Time can be your best friend or a relentless foe while in medical school. It is impossible to simulate or describe the time crunch within which you will find yourself. Medical students at UNM are spread between structured activities like lectures, labs, foundations of clinical practice, perspectives in medicine, epidemiology to unstructured activities, just plain study and review to mundane things like eating and sleeping. We must also not forget to find time for relaxation and exercise, without those two the academics of medical school will quickly muddle into a fog.
So why keep a schedule? I did not need one an as undergrad.
Well if the above did not convince you then consider the following:
- Why distract yourself trying to keep track of your ‘to do’ lists and appointments when you can simply refer to a calendar? Save your brain cells for anatomy and pharmacology.
- You never want to have to take a few days off because you just crammed for a test and are exhausted. All that will lead to is playing catch-up, which leads to more cramming which leads to more exhaustion…you get the picture. It is a vicious cycle of panic-cramming-resting that can be avoided by maintaining a realistic schedule and managing your time efficiently.
- Having a schedule will also let you see if you are utilizing your study time effectively. If you are able to put in 50 minutes of concentrated study and review each hour you may find you do not need as many hours to study.
- Any student will tell you review is the key to success, with proper time management you will be able to review what you need AND sleep.
- Not getting enough sleep is taking out a loan on your brain, you will pay it back with interest.
- Using a calendar to ensure you are accomplishing what you had planned on any given day will allow you to truly relax and recreate during the times you have planned for those activities without becoming anxious about studying.
- Everyone deserves an hour of fun a day.
How to do it
There are two ways you can approach this, one is to come to the OARS office and work with a Learning Specialist at your convenience. It is sometimes good to have someone to work with that is seeing it from the outside in. We have a three week program, done in three sessions, which will allow you to objectively evaluate your own needs and where you can find the time to meet those needs during each block. Time management is an ongoing process and the ever changing nature of each block and each clerkship means you must always be flexible when evaluating your time management.
The second way would be to evaluate your time on your own, here are some tips:
- Download this calendar.
- Take the time, should not take more than 10-20 minutes, to map out your ideal week in the first columns.
- Find study time blocks of 2-3 hours
- Try to schedule study time immediately after lecture
- Make sure to schedule two or three hours to take care of personal items each week
- If you have a significant partner and/or children, plan at least one evening during the week and one half day on the week-end to spend with them.
- Schedule one hour of exercise per day, even if it is a long walk.
- Spend the week filling out what really happened during the week.
- Only count study periods where you have good study 50 minutes per hour.
- Be honest!
- Now merge the two into a schedule that meet your academic and personal needs.
Sample Time Management Plan
- Look at your usual work patterns and identify high, medium, and low concentration periods.
- Create a block calendar.
- Include exact due dates, type of assignment or exam; clinical schedule; also write in extra curricular activities, meetings, exercise, personal time.
- Make an outline of priorities for the whole block.
- Identify your most difficult work tasks and match them to your high concentration periods.
High concentration= writing, statistical analysis, research
Moderate concentration= computations, memorization, assigned readings, editing and proofreading papers
Low concentration= rest, relaxation, and recreation
Kelman, K. G., & Straker K.C. (2000). Study Without Stress, Mastering Medical Sciences. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications
Pelley, J.W., & Dalley, B, K. (1997). Success Types for Medical Students. Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech Extended Studies