Written by: Val Larson, Direct Care Professional & University of Minnesota physical therapy student
The need for pre-physical therapy student time management tips has never been greater. If you want to get accepted into physical therapy school and become a physical therapist, you need to get good grades, get physical therapy experience hours, and volunteer, right? You also need to network to create connections for the future and have a job to pay for graduate school. And don’t forget to stay healthy by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating well, practicing self-care, keeping your space clean, and spending time with family and friends. Being a pre-physical therapy student can be overwhelming to say the least. When there are so many things on your plate, you need to maximize your time to be successful but still feel balanced.
7 Pre-Physical Therapy Student Time Management Tips:
Prioritization is the first pre-physical therapy student time management tip we have. Make a list of the top 5 categories that are most important to you. For example, you could choose earning good grades, shadowing a physical therapist, working at your job, exercising, and sleeping. Once you have established the areas in your life you want to give the most time and energy, you can push the rest of your commitments to the back burner. It’s not that you won’t be able to spend time doing other things, but the majority of your time will be devoted to your Top 5.
Setting goals is the second pre-physical therapy student time management tip we have. How many shifts per week will you work? How many hours of sleep do you need to feel your best self? How many days will you get a workout in? How often will you study? What type of varied pre-physical therapy student experiences do you need? Whatever your Top 5 priorities are, set a goal for the time you want to spend in each respective area. The most important thing to remember about setting goals is that they are REALISTIC. Attainable goals allow you to work toward something that is possible to achieve, which increases your motivation and self-esteem. But remember, these goals are not set in stone. You are allowed to tweak them as you need to, so if some of your goals are not aligning with your life, you always have the option to alter them.
Scheduling is the third pre-physical therapy student time management tip we have. Now it’s time to schedule out your days, weeks, and even months based on what your priorities and goals are. Scheduling far in advance can free up so much mental energy when you already know what is coming up, and you can be alert if you have a particularly busy day or week ahead. Your daily schedule can be helpful to fill in time blocks of when you have class, what time you need to leave to shadow a physical therapist, when you should eat dinner, how long you plan on working on writing a paper, etc. This will give you a plan for your day and help you feel organized. To organize your schedule even further, you can color code your schedule and assign different colors to your social obligations, work events, and classes, for example.
Create To-Do Lists
Creating to-do lists is the fourth pre-physical student time management tip we have. To-do lists can be your best friend. There aren’t many better feelings than crossing something off your list when you get it done. If your to-do list seems too overwhelming, you can start off with a ‘brain dump’ where you write down everything you can think of that needs to be done. Next, divide the tasks into categories based on importance and urgency. If it is not important or urgent, it can be done at a later time. This way you can prioritize what tasks need to be completed right away and put them at the top of the list.
Setting boundaries is the fifth pre-physical therapy student time management tip we have. When you are managing many things in your life, sometimes you may need to turn down opportunities. Although it may be difficult, it is important to do this to stay healthy mentally and physically, and keep your focus on your goals. In fact, one of the best things you can do is schedule time for yourself. This is time where you do what you want to do – take a bubble bath, read a book, binge a new show. You need time to recharge where you say ‘no’ to anything else, that way you will be energized during all your other obligations and have some rest time to look forward to.
Block Out Flex Time
Blocking out flex time is the sixth pre-physical therapy student time management tip we have. While you are making your schedule and including all the times you need to be somewhere, your self-care time, and times you will be working on your to-do list, don’t forget to add some time blocks for flex time. This is time you have set to finish up a project if it took longer than you expected or take a nap if you’re feeling extra tired. You could also choose to call a friend or have additional self-care time if that is what you need in that moment. This is a way to manage your time, but still have some flexibility if things do not go as planned.
Be Present & Give 100% To Whatever You're Doing In That Moment
Being present is the seventh pre-physical therapy student time management tip we have. When you have a million things going on and your mind constantly feels like it is being pulled in different directions, it can be difficult to focus on what you are doing currently. Hopefully creating a schedule and to-do lists with your prioritized items will help this mental load, but nevertheless it can be a struggle to feel present. This is actually one of the most important parts of time management. For instance, have you ever spent 1 hour on an assignment that should only take you 30 minutes to complete? If you are doing homework but thinking about work later that day or worried about what groceries you need to purchase, your homework will take much longer than it needs to, causing unwanted stress and taking up time you could be doing other things. Being present can take some practice. Try setting a timer when doing homework to see how much you can get done before the timer goes off, put your phone on airplane mode when reading a book, and write down all the things you will do after work to know that you will have time to get these things done later.
Yes, you have a lot on your plate, BUT you have the tools to accomplish your goals and be successful. Pre-physical therapy student time management can be tricky to master. Your ability to properly manage your time may ebb and flow, but that is okay. Give yourself grace and know that you won’t be perfect, but you CAN do it. Once you get into physical therapy school, you will look back and feel proud of all the work you did to get to that point.