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Your final year is a juggling act between all-important tests and exams with your other commitments, be it sport, music or a part-time job. On top of this, you have to squeeze in quality time for your family, friends and personal relationships. Well, once you leave this final year, you may find the added pressures of medical school can be overwhelming at times! Here are my trialled-and-tested tips for reining in the chaos that University can be at times. Honestly, if someone had given me these three pointers in my first few weeks at university, it would have made the transition immeasurably easier! These tips can also be used for managing your time effectively at school.
#1 Calendar equals life. Do you often find yourself running around with the feeling like you’re meant to be somewhere, but not quite sure where? Or perhaps you always find yourself rushing to make your commitments on time? The simple solution to this is to invest in a calendar (preferably electronic so it syncs across all your devices). Properly used, this handy tool can save you from wasting any precious brain space remembering important dates or times, and gives you the confidence to make upcoming plans. In my own experience with Outlook Calendar (synced on my phone), I can see my personal, work and University calendars all on the one interface and to this I’ve also synced Facebook events and birthdays. Getting used to adding events and personalising reminder preferences can be tedious but once mastered, the Calendar tool is one of the most fool-proof and guaranteed ways of bringing order to a hectic schedule. A senior medical student peer of mine once put it aptly – “If it’s my calendar, I’ll make sure it happens”. In other words, calendar equals life.
#2 Make a to-do list. This is the most simple, cost-effective and sure-fire way to make sure you get things done! If you look at the desktops of almost any medical student, you’ll see a row of colourful ‘Sticky notes’, each with a heading like “Medicine”, “Work”, “College”, “Personal Life”, with a list of things to be done under each relevant heading. Crossing off small tasks is immensely satisfying, and it is easy to pop down an item on a list when it occurs to you. I prefer desktop notes so that they are easily visible every time I use my laptop (which is a lot of the time).
#3 Respond now, not later. With the advent of social media, you can find yourself constantly inundated with emails and texts, especially as you start University. If you’re anything like me, you find yourself drowning in unopened or not-responded-to communications. Often, these can include important class details, deadlines or changes to plans. My pro-tip for tackling this would be to create a designated half-hour every day or so to respond to emails promptly. Categorise emails into different folders so that all your work emails are in one place, all medicine-related are in another etc. This allows you to keep a track of threads for the one area. If you receive an email asking for you to confirm something or voice an opinion and you’re not ready to respond on the spot, reply with something along the lines of “Thanks for your email, I’m still in the process of deciding but will get back to you as soon as possible”. This lets your sender know that you received and read the email and also gives you adequate time to gather your thoughts.