Tag Archives: brain cell

School: Office in a Backpack

I decided to write a little bit on here about some of my school/study aides. Typically, I’m a pencil and paper type of woman, but sometimes I need technology. Being in graduate school means that I often have to write lengthy papers in APA 6th edition format. Carting around a heavy laptop is just not something I want to do, so I’ve found a way around doing so.

The first, and perhaps, most important part of my carry for school was to buy a quality backpack that can carry everything I need safely. For this purpose I bought a Tom Bihn Brain bag with a Brain cell insert. The bag is big enough to carry books, notebooks, tablet, and sundry items. It does the job well and is comfortable.

Rather than carry a laptop I have decided to use a tablet for my computing needs. Most of the time the tablet alone is suitable for reading PDF articles, but sometimes being able to edit or write papers on the go is a necessity. The on screen keyboard is crap for typing for anything other than short bursts. Getting a bluetooth keyboard has been a necessity. Originally I bought the AmazonBasics android keyboard and I loved it but I put it into a crappy case and tossed it around in my bag without enough protection and broke it. I bought a replacement  and it works well  enough, but it’s much louder. I plan on replacing it with another AmazonBasics when school starts up again, this time with a nice case.

Using the tablet as a word processor involves setting up Google Drive with blank documents and saving them to the tablet so I can work on them without wifi. The is important since many areas where I might want to work on my papers don’t always have the best or speediest wifi, like the commuter rail. Sometimes I get a seat near the wifi and it’s speedy and works other times I’m on a car that has terrible wifi. Or the coffee shop wifi is too slow to allow updates. Anyway, being able to work offline is a huge thing when I’m on the go. If you want to figure out how to make your google docs available on your tablet when offline go read here.

I make all my reading notes longhand in a cheap composition notebook. I favor the Staples brand because they are 50 cents at back to school sales and I can buy a bunch for low money. The paper is also acceptable for any of my preferred writing tools. Also, they are sturdy enough that I can cart them around for a full semester and not have them too beaten up. With 200 pages I can take copious notes on my readings, classes, and jot down the first outlines for my papers. (How I generate my papers is another post for the future.) Additionally I can cut pages out if I need to do so.

I use 2 different writing tools for notetaking. The first is fountain pens or gel inks, the second is soft dark pencils. I prefer pencils lately but often switch them out for a spot of color. Either allows me to make notes quickly and effortlessly. Fountain pens glide across the page as do soft dark pencils. The pencils I like range from B to 4B in grade. I keep a pencil box ready with a sharpener as well as an assortment of sharp pencils ready to go. This allows me to keep writing without pause if I need to, but generally I can stop, listen, and sharpen if needed.My first year I used fountain pens almost exclusively. This year I’ve been using pencils almost exclusively.*

I also carry a small pocket sized planner. I’ve been using a Bandit Apple Carnet PeeWee size but I’m transitioning over to the Field Notes Ambition planner in February. Being able to transfer over in February is the great boon of using an undated planner. Current I carry both in a leather cover by Davis Leatherworks. An additional way of keeping track of my life is another Field Notes in a leather cover along with a pocket. This acts as an idea/mind dump as well as a to do list and shopping list. Thus far it’s working very well. Though I  have to work better on my journaling.

Anyhow, all the above is what I use to not only keep track of my life, but to process and record all the stuff I’ve got going on for grad school. I’ve really needed to pare down and figure out how to use tools in a specific manner. This is, of course, a process and how I use tools changes over time, but for now this is it.

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