Pre-Med Academics

Juggling the Work-Life Balance in Medical School

Contrary to what social media would have you believe, almost no medical students have their work, school, and personal lives perfectly balanced. Yet, you can! By taking advantage of resources around you and putting effort into planning, you can balance out the power struggle. Here are a few tips that may help you juggle the work-life balance while in medical school.

Differentiate Work-Life Balance vs. Management

A wise mentor once told me that it’s much better to call it “work-life management.” While balance implies a 50/50 split with all areas of your life being at peace, management suggests a more realistic world in which your attention shifts from week to week depending on your needs and responsibilities.

Making a simple word switch in your mind from balance to management gives you mental leeway when you fall short on spending enough time with a friend or triple-checking that assignment before submitting it.

With each day, month, and week, your priorities can change drastically, so there’s no need to force yourself to set strict rules for how much energy you give each responsibility. With that mindset in place, there are several tools that you can use to better manage your time and tasks.

Use Virtual Calendars To Manage Your Time

Google Calendar is my personal preference. If you prefer paper calendars, I hear you. However, having your calendar easily accessible on your phone wherever you go is a game-changer. You can color customize them, edit on the fly, and collaborate on meetings with others.

When I started college, I didn’t think I would need a calendar, but as a senior, I can’t live without it. Don’t discredit traditional calendars as a backup since writing things down can help with your memory and can increase your productivity and overall mental clarity.

Download To-Do List AppsTo Clear Your Mind

A study by professors Baumeister and Masicampo from Wake Forest University concluded that while tasks that remain incomplete are distracting, the simple act of planning to get them done can alleviate this anxiety and even boost overall performance. When the study participants could jot down concrete plans to finish a second proposed task, they performed better on their first task. Simply writing the tasks down made people more effective.

Whether you use Asana, Notion, ToDoist, or another app, tracking your tasks is so much easier when they’re written down. What’s special about tracking apps is that they are designed for project managers. Lucky for us students, managing a host of projects is a lot like managing your course load. Each of these organizing apps works a bit differently, so explore each of them to see what best suits your needs. In any case, you will be well on your way to management bliss with one of these

Digest Books & Podcasts For Metal Breaks and Study Tools

While not directly a time-management tool, incorporating time each day to read a book of your choosing or listen to your favorite podcast can give you the boost of morale you need to push through another day.

I went two years without reading for pleasure, and it wasn’t until I started again recently that I realized how much of a difference it makes in my day-to-day life. Additionally, podcasts, especially motivational ones, can be a great asset to your routine. Listen to them while you get ready or while you are eating breakfast. By the time you start your day, you’ll be more than ready to tackle anything.

MedSchoolCoach has several podcasts that are not only fun to listen to but will help you on your journey to becoming a physician. One of their podcasts, MCAT Basics, is one of the most downloaded MCAT podcasts in existence. One reason it’s so popular is that it’s hosted by a medical student, Sam Smith, who understands what other students are going through. Each podcast covers several MCAT sections with lessons based on review material put out by the AAMC, such as practice tests and question banks.

Leverage Experience from Others to Save Yourself Despair

A little outside perspective is never a bad thing. As pre-med students, we can get so caught up in the details of this journey we often lose sight of what’s really important. Are you:

  • Torn between two extracurricular opportunities?
  • Second-guessing your course load for next semester?
  • Wondering when you should take the MCAT?
  • Stressed about how much time have you wasted through doubting your decisions?

Asking for help and advice from professionals can save you time, stress, and spare you potential trouble down the road. It may be worthwhile to have someone on your side that can help you maximize your most valuable asset in medical school: Time.

Close peers, coaches, and experts can be a huge benefit when it comes to this and will keep you on track every step of the way. Need an advisor to help you plan your college path? MedSchoolCoach can pair you with an admissions advisor who can help you every step of the way. It’s like having a physician on your shoulder.


Have more questions about getting into med school or becoming a doctor? MedSchoolCoach has a team of admissions advisors who’ve all served on admissions committees. They are available to help you better your med school application and boost your chances of getting into medical school. Look them up!

Olivia Brumfield

Olivia is a senior at the University of Rochester where she expects to receive a B.S. in neuroscience. She is an aspiring physician with expertise in program management, clinical care, and REDCap with intermediate fluency in American Sign Language. She a Clinical Research Associate at the University of Rochester Center for Health + Technology, as well as the host of the PreMeducation video series.

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