When I was a physical therapy student, I worked two or three jobs depending on the semester. Having just one job was frowned upon at the University of Maryland. I found this out one night when I waited on the department chair.
Working as a PT student is discouraged for good reason. The expectation during any PT or PTA program is that A LOT of your time outside of class or lab will be spent studying. Having another time commitment automatically cuts into that ability.
But, what is a student to do? School isn’t free, and neither is the rent, or food, or electricity. So, working is a necessity for many of us.
Likewise, you can’t avoid your family responsibilities for two or three years. Children need to be fed, spouses need attention, and pets need to be walked.
So, if you can’t get out of the commitments you have, how are you going to manage it all? Effective time management baby! My dad is a time management speaker, and he taught me a lot about managing my time.
One of the most important things you can do to effectively manage your time is to use one, and only one, calendar for all of your scheduled events and to do lists. The average person has 13 different ways of keeping track of their time. Students, for example, have multiple syllabi, with multiple due dates for exams, assignments, papers, projects, and more. Add to that a work schedule, doctor’s appointments, car maintenance appointments, your significant other’s work/travel/life schedule, and you get the picture. You can also multiply it by a factor of 10 if you have children to keep track of.
Having everything in one place significantly decreases the chances that things will fall through the cracks. You can stop forgetting birthdays, avoid missing important school due dates, and escape paying bills late.
Get a portable date book, that you can (and will) take everywhere with you (OK, you can leave it on the counter when you shower). Because, if you don’t have it, you can’t use it. I recommend Day-Timer® or Day-Runner® products. You can usually get either at a local office supply store. Get a two page per month, and a one (or two) page per day style, and put them both in one planner. Use the monthly calendar to record all of your scheduled dates and times. Use the one (or two) page per day section to record your to do list.
When you look at the monthly calendar, think about the things you need to do leading up to any scheduled events. For example, if you need to write a paper due at the end of the semester, break up that large, daunting task into smaller ones, and record those smaller steps onto the pages of your to do list section. You might write, “choose paper topic,” on September 15th, then, “complete literature search,” on October 1st. This strategy will help you avoid some of the procrastination so common to student life.
Make a fresh to do list for every day. There is nothing worse than waking up to a list of all the things you couldn’t get done the day before. Using the one (or two) page per day section, you are not simply shifting everything you have to do from one page to the next. Only write down items on the day you can reasonably expect and need to get them done. We can all probably think of 100 things that need to be done in our lives. But, we know most of those things will have to be done over a period of days, weeks, months and years. If I put all 100 things on one list and had to look at it every day that could create some serious anxiety. If I spread those 100 things across a multi-day to do list, it’s not so daunting and my stress level comes way down.
So, stop by your local home office supply store today and pick up a planner and start filling it in with all of your appointments, scheduled events and to do lists. You’ll be that much more successful as a physical therapy student when you start to control your time.
© 2011 The PT Student