Managing time effectively

Scenario #1

I plan to study and have every intention to do so but my focus shifts to responsibilities at home. I feel guilty if I ignore them. I want to be all things to all people. I know what my priorities are but I have problems following through with them. Something always seems to interfere with my plans and I have difficulty saying “no.” What should I do?

Scenario #2

I always seem to be able to do things that I want to do or enjoy doing. However, when tasks seem difficult, inconvenient, or scary, I shift into my procrastination mode. I say to myself, “I’ll wait until I am in the mood to do it,” “There’s plenty of time to get it done,” “I work better under pressure so I don’t need to do it now,” or “If I start early, I will forget what I learned.” What should I do?


Managing your time effectively in vet school is critical in balancing the expectations and demands of your coursework, in maximizing your enjoyment of recreation and relaxation, and in maintaining a quality lifestyle. By organizing your time, you will be able to plan and prioritize your tasks and activities to avoid cramming, to allocate adequate study time, to schedule social activities and to spend time with significant others, and ultimately, to prevent burnout.


  • Check out the hints on the CVM Academic Success page.
  • Take an accurate assessment of yourself – strengths/weaknesses, habits and traits, learning methods, time usage – be realistic in your planning.
  • Set priorities – do things that are important first instead of shifting into any “urgency” mode. This will help to decrease anxiety and to prevent procrastination.
  • Engage in task analysis – break large tasks into bite-sized bits and identify internal deadlines for the completion of these tasks.
  • Create a weekly routine of activities (e.g., background reading, notes reviews, open online quizzes, big projects). This will result in consistency in your studying and in establishing a study habit. This will also ensure the completion of all necessary tasks for each of your courses.
  • Be realistic about the time needed to complete tasks and activities. It is better to overestimate than under estimate the time needed.
  • Be assertive; learn to say “no.”
  • Delegate responsibilities whenever possible.
  • Leave some unscheduled time for unforeseen occurrences.
  • Be flexible – accommodate changes as they occur.
  • Have clear lines of communication with significant others – let them know what is in store for you and when your crunch times are.
  • Take care of yourself. Take steps to maintain personal, mental, and physical well- being in dealing with the pressures of vet school.
  • Schedule time for yourself and significant others – you need “time outs” for effective “time ins.” We all need to nourish our souls. Humor, happiness, and relationships are critical in maintaining personal well-being. You should be focusing on quality and not quantity of time spent with others.
  • To decrease anxiety and to avoid burn-out, make sure you have adequate sleep, a nutritional diet, exercise, and personal recreation time.
  • Periodically, step back and engage in self-reflection about your usage of time and the results of your studying; make modifications if necessary.

People I can Talk to:

Final Thoughts

Time management is really self-management – managing yourself in relation to time. Therefore, getting to know yourself is critical in effective time usage and in being satisfied with the results of your studying. Some of us are better at this than others, but we can all engage in some degree of time management that fits our needs and personalities.


We all know that vet school asks a lot from us. If someone wanted to, they could spend every waking minute studying the material we are presented in class and probably still not learn it all. But we also have lives outside of school. Maybe we have a job, or a family, or are heavily involved in a community organization. Those things are important. Find a time management tool that you feel comfortable using. For me, I end up changing tool every few years to make sure that I am using the most effective one. Right now I am using Wunderlist. It is fantastic because I can create as many different categories of To-Do items as I want and if I add a due date, it will organize them by due date. It also syncs between my phone and computer, so I always have my list with me. I can share items if there is a group project to work on and I can send emails directly to it if I know I need to deal with that email at a later date. Great application! I have also used Google Keep in the past. But in all reality, it doesn’t matter what system you use. What matters is finding one that works for you and making sure that you aren’t just planning school things. You are a real person who has a real life outside of vet school. Don’t neglect those things for vet school. Find a balance. Your worth is NOT dictated by your grades anymore. That was only for getting into vet school (haha). But guess what, you are here now. Now what matters is preparing for your life after school. Part of that is your vet career, but a big part of that is also your non-vet career. Invest in relationships and hobbies. How are you going to spend your life after graduation? Married to your clinic or company? Or are you going to live a well-balanced life? No, its not easy, but now is the time to learn those skills. Do you ever truly regret the time you spend with good friends? (Hint: the answer is no).

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

Google Drive-if you don’t know how to use google drive, get familiar with it. Its SUPER helpful for group work, and splitting up typing notes/study guides with classmates.”

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2019

The vet school calendar runs our lives for four years. In second year, when the course load picks up immensely leaving little to no free time, that calendar can be daunting. I recommend laying everything out in the calendar as early in the semester as you can: every assignment due date, every test date, clerk duty shifts, mini rotations, work, etc. — everything. Use a color coding system that works for you. And then, once you do that, do not focus on the entire semester at once or you will lose your mind. Know peripherally what’s out there, and then focus exclusively on just the one week in front of you.”

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2020

I find that there are little chunks of time during the day that I can use to check tasks off. When I do so I find that the nights are less full and I end up having time to relax.”

UMN CVM Student, Class of 2020

“Learn to balance work and play. You need both to maintain a healthy life!”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2004

“Leaving [assignments] to the very last minute can be [stressful]…[start early but] try to budget a certain amount of time…to spend on it & try to stick to it so you are not spending all of your time on the[assignments].”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2006

“Make adequate time for sleep…if you are not well rested… all the facts you spend time studying won’t be remembered well!”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2006

“I found it really nice to keep one non-med school-related activity despite the increased workload, stress, etc.. I dance with a halau for only an hour every week, and it is very refreshing to get away from [assignments], textbooks, and studying, and have fun with people not related to the [medical] field. It kind of brings me back down to earth for a little while and gives me time to clear my head before I return to my books and computer.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2008



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Well-being Handbook Copyright © 2019 by Erin Malone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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