Streamline your workload using the 5 D’s: Do, Delete, Delay, Diminish, Distribute
- Do: Work that is of high priority and needs to be done immediately or you potentially risk negative effects.
- Delay: Delay does not mean procrastinate. Procrastination is about indefinite postponement; delaying is about consciously rescheduling something for a time when you can get it done more efficiently. Some tasks are better saved for a time when you have the right resources, information and focus to get the job done right.
- Distribute: Work that can be done as a shared service e.g. a group assignment, as some work is best done by someone other than you.
- Diminish: Work that does not need to be at the “gold” standard. Work that you can afford to reduce the effort required e.g: reducing the frequency, shortening, or consolidating the time you spend on that particular task, without losing the essential elements that are adding value
- Delete: Work that does not add value and is not constructive therefore you can delete them with no negative effect.
“Deciding what not to do is just as important as deciding what to do”.
Write down all of the deadlines/ key dates in your current semester
I believe that this is the best way for you to prioritise, consciously keep in mind what is to come and encourages you to get started early. By doing this it also means that you will no excuse for not being prepared. For example: I have a Clinical Skills Examination coming up at the end of March. Since January, I’ve had the date written down and put it in a place where I can see it and continually be reminded of it; so every week since January I go over 1 clinical examination in detail and gradually increase the intensity as I draw closer to the exam.
Know what is expected
One of the most difficult aspects of Medicine that I struggled to come to terms with was the fact that there was so much content to learn but I soon came to realise that there is no such thing as a perfect student and there will be stuff that I do not know. However, It is important to be able to identify what your Medical School or organisation expects you to know and prioritise this. The worst thing is working aimlessly and spending a large amount of time learning about things you aren’t required to know. Recognise what is required and establish whether or not you are meeting those requirements and if you are not meeting them, then how are you not meeting them. This helps you establish a plan of action and makes sure you cover all bases.
I can boldly say that organisation changed my life! This year I made being organised a priority and realised how much I struggle without structure. I bought myself a diary which if I’m honest I don’t really use but what I use the most to stay organised is the Calendar on my phone which is synced to my Medical School Timetable and my To Do List Notebook. I also organise my notes using colour coded binders and have very specific folders on my laptop to keep my lecture notes, this makes it easier to access during exam/ stressful periods. It’s so important to find a system that works for you. If you haven’t already, check out our blog post on Note-Taking in Medical School.
Make good use of your weekend
I recognise the fact that I do need to rest so I normally try not to schedule work for the weekends but I use the weekends to tie up loose ends on topics I have learnt during the week. It really is the perfect time to catch up on work. If you have caught up with notes and have no plans, spend an hour going over previous topics from earlier during the year or just reading for the topics for next week, then you can ease the amount of work you have to do during the week. I also use the weekend to cover content from throughout the year or do practise questions but I also try not to do work that is too heavy. Weekends are for rejuvenation, so use this time to also give yourself some TLC, putting yourself under less pressure.
Go to lectures
I know this is a lot easier said than done but it honestly does pay off in the long run and saves a lot of time whilst relieving the workload. Going over lecture notes acts to reinforce previously learned knowledge and therefore takes less time than approaching an unfamiliar topic and attempting to make sense of the lectures slides on your own. And if we are brutally honest with ourselves most times if you stay it home you do not use that missed lecture time effectively.
Make a revision schedule
Try and be specific by stating exactly what you want to cover in that time. For example: I used to just write Cardiology, but because I did not know exactly what I wanted to cover I’d spend half the time deciding what I was going to revise. Be specific by also including normal daily tasks such as: eating, sleeping, breaks, gym, even phone calls with friends & family. It is so important to find a balance between studying enough and resting! Additionally, try and make it early and ideally have a pre-exam revision schedule structure and an exam season revision schedule structure because exam season revision is a lot more intense. The main thing is to be realistic and actually make one that you can stick with this includes making room for the unexpected e.g. assign a catch up day or catch up hour.
Get your work done early/ Give yourself your own personal deadlines
This is a personal favourite of mine, I’ve been doing this for years and it has helped me so much. Maybe it is the African in me that knows that left to my own devices I’d be late for absolutely everything, so I have to make an extra conscious effort to get my work done early to avoid being overly stressed. Try and give yourself early deadlines than is expected e.g. a week earlier or a few days earlier than the deadline set by your university depending on the nature of the task. This instils self-discipline, puts your mind at ease and leaves room in case anything goes wrong so you do not end up panicking. If you haven’t already, check out our blog post on Time Management.
Try not to procrastinate
The worst thing about procrastination is that it is so tempting and you do not feel the impact of procrastinating until it is too late and causes a huge amount of stress. I believe everyone is guilty of procrastinating, it is completely natural. But the panic as a result of procrastination makes you more likely to forget things and has a ripple effect on other aspects of your life. Trying not to procrastinate is all about making the conscious effort to stay up to date with your reading and lectures and recognising that the most difficult task is just ‘getting started’.
“Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”
Take a break
It is so easy to neglect taking a break but as soon as we realise that taking a break does not necessarily equate to a ‘want’ but rather a ‘need. Medicine is especially hard to switch off from but ‘the only way we can give our best is if we are at our best’. So find time to treat yourself or just do something you enjoy e.g. YouTube, games, sports, gym, going out with friends. If it means scheduling them in then do it, just as long as you are letting your mind rest and giving yourself a break.