Time Habits of a Medical Student, MS1 Fall Term

Chris Hornung, MD
4 min readDec 11, 2020


My first term hitting the books is almost in the books! Since beginning medical school this (2020) fall, I have been tracking how I use my time as a means of assessing my productivity and to document my journey. You can read more about that here. In the first 8 weeks of medical school (8/25/2020–10/15/20), I dedicated 403 hours to school-related activities. This averaged out to 50.5 hours per week. For the second half of the fall term (10/17/2020), I dedicated 391 hours to school, an average of 43 hours per week. My total, then, for the fall term is 794 hours or an average of 50 hours per week. Again, this time does not include transportation to and from classes or meetings, only time actually dedicated to medical study. As a refresher.

After midterms, I predicted that I would dedicate more time to school in the second half of the term than the first since I would be getting more involved with volunteer work and student organizations. I actually spent less time on school in the second half of the term. I attribute this primarily to the Thanksgiving holiday, being less involved in research than I anticipated, and not studying as much for my final exams as I did for my midterm exams.

As I predicted, my Anki habits showed a change the first week after midterms. Since I suspended the flashcards that were not relevant for final exams, the amount of my “mature” and “young” cards (cards I had previously learned) decreased considerably. As the second half progressed, the amount of “learn”, “mature”, and “young” cards I studied per day increased until Thanksgiving break and decreased upon the completion of fall lectures. Anki has a function that allows users to create a custom deck that overrides the spaced-repetition algorithm that normally dictates when cards need to be studied again. This is the reason the yellow “cram” bars show up in the middle and the end of the image above. Before exams, I create decks that allow me to see all of the cards relevant to the course so that I do not miss any important small details.

Monday out-edged Wednesday’s for being my longest days of the week. Compared to pre-midterms, my Wednesdays became shorter and my Tuesdays, slightly longer. I am not exactly sure why this happened, but I think it is interesting.

In my last post, I did not include an image showing the time per month. October was my busiest month since I had a very long week leading up to midterms. Interestingly, there was a large shift in how I use my time between September and October. The total hours per month were comparable but I spent less time watching lectures and more time engaging in self-study. I started using some third-party study materials at this time which added additional time to the self-study category. The trend of watching less lecture continued into November.

In my first term of medical school, self-study made up the majority of my dedicated time followed by lectures and Anki. I do not exactly know how the spring term will shape up at this time. I am technically enrolled in one more course than the fall term, but I have not yet determined how much lab time is associated with the courses of the fall term. I do know that I have some research and student organization (other) projects that will materialize in the spring so I expect to dedicate more time to those categories in 2021.

Find me

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-hornung/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChrisHornung

Github: https://github.com/ChristyHorn14



Chris Hornung, MD

A twin in the Twin Cities. EVMS Otolaryngology Resident. Former MCAT Instructor. I really like tracking things.