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My Battle With Time

Jeffreywonoprabowo72x722Jeff Wonoprabowo -- Time is like water. You can see it. You can feel it. And when you think you have it under control, it slips through your fingers.

I've been having trouble concentrating and staying focused. At the end of day, I often feel like I wasn't as efficient as I should have been. Frustrated with my inefficient studying, I lamented about this to someone who recommended a book titled “Procrastination: Why You Do It, What To Do About It.” I was specifically directed to chapter nine which was called “Learning How To Tell Time.”

As I read the chapter I was constantly thinking, "Oh, that sounds like me sometimes." Okay, well maybe it sounds like me more often than not.

I have long accepted that I am a procrastinator. It may run in the family, I don't know. My younger sister tells me that she is this way, too. I think we do our best job when a deadline is looming overhead. And while this may be okay during high school and undergrad, procrastination can be horrible in medical school.

From the book I learned that procrastinators like me have a "'wishful thinking' relationship with time -- [I] hope to find more of it than there really is," and procrastinators "prefer to remain in the vague realms of potential and possibility."

Whether I like it or not, I am going to have to confront my "wishful-thinking approach to time." There are a number of things I've thought about doing to help me be more efficient and less prone to distractions.

1. Physically distance myself from distractions (e.g. go to the library).

2. Keep study and fun areas separate.

3. Actively use my whiteboard (I have a huge 4 feet by 8 feet board on my wall).

4. Try to make the material real to me by imagining a close friend or family member sick, or that I will have to teach the material to an imaginary teenager.

5. Take regular, short breaks.

So far, those are the weapons in my arsenal for my battle with time. How do you stay focused when you'd rather go out and play, read, or do something else? I'd love to hear any suggestions!

November 30, 2008 in Jeff Wonoprabowo | Permalink


My wife (a physician) helped me with this problem. She said try doing the work "a little at a time". I was cured. Now instead of procrastinating (alot), I just do a "little at a time". I think it will help you, and all of us procrastinators. Fraternally, Ken Johnson, DO, Associate Professor of OB/GYN, Nova Southeastern University , College of Osteopathic Medicine

Posted by: Dr. Ken Johnson | Dec 2, 2008 3:20:34 PM

I once learned to use a "Short Interval Scheduling" system as a model for improving productivity for repetitive tasks (in a computer based warehouse management and order picking system). We found that we were twice as productive if we worked hard for many short intervals (usually fifteen to thirty minutes) then "played" an equal amount of time than if we just tried to schedule all the time as "working". The lesson here is small, attainable short-term tasks, rather than large goals. The goal determines the type of tasks, not their frequency. It works when I study, too.

Posted by: Jim | Dec 2, 2008 3:57:23 PM

The best way I stay focused when I'd rather go out and play, read, or do something else is by keeping my general health in tip-top-shape. After all, you cannot think on an empty stomach, you cannot concentrate when you are hungry, nor can you absorb information when you are tired. After you have ruled out biological reason that can cause a lack of concentration, you can concider other reason for you lack of attention. "All money ain't good money" describes going beyond the limits to make a dollar, all study ain't efficient study describes going beyond the limits to gather knowledge.

It is easy to get study by just going through the motion. For example, sitting in front of the books for hours at a time, only to find out, you don't remember nearly as much as you have read. that is because your brain is much like pouring soda pop into a glass with ice: Once you pour, it sizzles to the top. If you keep on pouring, it is bound to over-flow onto the floor. If you would have only given the soda a second to settle down, however, you will have more room to hold more.

As the book of Ecclesiastes 7:16 states, "Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?" "This Author was a Preacher, what does he know about trying to getting thru Medical school you say?" Well, He may not know anything about getting thru Med School, but He did have an extreme thurst; hunger for knowledge, like you. He also knew that there had to be some sense of balance whn dealing with large amounts of information.

So, a word to the wise, too much of anything is not good for you. Remember, all you want is to have good study habits. Not all study habits. What would you do with a bunch of information with no understanding as to how to apply it?

Good luck on all your journey!

Posted by: bkdaniels | Dec 2, 2008 5:07:53 PM

Or you can do what I know several of my classmates do... Ritalin.

(yes I am jokingly promoting this, but unfortunately I am not joking that they use it)

Posted by: anonymous | Dec 2, 2008 8:32:31 PM

yep doing a little at a time is the secret.i found out i recall information easily if i take them in gradually.make sure to get to bed early so u can study 3-4hrs before u begin the day(very invaluable,its like magic),another 1-2 during the day and 3-5hrs at night before bed as it suits.this has been my routine for years and it has and is still working wonders.

Posted by: dr nas | Dec 3, 2008 3:31:35 AM

Ive learned that everyone seems to have their own system. Ive found the key is to make it part of your daily schedule and stick to it. I study about 2-3 hours a day (not counting flash card reviews during my commute). Im M3 and it's worked for me so far. I even have time do play - that is when I'm not sleeping :).

Posted by: Alex | Dec 3, 2008 10:19:29 AM

I personally believe that when it comes to studying it is all about quality over quanity. You can say that "I study 8 hours today" but, the real question is what did you learn at the end of the day. More important than memorization is the ability to explain what you learned to someone else who knows absolutely nothing about medicine. In this way you made something like the basal ganglia seem very simple. I guarantee you will remeber the information longer if you study in this manner.

Posted by: ecorder | Dec 3, 2008 11:10:47 AM

I love "to do" lists. I'll make a list of short goals which are easily accomplished in a short period of time, like "read this chapter" or " read this *section* of this chapter" or "type written notes." Then, when I'm finished, I can cross off what I've done, and it reminds me that everything little thing I do is the reason I can accomplish something big. Also, variation in tasks is very important to me. If I'm doing the same thing over and over again, it gets really boring and I won't want to do it, so I'll switch it up. I do the same thing during tests. I usually start at the back of the test, answer a couple of questions, then go back to the front. The only downside to that is if you miss questions jumping around, but I go over my tests several times before turning them in.

Posted by: | Dec 3, 2008 11:50:59 AM

well what i do is when ive read on something i try and explain it to my imaginary audience. wel people sometimes think im nuts but it works. this ios together with the fact that you read only what you can absorb as most say little at a time.hope it works am now in 5th year and well basically its working together with the fact that most importantly i put all my trust in Allah then i study and not the other way round

Posted by: salma | Dec 3, 2008 11:59:53 AM

Hello, The time like Sword if we doesn't carrefull .it makes hurt....
Hello Jeff do you have javanese blood. your name like javanese people..I'm javanese from Indonesia

Posted by: endy | Dec 3, 2008 12:07:31 PM

thank you for this interesting subject..

Posted by: rozhan | Dec 3, 2008 12:20:50 PM

Last 2 exams that I procrastinated I had such panic attacks that I ended up taking benzo's. I had thrown up constantly, had diarrhoa attacks (1 every half an hour!!), tachycardia, chest pain..you name it.
Never again now..never again.
My arsenal is to study as much as I can as soon as I can. I do not want to relive those moments!!

Posted by: Sana | Dec 3, 2008 1:22:04 PM


Posted by: alan | Dec 3, 2008 1:24:54 PM

Wonderful subject to talk upon. Thanks a lot for bringing it up. I am learning a lot from all the posts coming in here. People please keep posting in your valuable experiences here. Its great for people like me who are trying hard to concentrate and study well and focus.

Posted by: leena | Dec 3, 2008 3:34:34 PM

I do admit having the same problem. Short tasks in short time work, also make it a lot easier to fell you are progressing (you move forward always...baby steps but forward), In this way I try to deal with it, It is not always effective but sometimes it works.

Posted by: Luis Fernando Queme | Dec 3, 2008 4:20:16 PM

This article relates to me badly , add to that after extreme stress in exam days due to procrastination , i promise myself i will not let it happen next term but guess what, i never kept the promise!

I think its the sympathetic stimulation that gets you powered up like an energizer bunny.

Fear is good , it makes you work , but unfortunately is very stressful :'(

Posted by: Hesham | Dec 3, 2008 4:26:32 PM

This post REALLY hit home for me. I'm in my final year of med and procrastination is a daily battle - it is THE most frustrating thing in my life! At the end of a day, you realise how much you could've done but didn't, and it just hangs over you and you get angry with yourself.

I still struggle with it - I'm sure it's part of me, because I've always been a 'daydreamer' - but on good days, I find that setting my phone alarm for half an hour or so can help me focus for that time.

I also get really sleepy when I'm studying. Does that happen to anyone else?

Thanks for this post Jeff - maybe I should get that same book! x

Posted by: Bee | Dec 3, 2008 4:38:05 PM

that guy who is doing up to 10 hours a day is all wrong. If you need to consistantly study for 10 hours a day, then your not doing it right and should either re-evaluate your studying or reconsider medicine.. Thats pre exam cramming study. A few hours a day is much better and then you can go relax and have some form of life, so that you can function like a normal human being.

Posted by: Eoin | Dec 3, 2008 4:51:53 PM

Thanks Jeff for the post!
And yup I think i face the same situation as you Bee!
In fact i take it a step further, i tend to fall asleep during lectures and while studying. It's horrible, I have a very short attention span, such that is i dont get up and walk around or do some active, i will doze off. It's so frustrating!

Anyway one way i manage to study in a place with a lot of people so that it will be too embarrassing to fall asleep or just daydream... works for me!

Posted by: May | Dec 3, 2008 5:12:55 PM

Awesome suggestions, everyone! Thanks.

And Endy, my dad was born in Pekalongan... hence the last name.

Posted by: Jeff W | Dec 3, 2008 7:51:48 PM

I have been suffering ths problem since long..because of this was losing my confidence.this article is going to help me a lot.
thank you

Posted by: uzwali | Dec 3, 2008 8:00:39 PM

thanq very much u hav suggested me a very nice thing to get rid of delaying hings with which i am suffering sice a long time.

Posted by: shilpa.vasagiri | Dec 3, 2008 8:26:16 PM

Thanks for the post. I'm currently procrastinating by reading it :) Yesterday I procrastinated by looking up the literature on procrastination and today I joined a political party. I wish there was a prize for the most creative forms of procrastination.

In my short productive bursts that generally last a week to a month are caused by some sudden and unexpected motivating factor (reading something random that stuck in a novel, for instance). They're also helped by making a list of things that I keep checking off as I go and by going on 'study walks' with good revision books. But like all things, forming a habit is the most efficient way. And, like most of my habits, if I miss a single day then it's all over for another month.

Posted by: Rahux | Dec 3, 2008 9:28:30 PM

cool article :)) Thanks!!! I'll try to "Try to make the material real to me by imagining a close friend or family member sick, or that I will have to teach the material to an imaginary teenager."

Posted by: Alex | Dec 3, 2008 9:35:59 PM

Well, i used to do what i like first.. ( doesn't help much sometimes, number 4 worth to try,

r u indonesian?.. Senangnya... jarang dapet crita kiriman dari orang indonesia.

Posted by: Sisca | Dec 3, 2008 10:36:01 PM

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