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Article Productivity - Time Management - Working a full time job while tying to get into Medicine

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Productivity - Time Management - Working a full time job while tying to get into Medicine

As a student, the ability to plan out and allocate your available time to commitments and tasks you need to complete is a bit of a juggling act. Although some students managed to master this pretty early on, effectively managing available time is still a work in progress for others. When I was at university, my main priorities were study, work and maintaining my social life. The balance was easy to maintain without significant compromises. After completing my tertiary studies and entering the workforce full time, time management became far more complex. No one really prepares you for that part.

I currently work full time in the field of molecular diagnostics (but am working towards getting into medicine). In the first couple of years following my graduation, I fell into a simple routine: go to work, go home, have dinner, squeeze in an hour or two of your favourite TV show, shower, sleep and repeat. Because I did not give myself the opportunity to have fun or maintain a social life, I eventually became burned out. I neglected relationships outside of work because trying to initiate a catchup looked something like:

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In an effort to alleviate my burnout, I made the decision to be intentional about making the most of the time available to me in a day. It took a few trials (and failed attempts) to figure out what works for me, but the following tools have been incredibly useful for managing my time:

1. Technology
There are times where I am required to work from home, and Apple has endeared me to them because of Continuity and Handoff (amongst many other things). These features allow me to extend my workplace across different devices, meaning I can create a document on my phone while in transit to work and continue working on the document from my work computer or iPad. This allows me to be productive and continue working in the short moments that may be available to me. The Universal Clipboard and airdrop features allow me to quickly share text, photos or videos across my devices, minimising disruptions to my workflow. And the crown jewels: split screen and multiple desktops. I often use these features in tandem to reduce clutter from (many) other open windows and concentrate on up to two applications simultaneously. Below is a demonstration of both features:

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(Source: How to use Spaces, Apple's mostly ignored macOS Mojave productivity feature | AppleInsider)

Of course, not everyone is a fan of Apple! Google Drive is an excellent alternative that allows you to generate and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations autonomously or collaboratively. You can access your work across various devices so you can continue to work when the opportunity presents itself.

2. Digital Calendars
Taking advantage of my phone’s calendar allows me to manage events and appointments that are important to me. Using the calendar application on my phone, I can create events well in advance and coordinate schedules (for those rare occasions when a friend and I have the same day off work!). Setting up reminders leading up to the event prevents me from missing important appointments and I can create recurring appointments with very little effort.

3. Bullet Journalling
Bullet journalling is an analogue organisation system that consolidates and streamlines all tasks, notes, events and to-do lists. Bullet journals have become more widely used because they can be personalised and are far more affordable than yearly planners. They are flexible because they allow you to create a spread that can be to daily, weekly or monthly and can be adapted depending on your changing needs. It allowed me to prioritise tasks that required attention, provided a visual aid for my plans for upcoming weeks and promoted accountability in the creation of new habits (e.g. reading, exercise, sleep, healthier eating etc.).

Although the idea of keeping (and maintaining) a notebook seems outdated when technology and automation are readily accessible, I found it valuable because it helped me to de-clutter my mind by externalising my memory, thereby creating a sense of calmness. Some scientists have weighed in on the benefits of using bullet journals and research articles have been published discussing the benefits of bullet journalling in the digital age:
If bullet journalling is something that may be of interest to you, a quick Instagram search for #bujo or #bulletournal will demonstrate the wide variety of ways you can customise your planner to help with time management.

4. Taskade
If Bullet journalling sounds like a good idea but you feel more inclined to use a digital means to provide a visual representation of personal events, meetings and other commitment, there is a plethora of applications that can accomplish that! I recently discovered an application that is functionally similar to bullet journalling with the added component of collaborative task management.

You can access a variety of templates with varying functions that include productivity, trip planning, project planning, team workflow as well as bullet journalling! All personal schedules you create using the desktop application can also be accessed using your phone so you have access to your daily activity list.

Time management is a skill that requires constant practice as you transition through different life stages. It might seem like a strategy that does not apply to life once you complete your studies, but it is important in maintaining a healthy balance between professional and personal commitments. Through time management, I was able to reignite my passion for reading fiction, anime, manga learn to roller skate and sew as well as establish a sleep schedule! There are so many resources that can help you customise your time management, so my advice is to take your time exploring to find what works for you.

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