Academic Tools of the Trade

I will proceed with the expectation that you already know you need a laptop, non-programmable calculator, crockpot, and notepaper.

When it comes to making the academic life a little more efficient and a lot more fun, the following items are at the top of my must have list (see picture below for examples):

  1. Earplugs I wear them during exams (who needs to hear sonorous mucus gurgling or the panicked study guide rattling of other students?), when I need deep concentration to problem solve, and now even when I sleep. Available at drug stores and in the hunting department of sporting goods stores.
  2. Soft-sided three ring binders Buy 5 or 6 (one per class for a semester) and re-use every semester thereafter. These are lighter and fit into your backpack much easier than hard-sided binders.
  3. Three hole punch with 13/32″ diameter, not the typical 9/32″ diameter hole A luxury item maybe, but absolutely worth it if you find you read and store reams of notes or technical papers in binders. I will never go back to 9/32″. You will flip through pages with ease and whimsy!
  4. Colored pens I used to use highlighters, but reading and note taking with colored pens is much more efficient and allows me to differentiate topics (by color) within a given paper. I write questions, comments, thoughts and definitions to myself in the margins, something I can’t do with a highlighter.
  5. Mechanical pencil (with spare lead) Get a real mechanical pencil and do not loan it to anyone. I used a 0.5 mm HB – the graphite is dark enough to be seen on engineering paper, but not so dark that when you try to erase it faint traces remain. Never go into an exam without spare lead.
  6. Separate eraser as much as I love my mechanical pencil, I’ve yet to find one with a substantial eraser. Buy a separate one.
  7. Reusable water bottle Dehydration leads to brain fog. Whether in school or not, our bodies and brains need 2-3L of water a day minimum (more if you are an athlete; even more if you drink copious amounts of coffee).
  8. Glass food containers please do not ever re-heat food in plastic containers. Purchase a few glass containers and you can store your crockpot leftovers. Glass containers work beautifully for both freezing or reheating in an oven or in a microwave.
  9. Calendar For community scheduling purposes I use Google calendar. Fellow students and professors can access my calendar to request meetings around recurring classes and one-off appointments. My weekly planner, however, contains the specifics of what and when I plan to get done every day. I cannot imagine anyone wants to know when I plan to grade labs, write an essay, or clean my bathroom.
  10. External back-up I used to use a simple external hard drive and it worked just fine until I filled it up. Now I use the Apple Airport Time Capsule 2TB. You do not need anything fancy, but you need to back up your work. Ask anyone who didn’t … and lost it.

My Airport Time Capsule, colored pens, 13/32″ three-hole punch, soft sided three ring binder, mechanical pencil, spare lead and eraser, glass containers, and weekly calendar.
What are your favorite academic accoutrements?

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