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Medical School Tip: Why You Need a List of Done

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I love little tricks which increase my productivity or motivation in medical school. I came across a unique article by Shane Parrish while reading and had to share it. Want the medical school tip yourself? Read below to find out.

What is the List of Done?

It’s common to begin a day in medical school with the motivation to get a lot done. We form our to-do list and tell ourselves how today will be the day where the list will finally be completed. But we get carried away and schedule 25 hours of work into our 24 hour day.

Along with planning to do too much, our motivation also drops as the day goes on. Thus we hit a vicious cycle where we over plan and underperform. Our motivation takes a hit by the day as we find ourselves further and further behind.

How do you address this? Make a list of done!

Instead of tracking just what you need to do, keep track of all that you get done!

I try to keep it simple and make my to-do list and a list of done on the same piece of paper. Here’s an example from a recent day.

Medical School Tip: To Do List

Notice I place my top 4-5 priorities for the day and then form a scheduled to-do list. I’ve talked previously about scheduling your day in previous articles. I’ve listed them below:

Keys to Being Productive in Medical School- Part 1

Keys to Productivity in Medical School – Part 2

Daily Habits of a Successful Medical Student

5 Tips on Succeeding in Medical School

Back to the tip for this article, as I complete a task, I add it to my list of done!

It seems like a simple medical school tip but my productivity has increased over the past two weeks.

Why Does the List of Done Work in Medical School?

There are often two issues that we medical students face when we make our to-do list.

For one, we get discouraged when we plan to do 10+ things but we end the day with only 2-3 tasks completed. A list of done can be a great tool to provide a visual of our unproductivity.

Let’s face it, we hate ourselves when we realize we’ve been unproductive but it’s already 8PM. We negotiate with ourselves to be better the next day, but we never do. Instead, the next day is just as bad we have little to show for it by the end of the week.

The list of done is great to see how much we’ve done. More importantly, it should help prevent ever getting to 8 PM feeling unproductive.

The second problem is when we’re productive but fatigue starts to kick in. We’ve been disciplined to our to-do list but we don’t have any more motivation to finish our to-do list.

A list of done has helped me the most with this issue.

I think back to my running challenge I did where I attempted to run 2 miles every day under a 7:30 pace.

When I was running I was more encouraged after I saw how much I had done already than the distance I had left to cover.

In a similar way, I’ve found it more encouraging when I can see how much I’ve done and not how much I have left to do. The list of done has appealed to what motivates me to finish.

How to Measure Your Productivity with the List of Done

I also have a few more tips for using my version of the list of done.

As you can see from my example, I like to add times to my to-do list.

Medical School Tip: To Do List

I add times restraints on how long I will be doing each task. In addition, I also include how long it took me to finish each objective.

Together, this allows me to aim to be productive and measure my effectiveness at the end of the day.

I also leave room for notes so I can refer to the sheet when I make my next day’s to-do list.


So there you have it. I know this is a shorter post than most but this medical school tip speaks for itself. Try it out next time you make your to-do list. Hopefully, you’ll notice your desire to complete all your tasks will increase. With this extra drive, you should find that you’re getting through more of your to-do list

Interested in more medical school tips or want to read more about other challenges? Here are some of the most posts from the last month. 

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Finally – do you want to learn how to study faster? If so you’re in luck!

Check out my FREE 9-part video course on how I cut my study time in half! I show you my exact method! How To Study in Medical School

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Until next time…

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