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Time Management as a Pre-Med

Time management is everyone’s problem. In modern times, the difficulty has become “so much to do but so little time”. A lack of time management can lead to stress, anxiety and lack of sleep, which ultimately has a detrimental effect on health and performance.

Even though everyone is “busy”, not everyone is equally busy. On a college campus, one could make the argument that premeds are the busiest undergraduates. On top of a rigorous course load, all premeds need to do multiple extracurricular activities like research, volunteering, work, and club leadership if they want a chance at medical school. Time management as a premed is difficult. Therefore, if you want to excel in your studies and all those other activities, time management must become your best friend. Here are some tips to better manage your time.

Plan bigger events weekly

Using some sort of planner (phone, computer, or notebook), plan significant events every week. Various meetings, tests, and events would all be considered significant. On Sunday night, enter notable events in your calendar so that when you are scheduling anything for the rest of the week, you schedule around your important events.

Plan smaller events daily

Every night plan out the rest of the next day. Fill in your already made weekly plans with smaller tasks. These would include doing homework, going to class, watching a T.V. show, and even eating lunch or dinner. Use your calendar as a to-do list and try to accomplish everything on that list. Prioritize your tasks and be realistic. Do not schedule more than you can handle. It’s much more satisfying to take care of 3 out of 3 tasks than 5 out of 30. Finally, be strict on yourself when following your schedule.

Set consistent study blocks

When planning your day, have consistent study blocks in your calendar. For example, you can study for cell biology from 2 to 3pm, calculus from 3-4pm and history from 4-5pm. Afterwards, you don’t have to reconsider opening your textbooks or notes again because you have done your work for the day. This way, you can enjoy the rest of your night with ease.

Have consistency every day

We are creatures of rhythm. If you exercise, eat, sleep, and study at the same time every day, it will help your body get into a rhythm rather than having it adapt all the time. It is hard to have consistency as a college student but try your best to be a creature of habit. The result is that you will be more focused, more energetic and ultimately more efficient.

Get rid of distractions

If you don’t need your laptop to study, avoid having it with you. Usually if you are studying for a science class, you don’t really need a laptop. That means you can leave your laptop in your apartment when you go to the library to study. It is also helpful to turn off your cell phone. Frequent texts or calls can disrupt your train of thought, preventing you from having quality study time. You could be on the verge of understanding a complex concept when your phone rings, causing you lose that breakthrough (which ultimately forces you to spend more time studying). I liked to study for an hour with my phone on airplane mode and then check my texts and calls while taking a ten minute break.

Learn how to say no

Say no to extraneous “hanging out”. It is important to make time for your friends but you need to learn a healthy balance. When you plan out your week, talk to your friends to schedule time to hang out. Even when you plan out your day, you can schedule time for fun. When your friends want to play when you have something important to do, stick to your schedule and say no. You can use that opportunity to plan a time to hang out later. Also say no to unnecessary work. Don’t take on extra responsibility in your lab or club if you know you are limited on time. Learn how to respectfully say no to save yourself from doing more work than you can handle.

Plan out fun and rest time

As mentioned above, schedule time with your friends, favorite T.V. show, and hobbies. This will give you something to look forward to throughout the day or even the week. It will also prevent you from going overboard with any one activity.

Ask for accountability        

If you have roommates or friends who you spend a lot of time with you, ask them to keep you accountable in your time management. Ask your friend to stop you after one episode of T.V. so that you would stop even though you desperately want to keep watching. But make sure you don’t get upset when your friends tell you to stop doing something because that’s simply what you told them to do.

Successful time management as a premed is not only crucial for getting into medical school, it is incredibly important for the rest of your life. Especially if you are a medical student or doctor, time will always be scarce. Therefore, make sure you build good habits as an undergraduate. Everyone has 24 hours in a day but the most successful people make the most use of those 24 hours.

Edward Chang

Edward Chang is the Co-founder and Director of Operations of ProspectiveDoctor.com. He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is currently a urology resident at the University of Washington. He also attended UCLA as an undergraduate, graduating with a major in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. If you are interested in contributing to ProspectiveDoctor.com, please contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @EdwardChangMD and Prospective Doctor @ProspectiveDr.

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