The worst time management tricks I’ve tried

These time-management solutions were supposed to make me spend more time memorizing interleukins, and less time looking at funny pictures of cats on the internet.

They did not work.

1.  Caffeinating my way out of naps.

The theory:  When you feel yourself getting too sleepy to function without an afternoon nap, just down a diet coke first, then nap!  The diet coke will kick in after 10-15 minutes, so you’ll awaken refreshed and ready to go after the scientifically perfect amount of time.

The reality:  I woke up, bleary-eyed and reluctant, 3 hours later.

I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly – honestly, probably the only way I’d be able to wake up “refreshed” after only 10 minutes is if I upgraded from diet coke to crystal meth.  (Or detoxed myself off caffeine.  But let’s be real.)

2.  Buying A $40 Planner

True, my cheap planner worked great in undergrad –  but I knew that med school called for an upgrade.

So when I walked out of the medical school bookstore with my fancy new purchase, I felt like I had a fancy new life – a life full of hope as The Most Organized Med Student In The World.

But in reality, here’s how every date in that planner looked:

… for the 4 whole days that I used it, anyway.

3.  Using “Self Control”.

I think the worst thing about Self Control (the application that turns off the internet for a pre-determined amount of time) is the name.  That damned name led me into this conversation at least five times:

Me:  Ugh, I want to be studying right now, but the internet is so tempting!
Friend:  Have you tried self control?
Me:  Have you tried your face?
Friend: … That.. doesn’t make sense.
Me:  Your face doesn’t make sense.

And then the conversation would inevitably end with a group critique of my limited witty comeback skills, instead of an explanation of what Self Control really is.

Eventually, I realized my friends weren’t just insulting me with their suggestions, so I downloaded the program.  I told it to turn off the internet for 1 hour, so of course it promptly proceeded to turn off the internet for forever.  I tried restarting, it ignored me.  I uninstalled it, it ignored me.  The whole process took at least 3 hours of study time.

Thanks a lot, Self Control.  If it wasn’t for you, I could’ve spent those horrifying 3 hours doing something productive.

Like looking at funny cat pictures.

26 thoughts on “The worst time management tricks I’ve tried

  1. I tried SelfControl to help me stop procrastinating as a med student. I wrote about it here.

    It works splendidly, except for one problem. It’s open source. I hadn’t blocked github, nor Google (I needed that to occasionally look things up while studying), nor SelfControl’s own website.

    During one study session, initially aided by SelfControl, I began to wonder how it worked. After all, it was remarkably resilient to any attempts at subversion. Then I hit up Google and clicked my way to the source code. About 20 minutes later I had completely unravelled how SelfControl worked. Except that by figuring out how it worked, I figured out how to subvert it. It’s kind of a pain, so SelfControl is still useful in the theoretical sense.

    Before you ask, it did occur to me (multiple times in fact) exactly how destructive it was to procrastinate by actively subverting my own self imposed procrastination limitations. If only I could be compelled to such curiosity regarding the things I have to study…

    Anyway, I’ve never used SelfControl again, because to do so now is merely to challenge myself to see how quickly I can recall how to undo it.

    So, my advice to anyone who uses SelfControl: Add to the blocked sites list immediately and first. And never go look at the source code for it.

  2. I don’t even know where my planner is. I use my phone calendar, and the time-tested text message calendar. “Do we have shit due tomorrow?” “Yeah, like four pages of medications to write about.” “OH SHI -”

    . . . I should probably find a more reliable system.

    • That’s hilarious.

      i got so used to relying on the online school schedule during the year, that my summer organization has been at an all-time low. Missed a doctor’s appointment last week because I somehow skipped a day in my head and assumed the current day was Tuesday when it definitely was not.

      • We all joke in the hospital when we’re like “What’s the date today? Is it Thursday?” Here we are, all high and mighty at our patients when they don’t know the day of the week or the date; “Ooooh, someone’s only alert and oriented x2 – better luck with discharge tomorrow!” when in reality we’re outside the room ‘tarding out while we try to do charts.

        The solution, of course, is that summer needs more holidays. I’ve anchored on the fact that Monday is July 4th. This’ll work for me for a couple weeks, and then I’ll be right back to being all addled again. Add another holiday at the end of July and BAM! I can limp through until Labor Day. It is the only way.

  3. AP this was hilarious. I’ve recently been beating myself up over my lack of self control, and now I am beginning to resign myself to the fact that I am and always will be HORRIBLY unproductive in the afternoons. Mornings and evenings are where it’s at and I might as well embrace it and plan low cognitive load activities for the afternoons. I’m tired of feeling guilty all the time.

  4. That caffeine strategy was totally on Lifehacker, and I’m with you — it’s a total bust. ( I have mixed feelings about my internet babysitters…I wasn’t a fan of being told to Stay Focused, so I put the boyfriend on the task of determining whether it or Chrome Nanny was better. (Un)fortunately, we both prefer Stay Focused, but I really enjoy the idea of having a nanny to tell me when I’ve been playing with lol cats for too long. In fact, I seriously considered paying a real-live person to babysit me while studying for boards — not to tutor me at all, just to keep me on task. Alas, funds are a bit limited and I decided they were better allocated to physical things I got to keep, like $100 worth of clearance yoga pants from Victoria’s Secret. Yay semi-annual sale retail therapy!!! Of course, I did block the VS site with Stay Focused to try and prevent this, but I could bring myself to actually remove Safari (which doesn’t seem to have good internet babysitter apps) from my computer, sooooo I ended up just cheating the system. I also never bothered to change the settings after boards, so now I always have at least two different browsers open so I can spend my few days of freedom facebook stalking. Overall, I’m not convinced I gained much…

  5. I’m supposed to be studying for chemistry and medical terminology, but instead I’m here reading your blog post, nearly two years after the fact.
    This is somehow your fault.

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