Thank you so much, Jamie, for allowing me to write about this topic of time management. It’s funny because if you asked me 2.5 years ago as a first year if I would be able to balance school, work, a blog, and a social life, I would have laughed and then frantically gone back to studying for my class exam. But I remember one faculty telling us that first year that we will get better at studying and time management as the years progress.
I would 100% agree with this. Having good time management is part experience, part strategy. While I can’t give you guys experience, I can definitely give you guys some tips that I have found successful!
Make a mental list of priorities and stick with it.
During the first two years of medical school, studying was always my number one priority. But I learned very quickly that I wanted to prioritize things that made me healthy and happy. So, I had to do away with Netflix, crafting, playing music, and oftentimes sleep. But I knew I wanted to keep working out (3-4 times a week), relationships, a leadership role, and social events with my classmates.
The key was mentally laying out my day first thing in the morning and not allowing myself to sway away from this schedule. For example, I used to have days where we would have class, leadership meetings, and lab and even thought I was exhausted, I still forced myself to work out because it was on my list for the day (sometimes I swear I’m trying to drive myself crazy)! I believe this tip is what helps me the most with time management.
Removing barriers to having a successful schedule
Okay guys, you know how it goes when you have to work out. It’s a huge process sometimes! Changing into workout clothes, doing the actual workout, showering, getting ready, and eating can all take up quite a bit of time when you don’t have a whole lot of time to spare. Things like grocery shopping and cooking can be a similar ordeal. Here are some of the ways I cut out the barriers to having a successful schedule:
Wearing work-out clothes to class and going straight to the gym afterwards
OR if I didn’t have class, I would go to the gym right before a big meal (i.e. lunch or dinner) so that I would do the whole gym-shower-food thing in a row and leave a chunk of time to study before and after
Buying groceries in bulk on Sundays and meal planning for the week
Making “overnight oats” (Google a bunch of awesome recipes) so that I could grab one for breakfast to eat in class.
Locating all the fridges on campus nearest my favorite study areas so that I could pack lunch and dinner. This allowed me to eat healthy and remove any travel time to eat.
Making a weekly and daily to-do list
This one seems pretty obvious but sometimes it really helps to make sure all your ducks are in a row before you sit down for a solid study sesh. This list may also include your life stuff too so that you can be aware of all that you need to do over the week.
Tip: use one sheet of paper a week and label Monday-Sunday across the rows. Leave some room on the side for your “weekly” goals. Under each day, lay out things that must be done and each morning, write down your tasks for the day. I like to be extra and draw a checkbox so I can be super satisfied checking that task off. I try and keep this sheet of paper on my desk whenever I studied so I could be aware of what I needed to do.
Complete tasks without distractions and use “self-care” as a motivation to use your time well
I think this is the hardest tip but one that I believe is the most helpful. Whether it’s grocery shopping, working out, studying, blogging, etc. etc., I try to complete that task without moseying around too much. I always like to tell myself that if I complete this task within two hours, I’m going to give myself 3 hours to watch Friends on Netflix later (this actually happens every day lol!).
Self-care is also something I didn’t realize was important until the middle of 2nd year. I think we often forget to “treat ourselves” in fear of wasting precious study time but I think that mental, emotional, and physical health should be equally as important as doing well in school. So, my biggest advice is to allow yourself time to do what makes you happy and use that to motivate yourself to get through the other important things in your life.
I hope these tips help some of you guys out there. Time management is always a work in progress but with time and practice, you can perfect your own rhythm. I sometimes wish we were Hermione Granger and had a Time-Turner for all of our tasks but one can only dream!