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Managing Time Effectively

Tools and Techniques for Busy Medical Students


As medical students we often feel overwhelmed because of the sheer number of things to learn and too little time in the day to learn them - let alone balance academics with a personal life. Today we're going to dive into the art of time management and explore some tools and techniques to optimize time that I have found helpful over the years - and hopefully, it'll help you achieve that ideal balance between academics and personal well-being.


1. Plan and Prioritize:

Growing up my dad would always quote Benjamin Franklin "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail" which at the time felt a little condescending but looking back, I have to admit he was right. Start by identifying the most important tasks coming up in a week - making a list accordingly can help you visualise what needs to be prioritized. It can be helpful to assign each task a priority status: high, medium, and low priority so that you get through the most essential ones, and you don't feel guilty if you don't get around to doing the less important ones. 


Larger tasks can seem overwhelming so it's worth breaking them down into more manageable steps so that you can approach them more easily.


2. Time Blocking:

Following on from the plan and prioritize section, allocate specific blocks of time to each activity - and be realistic about how much time you require for each task! I've lost count of the number of times I gave myself thirty minutes to get through one lecture and it ended up taking me two hours instead. So take my advice and be sensible about how many things you can fit into a day; because otherwise, it will just result in you feeling a hundred times more stressed than you originally felt. It's also worth scheduling in time to "catch up" in case you don't finish something in the amount of time you set, or something else more pressing came up. And if you do get through everything as originally planned you now have some free time to do something else! Blocking out time can help you avoid procrastination - if you've previously decided to start revising a specific lecture at a specific time, you will start at that time rather than stalling, wasting that time. 


3. Active Learning Techniques

There are an infinite number of active learning techniques to keep your study sessions engaging and effective: from flashcards to concept mapping, to teaching others. Try to figure out which methods work best for you and incorporate them into your routine. Spending thirty minutes going through flashcards on topic A can be a lot more useful than spending two hours writing notes on it - you will notice how you ultimately reduce the amount of time needed to study and also enhance your understanding and retention of the subject. 


4. Take Care of Yourself

Regular breaks, exercise and sleep are all equally as important to include in your routine. Take part in extra-curricular activities and social events because your life should not revolve around medicine. Having a balanced healthy lifestyle will make you better equipped to push through the challenges of university. But it's equally crucial to acknowledge your limits - it's okay to say no to a party when you feel like you need to prioritize your studies. It's about finding a healthy compromise so don't forget to set boundaries.


5. Reflect and Adapt

Don't be afraid to adjust your timetable after reflecting on it. It's impossible to set up the perfect schedule from the get-go, so regularly assess reflect on your time management strategies and assess how effective they have been. What works in term 1 may not work in term 2 and that's okay. Be open to adapting your approach based on your needs. Keep in mind that effective time management is an ongoing journey of learning and refinement, so be patient with yourself as you cultivate these valuable skills.


I hope that by incorporating these five techniques into your routine, you can master the demanding schedule of medical school and maintain a healthy work-life balance. 



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