Time. It flies, it is wasted, it is traveled. Whatever you do with time, know that med school will take up a lot of it. Learning to manage time and find the balance between endless studying and season-less binge watching is a skill and an art. Below are some tried and tested tools you can use to help with time management.
We grab our phones to text that one friend about meeting up next weekend. Twenty minutes later, we are three articles deep off from a Facebook post when we realize that we still haven’t texted him. Smart phones have this crazy way of distracting us, and we hardly even realize it. If you ask me, I am 94% sure iPhones will take over the world in the next few years. Either way, you’d be surprised at how long you spend on your mobile device. Moment is a free app that tracks how many minutes (or hours) you spend on your phone daily. Speaking from experience, it’s a little scary when you check the app at the end of the day. The first few days, I realized that I was easily hitting 2 hours of screen time. I looked back on my day and definitely did not remember sitting for two hours straight on my phone. But looking through the app history, it shows the exact times you opened your phone and how long you stayed on it. I was never on for more than 5 minutes, but those little chunks of time add up. When you’re about to crash for the night, wishing you could get an extra hour or two of sleep, that’s when you might think about being more conscious about how you use your phone. I realized that cutting down my phone usage could give me that extra snooze time. By being more aware of my time, I can happily say that my head hits the pillow a little earlier each day.
An important step in managing your time is to actually see where it is going. Toggl is a free time tracker website that lets you log in and start timing your activities. It lets you see how long you spent on an activity (studying lecture 3), as well as giving you the option to tag similar activities into “projects” so you can see your daily time commitment to that project. I used this quite a bit in undergrad, when I felt like I was studying “for hours and hours” and would plan on taking a few 10-minute breaks. Tracking my time on Toggl showed me just how wrong I was. Whenever I would sit down to study, I would log in and start a timer so I could see how long I had actually been studying. Same for breaks. It turned out that I would usually get fed up studying pretty quickly, and my “breaks” would be longer than my study sessions. Thanks to Toggl, I became accustomed to studying for longer periods of time and actually keeping my breaks consistent and short.
This one is not for the faint of heart. Strict Work Flow is based on the Pomodoro technique, which consists of 25 minutes of solid work and then a 5 minute break. It can be downloaded as an extension on google chrome and will show up as a tiny tomato in the corner of your web browser. When you press that dastardly vegetable (fruit?), you will instantly be blocked from accessing Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, Pinterest, fun etc. This will go on for 25 minutes, until a savior green tomato will appear and grant you access to these sites for the next 5 minutes. This technique is useful if you need to do some focused but not so exciting work on your laptop, like reading a few chapters from your online pdf. Having a bunch of distracting websites a few clicks away can be tempting, but Strict Work Flow keeps you in check before rewarding you with a break.
The take away from this is not to become an obsessive time cruncher and minute calculator, but to instead be more aware of where your time is going. Keep taking breaks while studying to eat snacks and catch up with your shows, but also think about using the tools above when you need to find a balance and gear up for study mode.