Time Management Strategies for PGY1

There are two main reasons to focus on time management when you transition into your residency program. The first is to decrease your chance of burnout, and the second is to deliver higher-quality patient care. Time management can improve both of these challenges.

Medical students are often ill-equipped in time management skills to successfully negotiate their busy environment during postgraduate year one (PGY1). Up until now, you’ve been focusing on knowledge and skill acquisition over individual time or work-life balance. You may be thinking you can pull through and think about time management after residency, but lack of time management skills will decrease your productivity and your continued education. If you don’t start working on it now, time management problems can be a contributor to professional failure.

How to Get Started with Time Management

The first thing you must do when starting to practice better time management is to change your attitude. You must be willing to take the steps necessary to manage time, which means investing some time in yourself. There are steps, like making lists and writing goals, that take time in order to make time, and you have to see these actions as having worth. Prioritizing time management is the solution to professional and personal limitations.

Secondly, stop thinking about your limitations as too many things to do and too little time. It is about your activities and your results, not about how many hours there are in a day. Focusing on getting things done and prioritizing those things increases productivity.

Steps to Time Management

  1. Identify and prioritize current tasks: This means writing down a to-do list and identifying what needs to be accomplished, what should be accomplished, and what could be delayed. The more detail you put into this list, the more effective your time management will be.
  2. Set goals: Before you go about analyzing your current tasks, identify or set goals for what you need to accomplish. This includes work-life balance. What is important in your personal life? Is it time with friends or time spent doing a hobby? Is it family? Is it connecting with nature? Make sure you include yourself in your goals, not just your residency and professional goals.
  3. Track yourcurrent time expenditures: Be honest when you do this. How much time did you spend on social media? How much time did you spend dragging your feet to get to the hospital when you could have arrived early? Time management is about looking for those morsels of time that are wasted every day and turning those into productive times. Part of productive time is relaxation, but it is often replaced with distraction.
  4. Consider behavior: Many physicians report that interruptions are a big time challenge in the medical profession. A behavior as simple as closing your office door or silencing app notifications on your phone can increase productivity. Don’t let yourself be that person that doesn’t have time to use the bathroom. It doesn’t result in beneficial outcomes in the long-run.
  5. Manage Your Schedule and Behavior: Of course, the duty to patient care gets in the way of time management, as it should. The challenges of the human body are unforeseeable, but prioritization of your schedule combined with the elimination of time-wasting behaviors makes room for the challenges of variable schedules and unexpected changes.
  6. Don’t try to multi-task: Nobody can multi-task efficiently. Studies show that multi-tasking actually results in a loss of productivity (possibly around 40%). It also increases the chance for errors and increases mental fatigue. Instead of multi-tasking, focus on one task at a time. If you have to break up your attention into 30 or 60 minute segments, that is fine. Those segments will be much more productive.

Time management capabilities are a huge indicator of job satisfaction in the medical field. Being satisfied in your career prevents burnout. Therefore, if you want to be successful in your medical career, you must invest in yourself by engaging in time management efforts.

Other Recommendations from Residents and Physicians:

  • Make to-do lists
  • Set goals
  • Be part of the team
  • Network
  • Ask for help early
  • Establish a handover system for patients
  • Avoid procrastination
  • Learn your IT system
  • Say no when necessary

As you can see, preparation is half of the battle when it comes to time management. A good support system along with some attention to the baseline knowledge you need to function in a facility can go a long ways toward minimizing time spent on overwhelming jobs such as bureaucratic tasks that must occur alongside patient care. Additionally, making sure you have a network of support on a personal and professional level helps to maintain connections and make sure you have a life outside of your profession. Many consider the medical field to be a lifestyle, and in many ways it is, but there is still room for your own personal lifestyle if you manage your time effectively.

10 Habits to Prep for the Match

If you are getting ready for the Match, you should have already picked your specialty and are looking at different options for residency programs. As any medical graduate, this is not a time for rest following graduation. However, foreign medical graduates have a few more things on their list if they want to be eligible for the Match (visa, ECFMG certification, etc.) Your time during The Match should be spent actively engaging yourself in the medical community and gaining any experience available through internships or mentorships. It can get pretty hectic, and one of the keys to success during this time is the proper management of life. Here are a few habits that will prep you for your life during the Match.

  1. Schedule:

There are all sorts of deadlines and appointments you will have during the Match. You should have already developed your own system for successful scheduling. If not, now is the time. An electronic schedule via Google or other technology is advised as a primary calendar, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Always keep a master calendar, but if post-its help you to get certain things done, recognize that. Use the tools at your disposal, but develop good habits to make you less reliant on your creative tools and more reliant on dependable primary schedules.

  1. Look at Requirements:

Start studying residency programs immediately. Look at their requirements. Look at their statistics in regards to accepting foreign medical graduates. Talk to other residents, and make sure you like the environment surrounding the programs you consider. You cannot have enough information about your residency. The more informed you are, the better you will perform during interviews.

  1. Study:

You still have exams in the horizon, so this is no time to lose your knack for information retrieval. The medical profession is a profession for lifelong learners, so never stop. With that said, studying beyond your capacity will not yield any better results.

  1. Eat:

It is important to take care of yourself in order to maintain a smart mind and an active body. Both are going to be required if you are to make it through this time. Don’t celebrate your graduation from med school too much, and don’t waste your money on fast food. Drink your water, and prep your own food or choose healthy options. This will make you ready for every day on this adventure and keep your mind sharp.

  1. Sleep:

It will not help you in any way to stay up late studying. Your mind will be tired and won’t retain anything more than it would had you spent very little time studying. Save room for sleep in your schedule, and you’ll be more productive.

  1. Build your Team:

The path to residency can get lonely because there is so much to do. Don’t set aside friends and family, as it increases your risk for burnout. If you are in a new area, meet new people. You will need them to bring some of the humanity back to this process.

  1. Practice:

Practice your interviews from the beginning. By the time you get to actual interviews, you should have your answers polished and be able to answer unexpected questions with ease. Half of the battle with interviews is making sure your personality shows. Interviewers don’t want an automated response from a memorized answer. Practice is the only way you can deliver real responses to tough questions.

  1. Meditate:

Meditation can mean so many things, but in this case it means spending some time on yourself for reflection. A residency is a career path, and you want to make the right choice professionally but also personally. Add time for reflection, so you make the right choice for your personality and strengths.

  1. Have Fun:

While you do need reflection, you also need fun. Go to a comedy show, or go on a date. Laugh a little. Remember that you are a normal person and a physician. Forgetting that you are a normal person with normal needs will make your journey tough, but a little laughter can fix it.

  1. Exercise:

Exercise can be your way of meditating or your way of remaining healthy. It is a stress reliever and a mind clearer. There are rarely any bad side effects and typically only good side effects. It can be difficult to develop a routine with non-routine schedules, so make sure you have some way of fitting it in.

Does it seem like all of these things are impossible to accomplish? They probably are. You will not be able to check all of these things off of your list every week, and prioritization is essential. However, remembering that each of these things is important will help you to fit some of them in on your schedule, and your sense of self will survive this process.

How to Take Care of Yourself as a Medical Resident

If you’ve recently Matched into a medical residency program as a foreign medical graduate (FMG) or are just beginning the Match process, then you have been warned about burnout syndrome. This warning came not because of your status as an FMG but rather the overwhelming amount of residents and medical doctors who leave the profession because of burnout.

Burnout is described as mental fatigue caused by constant stressors. Stressors during the first year of residency may come from adjusting to a new location, missing family, large workloads and learning/studying demands. Additionally, physicians are expected to exercise empathy with patients in order to provide better quality care. This caring for others is essential but does take a toll on the physician’s self-care.

The results of burnout do not affect the resident only. While new physicians may experience depression, anxiety, disturbed sleep and co-existing effects of burnout, patients also suffer. Evaluation and treatment from a provider who is burned out will not have the same level of quality. The provider may not have the focus necessary to make a diagnosis, and they may lack the empathy to deliver care in a way that fits the situation. In more extreme cases, the resident will leave the career path. All of that hard work for nothing.

As a new medical resident, you might think that burnout is not in your future. Especially after getting Matched, you’re likely pumped up and ready to get in there and practice medicine. This is normal, and you should be proud and excited, but don’t forget that you need to care for yourself during this time. Preparation and studying is essential to a successful residency. Also essential is self-care. A little focus on yourself will make your hard work less of a stressor, and you will reap many rewards in the form of motivation and mental health.

Ten Ways to Take Care of Yourself as a Medical Resident

  1. Have a hobby:

Your hobby should not be your career. Since you’ve made it this far, you are likely very passionate about medicine. However, this isn’t what your colleagues are going to want to talk about at dinner parties (at least not the entire time). Not having anything else can remove your sense of self, and it can make you feel beholden to your career at an unhealthy level. You are not a physician only. You are a person who happens to be a physician. Right now that might be hard to believe, but if you have a hobby, you’ll get some of that back. Part of the reason burnout happens is because physicians get absorbed by their careers leaving very little left of the actual person.

  1. Live with people:

Another reason for burnout is that much of medicine is emotionally charged. You will deal with death and grief, pain and suffering. It takes its toll, and you need to talk about it. Living alone is a perfect way to sink into solitude and depression, but having a couple roommates will save you. They will not only notice your slippage into the doldrums, but they are there to lend their shoulders or simply their ears. Especially if you’ve moved away, having these types of connections can be very good for emotional health. If you are a private person, make sure you have your own private areas.

  1. Exercise:

As a physician, you know about the health effects of exercise. Don’t forget about the mental health benefits. If you can do it outside, even better.

  1. Journal:

Much like communicating with others, expressing yourself on paper is an excellent stress reliever. This is particularly important when you can’t really talk about certain situations aloud.

  1. Start a project:

Much like a hobby, a project is a distraction from your career and a reminder that you are more than your position in the medical field. Any project, even doing your backed up laundry, can have a meditative effect. At the end, you get a normal, everyday sense of accomplishment without the stressful grandeur that medical accomplishment can sometimes create.

  1. Eat and drink healthily:

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and fast food. If you eat healthy, your mind will thank you. You’ll be less likely to suffer volatile emotions, and you’ll be able to persevere during those long nights and trying circumstances.

  1. Sleep:

Yes, you can sleep as a resident. And you should…any time you get. Long hours happen, but ensuring that you get enough sleep is important for your physical and mental health.

  1. Engage in leisure:

Leisurely activities are closely connected to well being. This isn’t to dissuade a person from hard work and studying habits, but even the grueling expected work of being a resident needs to be coupled with some leisurely activities.

  1. Meditate:

If you haven’t practiced meditation, it is a great way to center yourself and awaken your mind to the positive aspects of life. Finishing an effective episode of meditation is like taking a huge breath of fresh air. It is cleansing and invigorating.

  1. Laugh:

In the midst of everything, don’t forget to laugh. It truly is the best medicine for physician burnout. Get together with friends, watch funny movies, and tell jokes! Life is too short to live without laughter.

Residency is not easy, and you won’t have time to fit all of these activities in between the necessary demands of your career. But try to do some of them, and don’t forget to take care of yourself during this incredible and rewarding journey.