Tip #2: Get Organized & Start Taking Baby Steps
If you want to actually turn in a complete medical school application on time, you need to get organized, pronto. (To my surprise & dismay, this continues well past getting accepted: you have to submit a criminal background check, ID photo, immunization records, white coat size order, etc., etc., etc. So just get used to it now.)
What I did
I made an excel document listing every single thing I needed to do. (Make sure you go through your pre-health requirements, application deadlines, MCAT dates, etc. very carefully.) I used the following columns: Task, Deadline, Priority (high/medium/low), Status (in-progress/not started/complete), & Notes (details you need for completing it). Then I sorted the list fist by priority, then by date (oldest to newest). Now I had a [very long] to-do list, in order.
What to do with your list
If you create such a list, you should have at least a couple of items due every week, but some weeks will be crammed with deadlines. During weeks when not much is going on, look ahead at future tasks to get them knocked off the list. I bet you’re thinking, Easier said than done. Here is the trick to accomplishing everything on that list:
Take 3 Baby Steps every day
A Baby Step is a small task that you [alone] can accomplish today. For example, “Do a mock interview” is not a Baby Step. “Call career center & schedule mock interview” is a Baby Step.
Take 3 Baby Steps every day—the earlier in the day the better. Some days you will get to take HUGE steps (taking the MCAT! Submitting your application!), but, on most days, you will just have latent stress that leaves you crabby, tense, and probably a little bit depressed. The Baby Steps allow you to tackle the list, while maintaining a balanced life.
Stop saying “I should…”
If you think you should do something, put it on your to-do list and break it down into manageable steps. Stop saying things like, “I should find somewhere to volunteer.” If you think you ought to do something, take action to make it a reality. Every time you tell yourself you should do something and you don't do it, you are wearing away at your self esteem. You will eventually stop trusting yourself, just as you start ignoring friends who say over and over that they should lose weight but never actually do anything to make that happen. It's annoying, right? Don't be that person!
Take care of business
The baby steps apply to all aspects of your application. So if you think having work experience will improve your application, a baby step might be: “Submit online application to XYZ Company,” or: “Update & print 20 copies of resume.”
In observing the two doctors that I shadowed for almost two years, the most invaluable lesson I took away was this: finish tasks as soon as they come up, whenever possible. The cool kids call this TCB, or taking care of business.
This does not mean you should stay glued to your email all day. It means that whenever you do check your email, take 5 minutes to respond to important emails instead of putting it off. You do NOT need to add anything to your to-do list! Whenever possible, save yourself from making the list longer; take care of it now.