My calendar is quickly filling up and I’m just now entering my third week of the school year. Gone are the warm days of summer with infinite possibilities and in are class schedules, weekly volunteer shifts, and extracurricular activities, just to start with. We won’t talk about the massive amount of coffee stops between these events though! I am and will continue to be busy and I’m welcoming it with open arms. A busy schedule, however, such as that of a pre-med student, can quickly become disorganized and overwhelming if not managed early on in the process. I’ve experienced my own time management struggles in the past and have learned some helpful lessons I’m going to share with you today. As a reminder, find what works best for you personally and implement that in your own life. I’m only sharing what’s best for me; you may be completely different. So, here it is, my tips on managing a busy schedule this semester:
Use a Mix of Tools
To keep up with everything, I like using both a paper planner and my phone calendar together. I found that this mix suits all my needs; the reminders on my phone about classes and events are sometimes necessary for remembering when and where I should be and the visual depiction a paper planner provides allows me to better visualize and plan my weeks out. Using these tools together, I have better time management and control over my life, freeing me from the stress that chaos and disorganization ultimately brings.
If you already have a phone, why not use it?
I set recurring events in my phone calendar for classes, volunteer shifts and anything else that is predictable. Adding in the location, such as the building and room numbers for lectures, and any other pertinent information is helpful if I’m running late and can’t remember where I need to go. A quick glance at my phone and I’m all set! Non-recurrent events are put into my phone calendar the moment I make plans to attend; if not, I run the risk of forgetting to add the event later on. On busy days, I may look at this calendar several times.
Paper Planners aren’t old fashioned
My paper planner has the same recurrent events in the daily calendar section but with more details, such as assignments due or study goals, such as writing the introduction for an essay. On the side, I may add notes about events I’m interested in but haven’t made plans to attend. Workouts, errands, and anything that is more personal is also added here. I use the big calendar at the beginning of each monthly section only for major events, such as big tests or birthdays. I use my planner daily and rely on it as a source of information for all the small details I might otherwise forget. Sunday nights are a good time to prepare for the week by sitting down and reviewing what events and obligations the next week holds.
Preparation is the foundation of good time management
At the beginning of this school year, I sat down with my phone, planner and syllabi. I added all the regular events to my phone and added my husband to the calendar so he could get some sense of my schedule. I then added each class with test dates, holidays and assignments due on paper. A few hours of work and the foundation of my planner was done. From there, it was easy to add any subsequent events. I love that I’m able to look at my calendar and visualize my schedule.
It’s all about you: Personalize
When adding your life to a planner, make it fun and personalize! I like writing in bright colors for each event and adding in cute stickers. But personalization doesn’t stop there. For example, something that I enjoy are lists, especially when it comes to homework. Sitting down, looking at my list, and working my way down just resonates with me. The planner I’m using this year has a blank note page at the beginning of each month which I used to write out the name of each class in ink with plenty of space after it. As I’m going through my lectures and labs, I write down things I need to do in pencil next to the class it pertains to. Later on, I’m able to focus my studying based on the list. At the end of the week, I may still have items left there, which I try to check off during the weekend so I can erase them and start fresh Monday morning. I do a similar thing with tracking my study hours at the bottom of the page so I can ensure each class is getting enough attention. These changes were made based on my preferences, current needs, and weaknesses to help me be a more efficient student and therefore have better time management overall.
This is the planner you need to buy
So, what planner do you need? The one that works for you. We all have different needs and preferences, so shop around. Not all planners are created equal. I’ve purchased some I never ended up using because they didn’t have enough room for detail, which I found through trial and error that I need. They were undeniably cute, but they didn’t get used for anything more than a decoration.
As you find your perfect fit, consider the size of planner you want, how much detail you need to add in it, and how exactly you will be using it. For me, a large planner that could cover every aspect of my life and more was what I wanted. I purchased one from the company Plum Paper, who lets you personalize everything from the size, front cover, design, to every little detail inside the cover very easily on their website. I even added pre-made budget, meal, fitness and blog sections to my planner. I created one beast of a planner, which is perfect for me. I think this company’s planners would work great for many pre-meds who enjoy the planning process like I do. Ultimately, you should find what works best for you. There are a lot of great companies out there with planners for each kind of person with their unique needs. The key is just getting started so you can have better control of your time and life.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” I hope I’ve provided you with some useful tips. I would love to hear yours!