Time Habits of a Medical Student, MS1 Spring Midterm

Chris Hornung, MD
6 min readMar 5, 2021

I’m back with statistics again **Steven Tyler voice**. I have been using Jupyter Notebooks, Google Sheets, and Google Forms to track my journey through medical school. So far during the spring term, I have logged 450 hours of medical school-related time. With 9 weeks leading up to the midterm, that averages out to 50 hours/week. TBH, the most interesting stuff is at the bottom.

A refresher:

Figure 1

Overview

Figure 2
Figure 3

Anki

Figure 4

In the fall, I used a mix of my own Anki cards and pre-made cards from third parties. I virtually stopped creating my own Anki cards this term and have instead relied almost exclusively on pre-made cards. From my fall post, after cards I created were no longer relevant for class, I would “suspend” them and stop studying them (weeks -19 and -11 in Figure 4 show this). I now spend less time creating cards than I did in the fall (Self-study) but since the pre-made cards are material that is tested on board exams, I will not suspend them after I complete a course. As such, the total number of cards in my study queue increased at a slower rate in the fall than it is currently. Until I take boards, I can expect to spend more time doing Anki reviews, in an absolute sense, the further I progress through medical school.

Day of the Week

Figure 5
Figure 6

I seem to have a more balanced weekly schedule this spring compared to the fall. In the fall, I would frontload my workweek and decrease the amount of total time per day I spent doing school-related activities as the week progressed. This spring, my week tends to peak in terms of total time on Wednesday even though Thursdays are generally the days I have the most Class. On average, I have done less work on the weekends this term than I did in the fall.

New Figures

I created a couple of new figures that parse data based on my year and term in school.

Figure 7: Proof I can relax ;)
Figure 8

The Good Stuff

As I progress throughout my education, I want to be able to assess the relative amount of time I spent in each category. I created a pie chart to visualize this.

Figure 9
Table 1: Total weekly time by category (hours)

Since the spring midterm and fall term have different lengths, I broke apart my total time as an average per week. Touching again on the data from above, my average amount of total time per week remained constant between the two terms so far (50 hr/week in fall vs 50 hr/week in spring). However, the way I distributed my time did change. This spring, in average time per week, I spent less time in Class, Anki, and Self-study; and more time in Volunteering, Research, and Other (Table 1).

Why? I think I have less required lecture time so far this spring compared to the fall. Anatomy lab blocked off 4 hours per week of Class before I completed the course in December 2020. That more than makes up for the difference. I am a little surprised that Class still makes up as much time as it does though. I very rarely attend lectures live unless I am required to and instead sometimes watch the recorded school lectures at 1.5–2x speed. Furthermore, I often replace school lectures with third-party videos. However, I log third-party videos as Self-Study time. As such, I expected my Self-Study time to take up an even larger percentage of my time than Class does.

Because I now rarely make my own Anki notes, I currently have fewer cards to study (decreased Anki time) and my Self-Study time decreased. I was spending at least 2 hours per week creating new Anki cards in the fall, likely more than double that. Transitioning to using pre-made notes has allowed me to use my time in a more productive manner since creating Anki cards is inefficient for me learning class material. I have become more involved in student groups and joined a couple of research projects, accounting for the uptick in Research and Other. I also now have a consistent shift at a free clinic for Volunteering.

Since I have been spending less time (~7.5 hours/week) in Class, Anki, and Self-Study; presumably the categories of time that correlate most with my course grades, I wanted to compare my course performance between the fall and spring terms. Unfortunately, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison because the majority of the points for all of the courses I am taking are backloaded into the second part of the spring semester. However, based on the information I do have, the difference in my mean course grade percentages between the spring and fall terms is -0.21 (one more point on my Neuro midterm would have had the spring term on top, darn inferior olivary nucleus…). This is -0.23%, zero for all intents and purposes, change in performance after a ~16% (7.5/45) decrease in “studying” time compared to the fall and with most of the course points still ripe for earning. It seems I have thus far been able to maintain my academic performance while taking on additional responsibilities outside of class.

Predictions for the rest of the term

If my twin brother’s (one academic year ahead at a different school) experience is anything near what I can expect, I will dedicate more total time to medical school in an absolute sense. I think I have found my sweet spot, ~38 hours per week, for the amount of time I put towards courses (Anki, Class, Self-Study) and predict that will remain stable for the remainder of spring. My extracurricular activities though (volunteering, research, other), currently ~12 hours per week, will increase as I continue to dig deeper into projects and step into leadership roles. I was also just hired for part-time paid employment so there will be a new time category added to the mix for my next write-up.

Code for Analysis

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.