Academic Success


Because free time is limited in medical school, it is imperative that you have a plan to stay organized.  Consider organizing your physical materials (notes, supplies, etc.) and also your time. Organization might be an issue for you if you start tasks without the correct materials, fail to plan ahead, have trouble prioritizing, have difficulty structuring your work, or get overwhelmed by large tasks. Constantly feeling disorganized can wear you out! Save yourself the stress and figure out a game plan now!

Planning and thinking ahead is the first step toward organization. Think about when and where you'll complete the tasks you need to get done, what you'll need to be successful, and what a realistic timeline is.

Establish a daily routine. During weekdays this should involve attending your classes, studying information from that day, and finishing any prep for tomorrow. Get in the habit of this so you don't end up behind. Always study today's content first, then catch up on older material. If you don't, you will likely cause a snowball effect! Falling behind is a common issue for medical students. If this is a problem for you, check out the time management section of this site.

The Stoplight Technique

You can practice the stoplight technique as a means to triage and organize your study materials. This is highly recommended as you'll often feel like you don't have enough time to finish all you want to.

When studying materials after class, use the colors of a stoplight to organize the topics.

  • Green  means you're good with it; you understand it well and it doesn't require much more of your time.
  • Yellow  means it's iffy; if you have time it could use a bit deeper dive.
  • Red means either you didn't have time to get to it, or you do not understand it completely; it is what you must get back to when time allows if nothing else.


Every topic in your class materials and notes should have a colored tag by the end of the night.

Do this every night when reviewing and synthesizing what you learned that day, then on the weekend during your consolidation of that week's material, you already have the information organized and triaged. Start with the reds, then move on to the yellows, then finish with the greens. Your goal is to move all red and yellow tags to green before starting the next week. It's a way to stay efficient and organized!