Either you run the day, or the day runs you
By far, the most common request I've gotten, has been about time management. "How do you set a schedule? How do you balance it all? How do you have time for all of it?" To answer your question I've put down my thoughts and created a YouTube video that you can watch below!
But first, let me just reiterate a point I've made before, I DO NOT by any means "have it all figured out". Just like everyone else, I am constantly learning, developing new skills, adapting different routines and making mistakes more frequently than I like to admit to. My time management started weak in undergrad, got better in dental school and really improved in residency. But it all required frequent changes. You have to allow yourself to try out new strategies, fail, and then try other ones again until you find what works for you. After all, if you change nothing, then nothing changes.
The one thing that has always worked for me is setting a schedule for myself. That's one of the most important study tip I've written about (read more about that here). Either you run the day, or the day runs you. So how do you make sure you run the day? Set a schedule. I love writing out a strict study schedule one week before an exam and sticking to it. It doesn't work, if you don't stick to it. This study plan will have everything from daily lectures, uWorld practice questions, yoga sessions and time off for dinner with friends. The trick is, stick to the schedule. This schedule doesn't work if you don't follow what you have planned otherwise in the end, you'll ultimately fall behind. Sticking to a schedule is how I manage to be a medical student, maintain a social life, have a dog and of course blog!
A few things to note:
1. LOOK AHEAD | The first thing I do before setting the schedule is looking ahead at all the lectures and tasks I have coming up. I compile them all then spread them out evenly in my schedule so that I can ensure, by the time I reach exam day, I've covered everything sufficiently.
2. BE REALISTIC | You cannot study for 22 hours. Sorry, but you're not a robot. Be realistic about your study plan and make sure to take into account things like the gym and extracurricular events you're committed to.
3. BE YOUR OWN CRITIC | Asses your current study habits. First, you're not going to go suddenly from studying 3 hours a day to 8. Second, if you study efficiently for 2 hours and then waste the next 2 hours, then set a study goal of 2.5 hours. If your goal is an efficient 4 hours, then work your way up to that by increasing your study time to 3 hours the next day. Like any other muscle in your body, your brain can be trained. This method builds your study endurance rather than waste 4 hours getting 2 hours of work accomplished.
4. BREAK IT UP | You absolutely have to schedule breaks. It gives you something to look forward to and makes you work harder because you know there's a reward soon. If you're studying all day Thursday, then take Friday night off to go out to dinner with friends. During the break, avoid talking about school and other stressful topics just to get your mind off of things and allow yourself to reset so you can start fresh the next day.
5. CHECK IT OFF | Whenever I complete a task, I check off the box. Your brain loves accomplishing goals and the act of checking off a task is incredibly rewarding.
Here's a sample of my study plan for my renal exam on Monday. This schedule is for the week prior to the exam. My day always starts with 3-4 hours of lectures (written in blue). Some days I have extra clinical sessions (also written in blue). My yoga is always scheduled (written in baby blue). And I've set renal uWorld question goals for myself that happen daily so I can do it simultaneously while studying for the exam (underlined in gray).
PS. I don't usually spend time making my schedule this pretty, I just used it to doodle while casually listening to Pathoma.
To hear more about time management, watch my brief video below:
Paper: Whitelines graph paper
Pens I use: Hi-tec Maica 0.3 mm fine tip
Highlighters: Zebra Midliner