So Much to Do, So Little Time
Tips for How to Best Manage Your Schedule
By: Peyton Glass
Do you have the endurance it takes to stay a pre-med major until it’s time apply to medical school? A New York Times article shows that 60 percent of pre-medical students drop pre-med by the end of their undergraduate career.
You may be thinking, “Well of course! Have you heard the horror stories of general and organic chemistry at UGA?!” While the rigor of these notoriously difficult science courses is the reason some students drop the major, they are not entirely to blame for this astounding statistic.
A big part of successfully mastering the pre-requisite courses for medical school is time management. This is especially difficult during freshman year when starting a new social circle, joining new clubs, potentially battling homesickness, and enjoying newfound freedom on top of successfully managing the college workload. While freshman year can be overwhelming at times, just remember the main reason you are here. In order to leave undergrad as a pre-med student with as few gray hairs as possible, a balanced schedule is crucial. The following time management and study tips will help you stay balanced and minimize stress.
1. Prioritize. Figure out which tasks and events are most important and which ones can be put on hold. Be sure to stay focused on the most important tasks before you move on to the next ones. To help you better prioritize your tasks, you may want to simply make a numbered list. For instance, if you have a paper that is due in a week and a small group project that is due in a month, it makes more sense to put your paper at the top of your priority list and work on the group project later. This not only goes for academics, but your social life as well. Prioritizing extracurricular activities and a social life is important too because networking can help you make great connections, being active in clubs can help you meet new people and boost your resume, and making time to spend with your friends helps your lower stress levels and keep your support system strong.
2. Set Goals. Determine exactly what it is you want to accomplish. This could be what you want to accomplish in a day, a week, a semester, or even longer. What are your academic goals? Maybe you want to have your chemistry homework finished by the end of the week so you can enjoy your weekend. Maybe you have a goal of going to medical, dental, or optometry school, but you must first perform well in all your undergrad classes. What are your extra-curricular goals? Do you want to join an intramural sports team or a sorority or fraternity this semester? Are you interested in getting involved in volunteer work and philanthropies? Do you have any personal goals? As a pre-med student, volunteer work is a big plus on your medical school application and can be extremely rewarding. By defining and setting goals, you will be more inclined to follow through with them and accomplish your tasks.
3. Minimize Distractions. Find a place where you can not only be productive, but also relax and feel comfortable. A stress-free work zone is critical, because it will help minimize the time you spend on schoolwork and, in turn, maximize your free time! Limit the amount of time you spend on your cell phone, social networking sites, email, and surfing the internet while studying. Studying with friends can be challenging, but when done so productively, can be a great resource for the both of you. Avoid off-topic subjects and try to knock out the studying and homework first before exchanging stories and gossip. While obvious places such as the student learning center, Tate Plaza, and dorm study rooms are great, they are often crowded and distracting. Search for places on campus such as empty classrooms, smaller libraries in buildings like Boyd graduate studies, and computer labs like the bioscience learning center as an alternative study site.
4. Avoid Procrastination. As the famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said, “Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.” Many people use the excuse of working well under pressure, but procrastination is the main downfall of achieving time management skills. If you plan on completing a certain task, stick to your schedule and don’t put it off until tomorrow or next week. Doing so will only cause stress over trying to complete the task in time. You especially don’t want to put off studying for a test the night before because it is shown to result in lower test scores and grade point averages. By setting predetermined goals and prioritizing them, you will be less inclined to procrastinate. If you can finish your goals early or on time, you will have more free time to enjoy. If you are planning on attending medical school, avoiding procrastination will be essential to surviving the long haul.
5. Complete one task at a time. It is easy to get overwhelmed with homework, reading, and studying with so many different classes. Thinking about every little thing on your plate can sometimes impede starting your workload and stress you out. Keeping an agenda of each assignment for every class will help you focus on one thing at a time. It is certainly a rewarding feeling when you cross finished tasks off your list! While we would all love to multi-task our homework and finish everything at once, this is nearly impossible probably not very productive. Focusing your efforts on the task at hand can prevent careless errors and help you retain the information you are learning. This comes in handy around testing time!
6. Take Breaks! Your brain can only actively engage in studying for so long. After a couple hours at a time, you should take a mental break. A change of setting as well as getting up and moving around helps you refresh and regroup for the next couple hours of studying. Studying for too long can often be counterproductive and will most likely result in lower information retention, misreading and misunderstanding information, and extreme boredom!
Medical schools love to see that you know how to manage your time well in your undergraduate career because they want to make sure you can handle the demanding workload once you are admitted. Use your time management skills to balance a few extracurricular activities, some leadership roles, and a full load of classes. By managing your time in college wisely, you set yourself up for success when applying for medical schools.