As a premed student, there probably seems like there are a million things that people are always telling you to do. Shadowing physicians, completing undergraduate research, getting “life experience,” having interesting hobbies, doing well on the MCAT, being sure to get good personal references, and completing hours upon hours of volunteer activities are just a few of the many “to-do” items on most premed students’ lists. However, just as there are many things for a premed student to get done before applying to medical school, there are also things that a premed student should probably avoid if he/she wants to be successful. In fact, just by making one simple decision to avoid a certain “thing,” premed students can significantly improve their chances for success.

Specifically speaking, premed students must make the decision to avoid falling into the habit of procrastinating if they want to be successful. With a huge list of “to-do” items at any given time in the busy life of a busy premed student, it fairly easy for students to procrastinate on the more important activities (studying for exams, filling out applications, requesting recommendation letters) when these activities seem much less exciting than others (hanging out with friends or even doing volunteer activities.) Procrastination, unlike some other problems, is a problem that will constantly compound itself; the more things are  put off “until tomorrow,” the harder it is to ever complete all of the things that need to be done.

At the same time, however, it is also just as important for students to realize the difference between prioritizing and procrastinating. Prioritizing is a life skill that enables a student to determine the most important items on a list of “to-dos” and to subsequently accomplish those items according to actual importance. Procrastinating, on the other hand, seeks out ways to distract oneself from what should be priorities and instead focuses on justifying the completion of items that have been given imaginary importance. For some students, the decision to “be productive” might mean “putting off studying for my exam until I have cleaned my room,” but successful premed students can easily distinguish between tasks of real and projected/imagined importance.

As cliche as it may seem to state, choosing to stop procrastinating is not a decision that can be put off “until tomorrow.” The amount of material presented during each hour of lecture in medical school means students that have a habit of procrastinating will find themselves overwhelmed after falling just a few day’s worth of material behind. Therefore, deciding to avoid falling into the habit of procrastinating will not only be a decision that will help one become a successful premed student, but it’s also a decision that will  help one become a successful medical student as well.