This series of posts is a collection of concrete, actionable tips based on my experiences as a third year student at UNMSOM. Please read my introductory post for background and disclaimer information, as well as links to each part in the series. Additionally, here are links to the previous and next posts in this series. The “next” one obviously won’t work until I publish it.

Previous: Third Year at UNMSOM: Introduction
Next: Third Year at UNMSOM Part Two: Comp books and Amazon

Tip #1: Start using a tasklist right now. Here are a few good options.

I’m putting this one at the beginning because it’s been the most important for me. Additionally, I want you to do this now so that you can add tasks to do “test run” any of my tips that you think might be helpful. I seriously mean now. This tip might be a little longer than the rest, because it’s seriously that important to me.

I promise that you will not be able to remember all of the things that will be helpful or important for you to remember during your third year. You will be stressed and tired at times, and your brain will remind you that you need to do laundry or consult nephrology at the absolute least convenient times. Like when you’re driving. Or in the middle of rounds. Or finally enjoying a dinner out with friends. You need to get in the habit of putting these thoughts and to-do items in a safe place right then and there, because you’ll often not think of them again until the optimal time has passed. For a few reasons, I strongly recommend that you use the same tasklist (or at least the same system) for all areas of your life.

  • Medical school is going to crowd most of those areas for the time being.
  • It makes it less of a chore to check your tasklist if fun stuff goes there in addition to work.
  • It doesn’t make sense to have to check separate lists to make sure that you remember to read up on a topic for your presentation during rounds tomorrow, take out the trash when you get home, and wish your grandmother a Happy Birthday – it’s all important.

I’ve posted a little bit about my workflow previously. I use OmniGroup’s OmniFocus, which is the most powerful (and unfortunately most expensive) tasklist system I’ve come across. It suits me, but I can’t recommend it to everyone because there are free options that offer many of its best features. If you’re into the digital tasklist thing, you should also check out:

  • Things ($$, Mac / iOS, very popular)
  • (Free, web / iOS / Droid, great set of features)
  • Orchestra (Free, web / iOS, voice transcription, great task sharing)
  • Wunderlist (Free, great cross-platform support, shared lists)

Paper systems are great, too. I prefer my phone, because I never go anywhere without it (which means I can drop a task in OmniFocus the minute I think of something). Whatever you choose, it will have benefits and drawbacks, but what is probably most important is to pick a system, build a workflow, and stick with it. If this system is going to help keep your life in order from here on out, you need to start using it daily.

One last component I want to comment on is the idea of “universal capture” (or I think that’s what they call it). Basically, it’s okay if circumstances prevent you from getting an idea from your head directly into your tasklist as long as you have a reliable method of getting it there eventually. For example, you can’t jot something down if you’re driving. Along the same lines, I have to warn you that the whole of our society has not yet completely warmed up to smartphones, and you should assume that every time you whip out your phone to make a task or open Micromedex, your residents and attending will assume you’re texting or playing WWF. This brings me to my next tip… but I’m going to save that post for tomorrow. This one is too long already, and I seriously want you to pick out and start using some kind of tasklist now. That way, you can make tasks to follow up on any of the other tips you want to try. Until next time!

Next: Third Year at UNMSOM Part Two: Comp books and Amazon