School’s back in, whether you like it or not. But it doesn’t matter if you’re dreading it or ecstatic, it pays off to be organized and prepared, especially in the first month or so when you’re still getting used to the routine.
And here to help you with that is the MVP of the 21st Century (so far), your Smartphone. The one thing that you just can’t leave the house without and would sacrifice life and limb to prevent from falling into water. Your phone is a Swiss army knife ever-growing as the hardware companies figure out ways to stuff more and better sensors into their chassis and as the fabled App Store (or Play Store, or even Windows Store) expands with a gargantuan variety of varieties of apps. And with the right apps, your phone can be your BFF for school and productivity. Granted, it can also be a total demon and slowly suck your concentration and motivation away in a whirlpool of modern media. So here are (my personal) do’s and don’ts when setting up your phone for school.
Do: Put your timetable on your phone
Probably the first thing you’ll get on the first day, or even before the first day, is your timetable. It’s a damn crucial piece of paper, and absolute hell if you forget it during the first week.
Simply put, put it on your phone. I tend to take a picture of my timetable the minute I get it, so I don’t have to worry about losing my timetable, I just have to worry about losing my phone (which I already worry about). Then you can share it seamlessly with friends via Dropbox, Email, Google Drive and even Snapchat, and keep it in the cloud so you can access it from your computer. If you lose your phone, you’ll still have your timetable somewhere, and don’t have to go whining to Mr. Wynne-Jones or your Reg Teacher about it (which I’m sure they’ll appreciate).
I like to take it a step further and actually have my phone tell me what class is next. For this, I use Timetable (Android), but there’s plenty of other timetable apps out there to choose from. Timetable lets me put in all my classes, what room, what teacher, what subject type, what color I want it to be, and most importantly, when it is. It may be tedious, but it pays off, because it notifies me what class is next 5 or 10 minutes in advance (can be customized). That way all I need to do is glance at my phone and I know where to go. Hyper Convenient.
Do: Get a Notetaking App
Many a time I’ll have had someone walk up and tell me something important and time-dependent. But I can’t remember everything they’re saying, even if I think I can. I begin reaching for my agenda, and eventually dig it out of my bag, fish a pen out of my pencil case and by the time I look up, they’re gone and I didn’t hear what they had to say. I either have to ask them again, to my embarrassment, or ask an unreliable friend. It would have been easier to know the first time round.
That’s one major use for getting a notetaking app among many. For a person who doesn’t put their phone in their backpack and has it practically holstered, ready to draw and shoot like a Cowboy’s revolver, a notetaking app just makes so much sense. It also useful for todo lists, for having your schedule handy, for taking down emails and phone numbers. Just maybe don’t break it out as a full-time Agenda.
I would recommend Google Keep; it syncs with all your google stuffs which means you can also access it from the web. It’s also really pretty looking and feature rich.
Do: Get Google Drive
The school loves it, teachers love it, and you love it (or at least you will). Though it’s impossible to actually edit anything from your ‘tiny’ phone screen and lack of physical keyboard, it’s good to have to make comments or read documents. Textbooks that come in digital versions, like the massive math ones from Year 10 onwards, are advantageous to put on the Drive. You’ll appreciate not having an extra couple kilos to bring to and fro every day.
Do: Back up important stuff
Your phone is pretty much vulnerable to everything imaginable in your daily school life; Water, Theft, Forgetfulness, Heavy Backpacks, Footballs, Basketballs, Volleyballs, any other balls, stampedes, food and even the labyrinth that is the Lost and Found, fondly nicknamed ‘The Lost and Lost’.
If your phone is diagnosed with any of these serious injuries or mishaps, it’s always good to have a backup, in case it doesn’t survive the trauma. Nowadays Apple and Google make an effort to prevent careless loss, but they can only do so much. Make sure EVERYTHING is either copied or on the cloud.
Generally speaking you don’t have to worry about getting external apps for this; just make sure that iCloud or Google Settings is set up for regular backups, and do check every now and again to check that it’s working. If you need something extra, use Dropbox. They’re experts on the stuff.
Do: Use a Calendar
You’re on your way to get something from the Caf when you see a swarm of people crowding around a Bake sale table, and now you feel stupid for forgetting about how it was announced over the loud speaker at least 3 times, about the wacky posters you saw advertising it, and about that email they sent around for it with the dates set in big bold letters. Now you’re swimming through a sea of people either trying to get something before the sale runs out or just trying to get to the cafeteria before they run out of Pain au Chocolats.
Keep up to date with those school events. The smart people planning the events usually give a specific time, and, if done right, it’ll be underlined a bit like this;
Clicking on it will bring up a pop-up, prompting it to add it to your calendar. Now you don’t have to worry about missing a single event, your phone will remind you. Now you know what days to either run to the Caf or avoid it completely.
Google Calendar is also quite good at annoying you when something is happening, which makes it comparatively more reliable than your agenda. It’s also harder to lose. Some teachers switch out their physical agendas entirely for a virtual one, so if you’re not good at remembering everything and checking your agenda, let your phone remind you.
Do: Set Alarms
You’ve missed the bus on the first day, or you’ve woken up too late and your parents are mad because they have to drive you to school through the nightmare that is morning traffic. You’re probably going to be late for school.
This one is a usually a no brainer, everyone is on their own summer schedule which doesn’t take into account the fact the school starts in 8:15 every morning. But set your alarms right. Set it at least 10 minutes earlier then you need to get up, cause then you have 10 minutes to wake up. Or just doze.
Don’t make it easy for yourself. I’ve actually switched off my alarm several times before gaining consciousness, waking up to my parents yelling at me and wondering where my alarm clock is. Put your phone on the other side of the room so you have to physically move to switch off your alarm.
Primarily, don’t use the default alarm, you know, the friendly one that doesn’t really want to wake you up? This is where phones have a major advantage over alarm clocks; you can (and should) set it to any rock, heavy metal, dubstep song or siren that tortures your eardrums. You know you’ll be up in no time.
Do: Save sleep
It’s a scientific fact that using your phone (or any fully screened device) before sleeping keeps you awake longer than not using it before sleeping. About a minimum of 20 minutes to half an hour longer. It may not seem like much, but its sleep you can’t really afford to lose.
There are some apps out there that can help you maybe not completely lose that 20-30 minute lay-over period, but they certainly help reduce it. They can really dim your screen down much lower than the default screen dimmer and also put an orange or red tint on your display which (in theory) helps lets your eyes (and therefore your mind) adjust to the dark faster. The most well-known one is called f.lux (primarily available for PC, Mac OSX), but the popular alternative is called Twilight (Android). There is an available version for IOS, but it isn’t available on the app store and requires your device to be jailbroken. Maybe you’re just better off not using your phone at night.
Do: Check the Weather
Everyone has a weather app, and it’s always the most convenient thing to check on your phone. And yet, I never really check it. This is usually a terrible mistake; looking out my window it’ll often seem like it’s a rainy day, but by the time lunch time comes around it’s a perfectly warm blue sky day and I’m still trudging around in a warm rain jacket.
If it isn’t already, set your weather app for Founex instead of your home. That way you won’t make my same mistake.
Do: Study for Exams
Especially for those taking exams that are outside of the school system *cough* SAT/ACT *cough*. Let’s face it, it’s scary looking ahead to the exams, and what better way to study then by doing a question every day. It’s easier to remember something if you do it frequently and in bite-sized quantities, and apps like SAT Practice help you do just that in an easy, stress-free manner.
Of course, if you aren’t doing the SAT, there are other apps out there that can help you. There may not be specific Master Your Exam Apps for the IB and IGCSE, but there are some apps for individual subjects, like the O level (IGCSE) Physics Exercise App, and several IB related subject apps that are all extremely highly rated. See if they help you out.
Do: Save Battery
You don’t need an app for this, just a bit of common sense. If you’re unhappy with your phone’s battery life, then you might want to try switching off Bluetooth, Location/GPS and WiFi settings until you actually need to use any one of those things. Most popular Phones come with battery savers built into their flavor of OS, so learn how to use them. Could save you embarrassing yourself asking for someone for a charger.
Alternatively, just get a battery pack. Now that the market’s saturated they can be bought for relatively cheap. I can’t count how many times mine has saved me when I forget to charge my phone.
Do: Get a Security App
When I talk about security, I’m not talking about viruses or ransomware or anything even remotely related to your phone’s software. Your phone is at a much greater risk of physical theft. The stories are true, of phones mysteriously going missing in the changing rooms during extra-curricular activities, and though the school has taken measures to prevent it, the risk is still prevalent.
Fortunately, phone locators are readily available, both on the App store and as a part of the phone’s OS, with Find My IPhone for IOS and Android Device Manager for Android. I like to double up, so I also have Lookout on my Phone, a well-established software and hardware security app. The advantage of an external security app is simply features; In addition to the default ring, lock and wipe, it can also alert me of the device’s last location right before it runs out of battery and even take a picture from the Phone’s camera (if that helps at all). Hopefully it’ll not only be possible to find the phone, but relatively easy.
Don’t: Drop your Phone
It’s the second worst thing that can happen to it, after short circuiting it with water, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Be wise about how you protect your phone. Get a case, get a skin, or even (especially when it’s raining) get a Ziploc bag. Anything is better than nothing.
Don’t: Watch Youtube
New websites often give you bit-sized information. Social Media is usually quick and designed to catch your eye. But Youtube is something different. On Youtube, the only limit is how long they can hold your attention, and if you don’t take into regard the time on the videos, you can easily waste 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour of your life on one video, and then continue to cruise down the street that is the generated content preferences, designed to keep you on Youtube like a labyrinth of mirrors.
Maybe it’s great to mindlessly absorb unnecessary content over the summer, but you’re in school now, and you have to make room for all the completely relevant and important school content. There’s a lot to learn, so if you don’t want to struggle during the exams, now’s a better time to become aware of your terrible Youtube habits. Pry your eyes away from the screen, away from that ‘hilarious prank’ video, because, as hilarious as it may be, there are better things to remember.
Don’t: Get notifications in class
It’s embarrassing when your alarm clock goes off or when your friends message you and everyone looks around to find the source of the invasive sound. Many times putting your phone on silent doesn’t help largely because your phone’s vibration motor is surprisingly loud, hence defeating the purpose of calling it ‘silent’.
Yet there is even an alternative to silent mode. If you can’t be bothered to switch off your phone in class then you can have an app do it for you. Mentioned above in the ‘Get a Timetable’ section, the Timetable app can make your phone go completely silent when classes start and revert to whatever mode it was in after class. Alternatively, newer versions of android (5 and up) have special ‘total silence’ modes, which are surprisingly handy.
Don’t: Use your phone before sleeping
Sleep is the food of the gods, and we never get enough sleep because we’re always craving more and complaining about it. As mentioned in the ‘Save Sleep’ section, the simple solution is really to stop using your phone, or any screened device before sleeping. I’m not saying it because ‘the experts’ are saying it, I’m saying it because it’s true and the effects of this simple cure are definitely felt the next morning, in a good way. I’m an advocate.
Don’t: Listen to Music whilst studying
It doesn’t work. Sure, if you’re doing a menial job like writing an essay, checking social media, etc… then listening to music is fine. But if you’re trying to absorb new information, music is just using up precious mental processing power and memory. Certain types of music, labeled ‘study music’ are apparently helpful, but to be honest I’ve never really found it like it to actually help me study. If you really don’t believe me, then trying reading a good book and listening to music at the same time, and see if you’re more involved in the book or less involved.
That’s my two cents. I hardly expect anyone to apply all of the above or read it all, and I’m sure that many of the above are things people already do to protect their phone, both from the physical and the virtual. But one can never be too sure.
Don’t be afraid to browse the app store for useful, productive apps every now and again. Who knows, maybe they’ll become central to your daily life and maybe not. But the important thing is to try, and never be afraid to simply explore the ever-growing functions of the virtual Swiss-army knife. And with this trusty tool of yours, I wish you good luck for the school year.