It's no secret that time management tends to be the biggest challenge for most medical students. It is imperative that you learn good time management skills now, so that when faced with the pace you'll have a good plan.
Time Management Skills
Cramming Vs. Spacing
One thing to keep in mind while planning your study sessions is the idea of spaced repetition. Seeing the same concept numerous times, spaced over a period rather than all at once, will aid in your ability to remember it. Ideally, you want to see new information you've learned again within a few days. Then you'd want to see it again on the weekend (consolidation), and again a few weeks out. The theory of the curve of forgetting says if we don't study in this manner, we are likely to only remember about 30% of what we learned, but if we continue to review the information over spaced intervals, we can bump back up closer to 100%! You'll need to hold onto this information you're learning for the rest of your professional lives, so do yourself a favor and learn it the correct way now.
Findings suggest that when you are learning new information, to retain that information, you should try reviewing the information several times over an extended period. You might want to try following a review timeline like this:
- 1st review: within a few days (groups, PEARLS, R+R…)
- 2nd review: ~3-5 days (weekend consolidation)
- 3rd review: ~2 weeks
Giving yourself multiple exposures to the material over spaced intervals has been proven in hundreds of studies to be the most effective way to learn. Avoid cramming!
Fitting the Task to the Time
Another facet to keep in mind when scheduling yourself is your ability to fit the task you are working on into the time you have. Most students feel they do not have enough time. You want to have an idea of how much time you're able to dedicate each night to studying. Once it is your bedtime, you must stop and go to bed.
You will probably feel behind some days, and that is normal. Use the Stoplight Technique (described in detail on the Organization page) to triage your material and keep track of what you haven't finished. When you find free time, you can use it to catch up. The golden rule is to study today's material first. If you don't follow this rule, you will create a snowball effect, falling further and further behind. Plus, you'll never learn to be more efficient. If you practice working within the time constraints that exist in medical school, you'll get better at picking out high yield and important information. You can use the LOs to help. It will get easier!
This is one example of how you might structure your week:
Additional Tips for Time Management in Medical School
- Be sure you're giving yourself breaks. You'll be studying complex and difficult concepts for long periods of time. You are not robots! You need to give yourself breaks every now and then to process what you're learning (more on this, see Focus page).
- Attend all group and R&R sessions to stay current with material.
- If you get behind, stay on top of that day's material first, catching up little by little when you find open pockets of time.
- Hold yourself accountable- be sure to schedule important things like sleep, meals, and free time. Also consider an Eisenhower Box for daily tasks.
- Learn to identify high yield information.
- Fit the task to the time you have- use a timer if needed. Practice will help you get better at this.
- Be realistic- adjusting to the new demands of medical school can be tough. It might take a few weeks or even months to get the hang of your new schedule. Try to monitor what is working and what is not and be sure to modify accordingly.
- Learn to say no to non-essentials.
If you find that time management is an issue for you, please book an appointment OAS. We can help!
Time Management Resources
Create a detailed schedule. It is important to include all parts of your life on the schedule. The half hour intervals might seem tedious, but it is suggested that you be as detailed as you can as you get in the habit of managing your time in medical school. Start by adding sleep. This is non-negotiable. You should get between 6 and 8 hours. Then add in your classes/groups. Every evening you should schedule your review of that day's materials as well as prep for the following day. Most students schedule their cumulative review of the week's material on Saturday, and spend Sunday preparing for the upcoming week. Don't forget to add in time to cook, bathe, eat, spend time with family/friends, and take care of any errands/housework you might be responsible for.
Once you get in the habit of scheduling your time over the first few weeks, you might want to switch to the One Day at a Time worksheet. This is a less structured way to plan your days, allowing for a bit more flexibility.
If you find you're having difficulty getting things done, use the Study Your Use of Time worksheet to uncover patterns in your time management. You might also try the Eisenhower Box to help you triage your time.