Since dentists are responsible for providing an essential service to the community, there is no question why becoming a dentist takes many demanding years of education.
Effective time management is critical for pre-dental students trying to achieve top grades to get into dental school, as well as for dental students that are trying to improve their study habits to master the difficult work load.
This post will dive into the 3 key tips for time management. These tips are time blocking, staying on top of lectures, and actively studying.
Time Block your Calendar
Do you ever find yourself spending way too long on a task? Time blocking may be a way to improve your time management.
Parkinson’s law says that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” . If you do not plan, you may spend unnecessary time on a certain task, leading you to fall behind or feel burnt out.
Before the week starts, it is helpful to plan out everything you have to do for that week. This ensures that you stay on track and do not fall behind. The example below is time blocking in dental school utilizing Google Calendar. Other options are Apple Calendar, Outlook Calendar, or Notion.
Here is how to time block your calendar:
First, you can add any live scheduled events, such as lectures, meetings, or labs. You know how long each of these events will take, so starting here is the easiest.
Next, add in any exams or assignments that are due that week in a color that stands out (ie. red). Add time blocks for any reviewing necessary for that assignment.
If it helps you to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, you can add this to the calendar.
Fill in the rest of the calendar with any other things you need to review or complete. Put in the estimated time you think you will need for each activity. It is okay if you need to adjust the time.
Most importantly - make sure you give yourself time to schedule activities that you enjoy. This could include exercising, spending time with friends and family, or going on walks. Prioritizing time to give yourself a break is crucial to prevent burnout.
Stay on Top of Lectures
To help you stay on top of your lectures and be consistent with reviewing material, you can create a spreadsheet that tracks your lectures. The example shown below was created using Microsoft Excel.
The columns on the left are each of the lectures in a particular class. Once the class is completed, it counts as a “first pass” over the material, and you can write a “1” in the next column. It is helpful to do around 3 passes of the material before an exam to consolidate your learning.
It is also beneficial to color code the lectures so you can efficiently spend more time reviewing difficult topics over ones you have a better understanding of. The example below uses green to indicate a lecture you are confident with, yellow to indicate a lecture you somewhat understand, and red to indicate a topic that you need to review.
Develop an Active Study Method
Active studying helps us engage with the material, form connections, and helps you understand concepts more efficiently . Passive studying, including reading notes, highlighting, and rewriting notes , can be extremely time consuming and not beneficial to your learning.
You want to find a method that keeps you engaged and allows you to fill in gaps in your knowledge.
Flashcards - At the end of each lecture, write down high yield questions and the answers, based on what you learned in lecture. When you go to review, you will actively test yourself. If you need to understand the topic better, go back to your notes from class. Some examples of apps are Anki, Remote (see the image below), or Quizlet.
Recall method - On a blank piece of paper, write down as much as you can remember about a certain topic. This forces you to see what you need to review about a topic, so you can then go back to your notes to fill in the gaps.
Teach someone - Find a study partner or group that you can go over concepts with. This is an excellent way to stay engaged and learn by listening to and teaching others. There will often be times that you learn something you did not even realize you were confused about.
Spaced repetition - Actively reviewing material over a long period of time is more effective than trying to cram all the information a night before an exam . This helps consolidate your learning and store this information more long term. An example is shown below using Notion to organize spaced repetition.
How to Get Started
Now that you know how to manage your time on your path to dental school, you may still be wondering more about how to succeed in the application process. FutureDMD is here to support you along your journey.
At Future DMD, we provide an all encompassing program that will be your #1 resource for preparing for dental school. From our Interactive Dental Shadowing Externship, Mastering the Dental Application, and Personal Statement Mastery programs, to 1-on-1 mentoring with dentists and dental students, we want to help YOU succeed along your journey.
Click “Get Started” above or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Parkinson CN. Parkinson's Law. The Economist. 1955. Accessed October 16, 2022. https://www.economist.com/news/1955/11/19/parkinsons-law
Active Study Strategies - University of Pittsburgh College of General Studies. Accessed October 16, 2022. https://www.cgs.pitt.edu/why-cgs/mccarl-center/academic-success-resources/active-study-strategies
Smolen P, Zhang Y, Byrne JH. The right time to learn: mechanisms and optimization of spaced learning. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2016; 17(2): 77–88.