Medical school can be very demanding and challenging at times by having insufficient time to complete everything. However, here are a list of top tips that have helped me to manage my time effectively through medical school so far.
1. Organise yourself:
Write down your key dates e.g. deadlines, exam dates in chronological order starting with the earliest deadline and ending it with the furthest. Choose a place where you study often or spend the most time in your house and place your deadlines there to be used as a constant reminder. For me, this is on the wall above my study desk in my bedroom.
2. Set yourself goals/smart targets regularly in relation to the deadlines:
SMART meaning specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. Breaking down a goal in this way ensures that you have defined the steps needed to achieve your goal by giving you a sense of direction in an organised manner. If for any reason, you do not achieve your goal you can look back and identify which parts of your SMART plan need to be improved.
An example of a SMART target plan that I used for one of my exams was:
S- To achieve an average of 80% in all my anatomy colloquiums in order to obtain partial exemption in the final exam in June
M- By ensuring I answer as many practice anatomy questions as possible before each colloquium to determine any weak areas that may need more attention
A- Planning anatomy group sessions with friends during our free time and dividing the topics amongst ourselves and taking it in turns to teach & test each other by practising on the cadavers
R- To keep a track of all colloquium results
T- This should be completed within every 4-6 weeks in time for each colloquium.
3. Write down your university timetable:
This provides an overview of the number of hours you will be in university and the number of hours you will have free per day and so helps you organise your week accordingly. I use my time efficiently by doing study sessions in the library when I have long gaps in my timetable, whereas during the shorter breaks I squeeze in a gym session or grab something quick to eat. In addition, I do the ‘bulk’ of my studying and revision on the weekends.
4. Take regular breaks:
Scheduling breaks throughout your day can increase the productivity of your work, allows you to refocus your attention and concentration and reduces stress.
This could include naps, exercise e.g. going for a walk, hobbies, spending time with God (if you are religious).
5. Create a daily or weekly ‘to do’ list:
Listing things that need to be done and writing it down and ticking them off once completed allows to you to continuously monitor your progress and be accountable for your time.
6. Prioritise your list:
Figure out which ones are the most important things for that day or week and put them at the top of your list.
7. Learn your preferred studying method:
Determining your preferred studying method allows you to be efficient whilst you are studying.
For example, if you are a visual learner it is recommended for you to watch YouTube videos or create mind maps, which enables you to have a better understanding of the topics instead of memorising textbooks.
8. Always have something to read or listen to at hand:
Keeping flashcards/ revision notes in your bag during the day allows you study on the go for example whilst traveling to and from university. These pockets of time This provides you with more time at the end of each day, which you can use for other interests.
9. Meal prep:
Honestly, meal prepping is the way forward! Every Friday I go food shopping and batch cook for the weekend and upcoming week. This saves so much time during the week, especially when I return home in the evenings from late study sessions.
I normally choose Fridays as this my least busiest day of the week, but you can choose any day which is most suitable to you.
10. Take some time out for yourself:
Whether this is meeting up with your friends, washing your hair (even though this takes ½ a day lol), going to the gym, extra curriculum activities, catching up with on a Netflix series etc.
For me this includes: jogging, netball, baking, listening to podcasts or music and catching up with friends. These activities help you to de-stress, hence creating a work-life balance.
Written by Shona Manning