STP Support | Keeping the balance

This post aims to volunteer some tips for managing your time and workload on the STP… which is no easy feat!! They are the personal views and experiences of a second-year trainee.

A juggling act

During the STP applications process and subsequent acceptance of a training post I was certainly expecting my new role to challenge and develop my time-management skills. However, I didn’t fully appreciate that the role would require the juggling skills of a high-level circus performer.

Applicants are under no illusion that the training will be challenging but stimulating, and, at times, stressful. A juggling act can be exciting; no two days are the same and a wealth of opportunities lie at each trainee’s feet. We are in a highly privileged position within our departments as a supernumerary team member but are also best placed to have exposure to a multitude of diverse learning experiences and the potential for involvement in numerous projects.

The first year of training comprised of four rotations and I felt both excited and like a deer-in-headlights in equal measures; just as I settled in to one team within a department it felt like I was whisked off to my next rotation and the whole settling in process began once more. First year very much felt like a phase of acclimatisation and getting used to the balance between competencies and academic work. The beginning of second year gave a little room for settling back into my host department, but soon enough the competing priorities loaded up and kept building. Fellow trainees communicated that they were starting to feel ‘a little behind’, which I fully related to around mid-way through second year, but unfortunately things will only become more intense through to the end of third year.

Marbles

I thought about my time in the STP as a jar of marbles; there is finite space in the jar and just a couple of marbles in it at the beginning. These marbles start off as the very first competencies and assignments at uni. Each step through the training there will be new marbles added to that jar and the jar will become fuller as time goes on. Without trading marbles at some point, the jar will become too full and start to overflow and this is not good! Utilising my time the best I could therefore became a key focus and I started to think about how I could go about this.

Harnessing those tools

This rather alarming realisation prompted me to think about how best to manage my marbles (both figuratively and mentally) whilst also maintaining hobbies, friendships, and general life outside of work and training. These are some personal tips that have allowed me to stay relatively sane and on top of things for the first half of my STP journey. Disclaimer – I cannot guarantee that they will be successful as things become more intense (but nevertheless am hoping so)!!

  • Plan annual leave well in advance (a few months if you can), even if you don’t know what you will do for it yet. We know that spontaneity can be the spice of life but sometimes adulting must prevail, and planning ahead will ensure that you have a break scheduled in.
  • Time planner apps e.g. Todoist or utilise the notepad on your phone/tablet.  
  • Regular meetings (fortnightly-monthly) with your training officer. They are there to help you plan and manage your training and all of the different components, so do keep them in the loop.
  • Listen to your body and although FOMO and events outside of work can seem unmissable, it isn’t possible to do everything all of the time. Don’t risk burn out.
  • Have a hobby that allows you to relax and switch off from work – the more fun the better! My new-found hobby is learning to DJ – it is A LOT of fun and although challenging for my unrhythmic brain definitely feels like a break away from the everyday.
  • Build regular exercise into your schedule – whether that be a walk to the coffee shop in your lunch break or training for a half marathon. Go as little or as hard as you like, but exercise is so important, and even more so when you least feel like it.
  • Follow inspiring and positive accounts on social media (and ditch those that aren’t!). I really enjoy accounts like @lizandmollie on Instagram as they offer a different way of thinking about things like stress and feeling overwhelmed.

We would love to hear your tips for how you best manage your time and keep on top of things during the STP!

The views and opinions are the author’s own.

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