Time Management

Time management is all about good, disciplined habits and plenty of planning. Its also about setting realistic, workable goals. Good time management, which facilitates positive goals, can lead to better health, grades, and relationships by effectively using your time on tasks that matter the most.

To get started, here's some great tips: Time Management

On this page:

  • Procrastination

  • Scheduling

  • Time Tracking

  • SMART goals

  • References


Cramming doesn't really work long term. Cramming may get you through a single exam or quiz, but crammed information does not stick, and you’ll just have to re-learn it later.

How will you avoid procrastination? The best way is to make a detailed schedule and stick to it. See the scheduling resources below.

Getting Started When You Don’t feel Like it

The Name Game:

Sometimes, you’ll need to prime your brain to get started. That requires doing some lighter work that helps you get in the study mood. The name game gives you a chance to brain dump terms, labels, or information you already know, and have a quick review. You literally list the names of specific things related to the topic you’re preparing to study. You can list on the whiteboard, or say the names out loud, or even quiz a friend. For example, when preparing to study pharmacology for Cardio, list out examples of the drugs you know, from memory, like different Anti-arrhythmic drug class. This kind of light effort primes your brain to be ready for harder study.

Light Review

You’ll always have lots of review, but some material is easier to process. You can use easy material to prime your brain to be ready to dive into the harder stuff. Generally, 10 - 15 minutes of light review will be enough to get you ready.


Have you ever procrastinated because you just feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start? There’s just too much material, and your mind goes blank. One way to get started is by breaking down the overwhelming tasks into smaller more managable chunks. This will not only help you as you study, but also the act of deciding what to include in separate chunks will help prime your brain.

Practical Cramming

Cramming does have one practical use: If you've procrastinated yourself into a hole, and you don’t have time for a genuine study plan, then cramming can buy you some time. But be warned: every time you cram just to make it through, you’re just digging your long-term hole deeper. Cramming is a temporary solution that will buy you some time to make a real, committed study plan.

If necessary, here is a great strategy for structured cramming: Emergency Test Preparation


Nothing can take the place of an old fashioned schedule. However, the more detailed and intentional you are about your schedule, the better off you’ll be. Spending time building a detailed schedule and planning your days will pay off in major time saved later on.

General Schedule Advice:

  • Make a schedule now. The sooner you develop scheduling as a habit, the better.

  • Make a schedule that works for you. Schedule by the day, the week, the month, or whatever is most useful for you. You might even consider scheduling hour-by-hour for a week.

  • Prioritize tasks. Know what things MUST get done versus what could get done.

  • Each night, review what is on your schedule for the next day.

  • Be as detailed as possible. Put everything relevant on your schedule. Don’t assume that you’ll remember things like taking meds or making dinner.

  • Keep a daily check-list and cross things off as you do them.

  • Don’t schedule big blocks for study time on one thing. Research shows that smaller, varied study blocks are more productive (see ’Interleaving’ and ‘distributed practice’ under the “Study Skills” tab).

  • Schedule blocks for sleep and relaxation. Burnout is a real thing and can happen fast when you are exhausted.

  • Your schedule should always be accessible. Keep it somewhere you will visit often: on the wall of the kitchen, on the back of your ipad, on your phone, or programmed into your google home for easy access.

  • If possible, customize your schedule for you. Only put items on your schedule that you have to be involved with. Is your uncle taking your dog to the vet for you? Good. Leave it to him and leave it off your schedule.

  • Stick to the schedule as much as possible.

  • Cut yourself some slack if you have to eliminate some things or move things around. You’re a human. You get to feel overwhelmed.

Using Your School Calendar as a Framework

The life of a Med Student revolves around school. Class, studying, exams, it all has to be prioritized. Here’s some great advice on how to use your school calendar to plan your semester.

Any.do App

Find this app for free in the apple app store. It will keep track of your task list, notes, and appointments. The best part of Any.do is that after phone calls and texts, it will remind you to write notes and put appointments on your calendar.

Time Tracking

168 Hour Spreadsheet

There are only 168 hours in a week. In that time, you have to sleep, eat, work, study, bathe, and everything else. Keeping a spreadsheet will help you track every single thing you do for one week. It can also be used to plan how you will balance your time--what will you do with 168 hours each week? What is most important? What won’t make the cut?


  • Reflectively: track everything for one week to see where time is wasted.

  • Proactively: plan your week an hour at a time.

Download the spreadsheet here: 168 Hour Weekly Time Tracker

Kronos Time Tracker App

Find this app in the apple app store for free. It will track everything you do on the internet, and give you a detailed report of how much time you are spending on social media, email, school sites, etc.

Smart Goals

SMART is an acronym used in goal setting (Doran, 1981). It stands for:

  • S – Specific.

  • M – Measurable.

  • A – Attainable, Actionable, or Action Plan.

  • R – Relevant, Rewarding, or Results.

  • T – Time-Bound.

Creating and sticking to goals that meet these criteria will help you not only critically think about your goal, but also help set you up for success by efficient planning. Only you can decide if your goal meets the criteria, so you must evaluate the goal you set.

When creating a SMART goal, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Specific - Is my goal as specific as I can make it? Do I know exactly what I need to accomplish? How do I know it is the right goal?

  • Measurable - How will I measure my gains and success? Is there more than one way to measure, and if so, which one is best? Should I develop a timeline for my goal?

  • Attainable, Actionable, or Action Plan - Can I actually meet this goal? Do I have the skills, means, and resources I need? What is my action plan? What will I have to do to make positive progress?

  • Relevant, Rewarding, or Results - Why do I want to achieve this goal? Is it a worthwhile use of my time and effort? What will be positive about meeting this goal?

  • Time-Bound - How soon should I expect to achieve my goal? What is a reasonable time frame to complete everything I need to do?

After answering these questions, use your answers to revise your goal. Consider asking a friend for feedback.

Here’s a prompt for using SMART goals to make a boards prep study plan: SMART Boards Prep


Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write managements’ goals and objectives. Management Review, 70, 35–36.