New School Year = New Productivity Tools

By: Vanessa Francone

It’s that time of year again. When students have an excuse to buy a new laptop, backpack and upgrade their phone for the beginning of school. For us staff and entrepreneurs at the Legal Innovation Zone, it just means the Yonge-Dundas area getting a little (no, a lot) more packed.

We know owning and using the latest technology is a normal part of the school year. Computers are replacing the once common pen and paper style note-taking, making laptops the most popular partner to bring to class. Because of this, the LIZ decided to round up the best apps and web platforms to make students more productive.

Marinara: Pomodoro Timer

As a student, you have a lot of things on the go and not all of them are related to school. To keep up with the workload, try out the Pomodoro technique. This isn’t necessarily an app, but a Chrome extension you can add that times you as you work. Go hard for 25 minutes and break for five. After four work intervals, there is a 15-minute break. This is a great way to focus your energy and complete tasks efficiently. If you don’t like the 25-5 minute rule, you can set up a custom timer here.


At the LIZ, we use Slack for all internal communications. Fewer emails creates a little less stress, so we strive to use Slack for all of our internal messaging. Students can get Slack and create channels for each class or major project. Although email is a great communication tool, with Slack, you get quicker answers from peers and spend less time and effort in organizing email threads. It’s very similar to MSN Messenger. Plus, who doesn’t love a good gif war to ease up on the day-to-day pressures?


A real conversation in one of our LIZ Slack channels.


Google Suites

It’s inevitable. You’re going to have that group project where one person never shows up. The great thing with Google Suites is that it lets anyone work from anywhere while still collaborating on a project (so you can literally work from home). In real time, you can see who is viewing and editing the work, saving you the hassle of emailing edits back and forth. Not only does that get to be too many emails, you’ll get confused by the amount of files sent over. This saves you time and optimizes your productivity.


With this platform, you can see just how much time you actually spend on YouTube or other non-work related sites. RescueTime works in the background of your computer to see how many hours you spend on certain websites and applications. It really helps you manage your time and creates a visualization of how much work you did (and didn’t do). It can also be a great way to make and track goals. Maybe you want to spend less time on emails and more on projects? RescueTime can track all this data and help you achieve your goals.

What my productivity looked like earlier this week.



Who else is addicted to their phone?

Moment (for iOS only) will allow you to see exactly how much time you spend on it. Of course, your phone is a great and easy way for quick communications, but there is such a thing as too much. Similar to RescueTime, you can set goals for yourself. If you go over a certain amount of time, you’ll be notified and forced off. It’s a great way to see the amount of screen time you consume and can help you realize there are more important things than refreshing Twitter for the tenth time.


Like we said earlier, balancing school, work, social life and your “me, myself, and I” time is a difficult one. And you can’t have sticky notes covering every inch of your desk space because disorder can hurt your ability to focus. With Todoist, you can declutter your desk and add any and every thing you have to do in a simple platform. You can access your tasks online or offline and even divide up your tasks into sub-projects. The clean design provides a great way to get organized. Or as the kids say, get your sh** together.



Similarly to Todoist, Trello helps you prioritize tasks in simple collaborative boards. Project statuses have never been easier to read, giving you more time to focus on what really needs to be done. You will spend less time on email threads and meetings, and more time collaborating on projects in the most visual way possible. For those who learn better by seeing, this tool is great for you.  

This is just a shortlist out of the thousands of apps and platforms out there, but the overarching goal is to do better work. However, taking breaks is also important. No matter how well these tools work, if you’re not sleeping, eating well, and living a healthy lifestyle, the tools won’t work to their full potential. And neither will you.

Think we missed a really important tool? Tweet us your thoughts or email us at

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