Juggling academic commitments with multiple extracurricular activities is central to climbing the scholastic ladder for most American students. This juggling act requires one to develop exceptional time management skills, which ultimately translates into a more productive, successful, and happy life. If you have your sights set on getting into medical school and becoming a physician, it is important to hone your time management repertoire while you are a college student. Here are five basic time management habits that you should adopt while you are in college.
1 | Minimize Procrastination by Understanding and Curating Your Optimal Study Environment
Decreasing the amount of time you spend procrastinating will assuredly improve your time management. Here are five actionable tips that will help you minimize the amount of time you spend procrastinating:
A | Identify Your Study Spots
Identify all the study spaces where you are best able to concentrate and get work done. This might include your own room, libraries, cafes, departmental lounges, empty rooms, your college’s outdoor areas, etc. All these environments have their associated pros and cons. It is up to you to identify your favorite study spots and maintain a list so you can rotate between them based on your whims or outside factors (e.g., you need to study for a midterm and you like studying in your room, but your roommates are throwing a party, so you head to your favorite cubicle in the library).
B | Block Time-Wasting Applications on Your Devices
It is easy and tempting to waste hours on various applications like Instagram, Facebook, or Netflix. Minimize the time you spend on these time-wasting apps by setting up roadblocks using productivity apps like FocusMe (this is an example, not necessarily an endorsement. Do your own research and select the productivity app that best fit your needs)
C | Silence Your Phone and Put It out of Reach
Smartphones are huge time-wasters, but it is impractical to block every single application on your phone. Furthermore, phones have minimal utility while studying, unlike your computer or tablets. Thus, it is important to keep your phone out of your immediate reach and hopefully out of your mind. I like keeping my phone on vibrate and placing it in another room.
D | Study with Other People
Studying in a group, especially with friends who are themselves studious and diligent, is a powerful strategy for staying productive and minimizing procrastination. Find your study buddies and help each other stay focused.
E | Invest in Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Many people find that listening to music (or silence) helps them stay focused while they are studying. Thus, it is important to invest in a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones.
2 | Plan the Year on an Electronic Calendar and a Planner
At the beginning of each semester or quarter, print out all the syllabi from each of your courses and lay out your coursework for the semester or quarter. Identify when your major projects are due and when your exams, midterms, and finals occur. Note these academic milestones in a bold color (e.g., red) in both an electronic calendar and a physical planner. It is recommended to purchase this planner at the beginning of the academic or calendar year. Do the same with all your extracurricular activities (e.g., if you are a musician, note all your major performances throughout the year).
3 | Make Daily and Weekly To-Do Lists in a Planner
Use your planner as an evolving to-do list that you check and update daily. Constantly add new tasks that come to mind and cross out tasks that you have completed. During the weekend, look ahead to the coming week and note all major assignments, errands, and extracurricular commitments that you must accomplish.
4 | Look Up Application Deadlines and Start Them Early
While a stellar GPA and MCAT score are the foundations of a successful pre-med student, it is really your extracurricular activities that distinguish you from other applicants and help get you that coveted acceptance to medical school. Therefore, pre-med students must be cognizant of extracurricular opportunities to distinguish themselves and take the initiative to secure these opportunities. For example, a high-yield extracurricular activity is doing research. Undergraduate research positions are generally hard to come by, especially at large research universities where there is more competition for limited numbers of slots for undergraduate research assistants or REUs (Research Experiences for Undergraduates). Building a habit of applying for extracurricular opportunities early will not only help you get into medical school but also help you succeed as a physician.
5 | Sandwich Your Schoolwork and Extracurricular Activities
Construct your daily schedule so that you break up your study sessions with your extracurricular activities, which enable you to take a break from studying and refresh your mind. For instance, participating in athletics is the perfect extracurricular activity for giving your mind a rest and invigorating your body with exercise and competition. After spending a few hours playing your sport, you can return to study with renewed vigor.
It is important to develop your time management skills in college if you want to go to medical school and eventually become a physician. Adopting these five basic habits early on will help you manage the demanding workload of a pre-medical student.