Have you ever felt that the 24 hour day is just not enough? Well, you are not alone, this is a common feeling for anyone with a busy schedule.
Working daily hours as a surgical resident, combined with frequent heavy and long days, up to 25 hour shifts, at the emergency department, might feel quite overwhelming for many. Suddenly you also have to combine this with your own research and PhD studies. Having a calendar fully booked – days, evenings, and weekends – with clinical work, research, symposias, congresses, PhD courses, lectures, assignments, and deadlines. This hectic schedule with a constant feeling of being pulled in different directions, could potentially make anyone have a breakdown. Not to mention the simultaneous desperate strive to balance it all with a social and healthy life-style, beside this daily chaos. This is the reality for several young doctors, including myself.
So, how did I end up here? Working under high pressure, with high demands is common for many medical students or young doctors. Starting with the fact that the medical education is achievement oriented, following with the competitive nature of residency and the high stakes of medical practice.
To further specialize in a specific field in medicine or surgery, research is highly valued. Which, in turn, forces many medical students or young doctors to begin their scientific studies early, often alongside the studies or clinical work. This achievement focused mindset will easily and slowly build up, and if left unattended it may spiral into an unsustainable situation.
So how does one survive this endless roller coaster ride?
You simply need to master time management. After a few years of struggling with this as a medical student and young doctor, I finally realized the value of time management. Over the past few years I’ve tried to develop and polish these skills. Time management is an essential skill for everyone, not only for busy doctors or researchers. Unfortunately, this valuable asset is something that gets too little attention. We all have several goals in our lives, either short- or long-term goals. The question whether we will achieve them depends on our time management and priorities. Start by realizing that you can’t change the flow of time but you can change how you manage it. By managing your time more efficiently you can improve your professional performance and personal satisfaction. The key is to decide your priorities first. Set realistic expectations and prioritize wisely. Concentrate on important tasks with high values and don’t waste energy and time on things that are not as important.
Above all, effective time management will make you achieve as much of your goals as possible. Rather than recapturing time, focus on how you want to spend the time that’s left in the best possible way. Even if this might feel challenging in the beginning, consider it as a great opportunity to develop skills you simply cannot learn from a textbook, and that will be useful in many years to come.
Doctoral Programme in Clinical Research
University of Helsinki