Managing your time at medical school

“There’s too much going on at medical school!”

“I just can’t keep track of it all!”

“How am I supposed to organise my studies and my extracurricular activities?”

You may have heard yourself asking these questions when you’ve been handed your timetable. It can definitely be overwhelming when you see everything that you’ve got planned, and it can make you wonder: where’s the time for me?

Time management is something that many students find difficult in the transition to university. You go from living at home to going to school everyday, likely with your parents organising a lot of your time and telling you what to do when. Once you get to university, however, all of that is on you. It can quickly become a bit too much to deal with. This stress can lead you to feel like you want to stop attending lectures or other scheduled classes. I’ve written this blog post to share with you my best tips for how to make your timetable work for you whilst at medical school. 

Keeping on top of everything

The best way to stay organised is by keeping up to date with all of the communications from your university. Regularly check your emails and any other course announcements so that you don’t miss anything. It can also be handy to have folders that you can sort your emails into to refer to them later on. If you have two email accounts (such as a personal Gmail account and then a university Outlook account), you may find it useful to reroute emails from your Outlook account into your personal account so that all of your emails are in one place. 

Start a digital calendar

Digital calendars are great because you can share them with people to let them know your availability and you can change things quickly and easily. A digital calendar also allows you to insert links, pictures and locations which can be really helpful. Keeping everything in one place also means that you can save time you would have otherwise spent rifling through your emails.

Keep a to-do list

For me, I write myself a to-do list on a Sunday of all of the things that I want to get done for that week and which day I want to get them done by. This is great for helping me to visualise things to do. It’s also satisfying to cross things off once I’ve done it!

Meal prepping

Prepping all of your meals for the week on one day over the weekend can save you time and money. It takes the guesswork out of knowing what to cook and also stops you from buying food that you end up throwing away. Meal prepping saves me so much time and it’s lovely to come home from placement to have my tea ready and waiting for me. Personally, I plan all of my meals for the term at the start so that I don’t have to think of what to cook each week, which saves me some stress.

Do things that you enjoy and have things to look forward to

If you are not practising self-care and spending time on things outside of medicine, it is very easy to become burnt out. This will make it difficult to stay motivated and is also not great for your overall mental health. In the midst of a heavy timetable and clinical placements, it can be easy to forget to plan holidays and time with your friends. If you have something in the future to look forward to and work towards, it can make staying motivated much easier!

Know when to say no

It’s always important to know how to set boundaries and let people know if you can’t take on any more work – don’t be a yes-man. Always take care of yourself first and foremost.

If you’re feeling burnt-out or overwhelmed, that is perfectly normal and most medical students will experience this from time to time – but it doesn’t have to be that way forever! Reach out to your friends and members of the medical school faculty if you are experiencing symptoms of burnout as there are plenty of people and resources there to help you.

written by Aisia Lea

Aisia is a medical student at the University of Nottingham interested in increasing diversity in medical resources and widening participation to medicine. You can follow her on Instagram @aisialeamedic.

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