For many aspiring medics, the New Year may come with additional pressures and commitments. It might be the start or continuation of the medical school interview period, or you might be beginning to plan your UCAS application (whilst studying for your A-levels). Whatever stage of the journey to medical school you are at, it can be tricky to juggle all of your commitments. Here are five top tips for good time management, and strategies to help you effectively balance all of your commitments this New Year.
1. Create a Medical School Application Timetable
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, so having a plan can help to break your day into manageable chunks. This way you know that each task or activity has an allocated slot. Some people like to timetable all of their time into hour or half-hour blocks. Other people find something like this too restrictive and prefer to just make a list of what they need to get done and tackle it when it suits them. Try out as many methods as you need to find what works for you.
It is important to plan long term, as big deadlines such as UCAS and your UCAT exam might fall around the same time. Having a longer-term plan can help you to avoid having massive amounts to do in a short space of time – rather you can spread the work over a longer period if you get organised early.
It is important to recognise that you only have a limited amount of time and that sometimes you cannot juggle everything. Therefore it is essential to prioritise the tasks that are most crucial. Try to group everything into these 4 categories:
Urgent and important
Important but not urgent
Urgent but not important
Not urgent and not important
Consider re-evaluating anything that gets put into category 4 – is it even actually worthwhile? Once everything in the first category is done, move on to 2 and then 3. If your first category is rather large, try to plan when you will tackle anything in category 2 and see if anything in category 3 can wait for another time.
Prioritisation is a good skill to practise even if you have ample time to fit everything in. It’s a good habit to get into, that will become exceptionally useful at University. It can also help you to make more time for yourself to do extra-curricular activities, like exercise and hobbies.
3. Make a Relevant New Year’s Resolution
A New Year’s resolution is a great excuse to hold yourself accountable for your own improvement. Choose an objective that is of high importance to you, that you might have been struggling to keep on top of in the past. This should ideally be something in either category 1 or 2 as outlined above. Make it achievable and useful, such as averaging 1 hour of MMI preparation per day. Averaging the time spent per day allows you some flexibility for unscheduled occurrences.
4. Use Your Time Effectively
To maximise productivity, it is important to utilise your time in the most efficient way possible. Learn when you work most effectively and be sure to use this time. For many people this will be early morning, but it differs from person to person. Work in 45-minute or 60-minute intervals, making sure to take regular breaks or switch tasks when you find yourself getting distracted or slowing down. It is also important to find out how long tasks actually take you so that you can plan realistically and make the most of whatever time you have.
5. Look After Yourself
You will not be able to successfully balance all of your commitments this New Year if you don’t look after yourself. Making sure you have time to yourself and ensuring you are well rested will help you to manage everything else far better. Keep up your hobbies and the things that make you happy, or else you might find yourself easily drained and demotivated. You are never too busy to eat healthily, get enough sleep and do some exercise. A healthy body and a healthy mind will make for a healthier and happier you. If you have balance across your life, you are less likely to become overwhelmed and burn out.
As an aspiring medic, you are likely to have a lot on your plate, whatever stage you are at. Use these tips to help navigate 2020 and make the most of your time.
Words by Safiya Zaloum
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