“Vet school is like drinking from a firehose.” - I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before... and it’s true, in so many ways!
First, there are the classes. Every course is crammed full of information - new terminology, new diseases, and applications across multiple species. Vet students tend to be a thorough and goal-oriented group, so you’re probably doing your best to study as much as possible, broaden your knowledge base, and obtain good grades.
Then there’s the endless list of extracurricular opportunities: SCAVMA, Zoo/Wildlife Club, Shelter Medicine Club, SCAAEP, Canine Club, Feline Club… the list goes on and on. Each of those clubs has evening meetings, weekend wetlabs, and occasional field trips. And of course you want to take advantage of them all!
You’re probably also balancing commitments outside of school. Perhaps you’re working a part-time job. You likely have pets that need attention. Maybe you have children, or a significant other. You need to prepare and eat meals, you need to do laundry, you need to straighten up your apartment, you need to call your family back home, you need to make a doctor or dentist appointment, you may have a car that needs an oil change…
I think you get my point.
Vet school is a BUSY time of your life. How can you fit everything in?
Here’s a secret: you can’t. There is no healthy way for you to take full advantage of every single opportunity offered during vet school. You have to set priorities.
- Which issues are most important to you?
- What factors have the biggest impact on your current life satisfaction?
- Where do you see yourself in 10, 25, and 50 years, on a professional and personal level?
- Which relationships are most important to you?
Identifying your priorities (which are entirely unique to you) can help you determine where to focus your time and energy. Priority-setting can help you manage your time more effectively, by giving you permission to focus on what matters and, in some cases, permission to gracefully decline tasks that are not consistent with your priorities.
Your professional priorities can help you determine how to allocate your time in veterinary school. If your goal is to specialize, and you are planning to apply for competitive internship and residency programs, achieving excellent grades is likely a high priority for you. If you’re planning to go into small animal general practice, however, you might gain more benefit from volunteering as a student surgeon at a spay-neuter program in your community. Obviously, every student spends time studying and spends time participating in extracurricular opportunities, but the amount of time and energy that you devote to each should reflect your priorities and future plans.
How you spend your personal time should also reflect your priorities. If you’re an introvert, you likely need time alone to rest and recharge. If you’re an extrovert, however, you probably prioritize spending time with friends and classmates. Taking time to rest and recharge is essential during vet school and learning how to prioritize your free time can offer significant benefits.
Once you have identified your priorities, it becomes easier to plan your schedule on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly basis. Whether you’re using a paper or digital planner, take the time to intentionally map out how you will spend your waking hours. Include studying, extracurriculars, work (if applicable), time with friends and family, and time for rest and relaxation.
Look over your planner regularly, ensuring that your time commitments reflect your priorities. Make adjustments as necessary. There may be times that you have to put a priority aside to deal with another urgent matter, but it’s important to ensure that this is only a temporary situation and not a long-term solution. You may also find that your priorities change over time. This is normal, as long as it is done consciously and with consideration.
Time management is a constant balancing act, but identifying and focusing on your priorities can help make your overall vet school experience more successful AND more enjoyable.
For more information about priority-setting, Download our eBook “2019 Vet Student Study Strategy: How to tackle studying in the new year for veterinary students”.