spending concentrated amounts of time without interruption devoted to the tasks that are the most important for your career advancement. Also recommends diminishing the amount of shallow work done because it is of little value to career goals. Outlines a few different methods for incorporating deep work into a schedule, among them oscillating between periods of deep work and shallow work and devoting a few hours to deep work each day. Newport also has a Study Hacks blog where he shares additional insights into technology, work, and distraction.

Silvia, Paul J. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. Washington: American Psychological Association, 2007. Print.
Focuses on the importance of a set writing schedule because making writing a habit lessens the need to find energy and motivation to do it. Outlines a number of “specious barriers” to writing that academics often employ, such as needing to do more research and the inability to find time. Argues that the latter points to the need to allot time rather than search for pockets of time to write. Offers two sets of writing task priorities, one for professors, the other for graduate students.

Expand the tabs below for additional tips, tools, and resources related to writing and research productivity for graduate students.

Working From Home

  • Set a daily work schedule, and stick to it! Track your work habits with a daily log.
  • Create a physical space only for work to get you into the right mindset and minimize distractions.
  • Avoid checking e-mail, news, and social media first thing in the morning.
  • Define boundaries with friends and family — just because you’re home doesn’t mean you're available!
  • Get outside at least once a day. Even a quick walk around the block can do wonders for your focus.
  • Don’t wear pajamas all day. Getting dressed helps you transition from relaxation mode to work mode.

More tips on working from home:

Project Management/Note-Taking Tools

Citation Management Tools

File Management and Backup

  • UCLA Box: UCLA account allowing for up to 15 GB storage and file sharing online. Free to individual students. ( )
  • Dropbox: Syncs across platforms; 1024GB of storage with free version. ( )
  • SugarSync: Syncs across multiple platforms; copies existing folder structure. Free 30-day trial, then subscription-based. ( )
  • Google Drive: Syncs across platforms; enables sharing and collaboration. ( )

Writing Productivity

  • Tomighty: Free desktop Pomodoro timer for Mac and Windows. ( )
  • Marinara Timer: Free, web-based Pomodoro timer. ( )
  • Q10: Windows only. Text editing freeware; portable app version that can be run from a thumb drive. ( )
  • Write or Die: For Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone and iPad. $20. Platform designed to keep you writing. Provides annoying consequences for procrastination, or calming encouragement to keep going, depending on the mode you choose. ( )

Time Tracking

  • RescueTime: Analytics software that allows you to set goals and shows you how you spend your time. Free “lite” version; monthly subscription for enhanced pro version. ( )
  • Toggl: Simple time tracker with timesheet calculator. Basic service is free; enhanced services for a fee. ( )

To-Do Lists/Task Managers

  • Trello : Free, web-based project management app with to-do lists, syncing across team members for collaborative projects, notifications, and other features. ( )
  • Any.Do: Free to-do list with reminders, calendar integration, and syncing across platforms. ( )
  • Productive: iOS habit tracker encourages users to make and stick to a routine for all kinds of tasks, whether writing, exercising, or flossing. Free basic version with a $3.99 upgrade. ( or on iTunes)
  • Habit List: Another mobile habit tracker app for iOS and Android. $3.99. ( )


General Well-Being

  • Headspace: Meditation app to help reduce stress and improve focus. Free basic version; paid subscription service. ( )
  • Calm: Meditation and mindfulness app designed to help improve sleep habits and reduce stress. $60/year after 30-day trial. ( )
  • Welli: Mental wellness app for iOS with journaling, venting, and other features to encourage daily check-ins with yourself. Free. Get on iTunes. ( )

Guides on How to Thrive in Grad School

Two books are very useful for thinking about your graduate school career, one for north campus, the other for south campus:

Gregory M. Colon Semenza's Graduate Study for the Twenty-First Century: How to Build an Academic Career in the Humanities. This book discusses the various aspects of a graduate career--from coursework to job market—through the lens of the grim statistics of graduation and placement. Advice for how to position oneself for success can therefore come across as warnings of "what-not-to-do."

Patricia A. Gosling's and Bart D. Noordam's Mastering Your PhD: Survival and Success in the Doctoral Years and Beyond. Geared primarily towards science students, this book aims to explore the obstacles that graduate students are likely to confront and offers strategies for how to deal with them.

Steven Stearns and Ray Huey's commentaries, " Some Modest Advice for Graduate Students." These two commentaries are short and brutal about what to prioritize in your grad school career and your place in the academic food chain.