How to Stay Organized During Residency

Hey there!

I am so happy to bring you another huge residency post before we get another year of residency underway. Like I, and probably many others have mentioned to you, staying organized during your residency is a huge step in being successful. During your residency year you will have many different projects or assignments, some with short turn arounds and others that are ongoing all year or aren’t due for months. Keeping track of so many different deadlines can be challenging, trust me I know from personal experience, but as someone who is always busy I feel like I have my organization system down to a science and I am sharing it all with you!

First, I want to give you an idea of how many different things you will most likely need to keep track of/balance. My residency year included:

  • Personal/family events/obligations
  • Weekend staffing assignments
  • Residency project deadlines/timeline
  • Topic discussions
  • Presentations
  • Continuing Education Presentation
  • The blog/TLP
  • Days off
  • Teaching & learning course
  • Rotation timing/evaluation dates
  • Meetings
  • & probably more but these should be pretty all inclusive

As you can see it would be very very easy to lose track of all of this or get deadlines/dates mixed up when so much is going on but don’t worry this post will help you conquer it all.

Color System

One of my favorite ways to keep track of different categories for everything going on is by color coding my monthly planner. Since I am a visual person, color coding allows me to quickly see where my tasks and deadlines are falling and prioritize them in my head.

Some things are on my calendar just as a reminder or FYI, for example my staffing weekend or days off. I don’t really have to do anything to prepare for them in advance I just need to know what days they are. When I see them on my calendar their color automatically tells me they are less important and I focus on higher priority colors to schedule my time. I used one specific color to always indicate deadlines, meeting times, anything that had a hard time limit I really needed to be aware of and so on.

Obviously you can create your own color scheme based on what colors you like the best and how you want to prioritize but I personally color coded the following way:

  • RED – Deadlines/due dates, presentation dates, any high priority meetings I had to attend, etc
  • Light Blue – Rotations, more casual meetings related to rotations, evals, etc
  • Dark Blue – Staffing dates
  • Magenta – Personal events, trips, days off, etc
  • Pink – Anything TLP related

Monthly Planner

Since I am a visual person like I said I love a monthly calendar! Again this allows me to get a good idea of what my month looks like and when things are due or happening very quickly, especially with the addition of the color scheme I talked about above. I personally prefer for this to be a written planner but if you prefer your online email calendar have at it! This post is a guide to help you organize your way, you don’t have to do everything exactly how I did in order to be successful!

I will talk about this in a bit but I prefer to keep track of my daily to do list either on sticky notes, separate weekly plan or using the reminders app on my phone. Because of this I specifically get the Monthly Planner from Erin Condren instead of the LifePlanner which includes the weekly/daily spread. In school I used to get the LifePlanner but during my APPE year I found that I really didn’t use the weekly portion so I switched over to the monthly version but both planners are great options depending on your personal preference! With so much going on with my blog lately I may honestly be switching over to the LifePlanner again very soon!

Monthly Planner linked HERE

LifePlanner linked HERE 


Here is what my planner typically looked like in residency (this is September 2019 when I was a resident), you can see what I wrote down and how the color coding comes to life!

Daily Reminders & To-Do Lists

Like I mentioned in My Top 10 Residency Tips post, I use the built in Reminders app on my iPhone to record my to do lists, reminders, anything important I need to remember as it comes up. You can create different lists to help sort out the different areas of your life. Since I always had my phone on me I found this to be the easiest way for me to not forget about anything I had to do. Some of the lists I had during residency were:

  • Pharmacy (can also call this residency, PGY-1, etc)
  • To Do (this would be that specific day’s to do list)
  • TLP
  • Groceries
  • etc, customize for you!

If you are someone who would rather physically write down your to do list I still recommend having a way to record tasks/reminders as they come up. For example if your preceptor specifically asks you to look something up for the next day. If paper & pen is your true style then maybe carry a small notebook or notepad specifically for this purpose. I sometimes enjoyed writing down my to do lists as well, so I guess I am an in-between person.

I also found it helpful to plan out what day I would work on each item in weekly chunks since it was too big of a task to plan ahead more than that. To make sure you have time to complete everything I think it is helpful to plan what you will do when. For example, maybe Monday you will work on a topic discussion and Tuesday you will work on your P&T presentation, etc. Obviously this depends on what you have due when and how busy you are that week.

I am linking my favorite sticky pads, including the weekly ones, and other residency essentials down below!

Organizing Long-Term Projects & Assignments

Okay this piece is probably the most requested tip and I can understand why. I know how easy it is to put off tasks that seem so far away and then all of a sudden it’s due and you aren’t ready for it. Luckily a couple months into residency I came up with this idea to help organize the rest of my year but if I had started out the year doing this wow it would have been a lot easier!

So first, let me define what I mean by long-term projects and assignments. I am talking about things like your research project that tends to last all year, your continuing education presentation that normally takes many months to put together, for me it also included my teaching and learning certificate that I had to self pace during the year, really anything that you want to keep track of as the year goes on.

These type of long-term assignments can feel overwhelming and you may not know where to start or when you should get each piece done by. That is why I love this method I am going to teach you because you lay out everything you need to do and can assign deadlines along the way to keep you on track. Teaching you how I do this with my assignments is probably easiest with an actual example so let’s get into how I organized my research project.

Research Project Organization

My RPD was an organized angel so she had already created an outline of a schedule for our research project which is really where I got the idea for this type of organization. She had general guidelines for when we should be done data collection, analysis, how far along we should be on our manuscript, when deadlines for midyear and other conferences were where the research is normally presented etc. I think all of these are super vital to give yourself deadlines for, even if they are “soft” deadlines you can still tell if you are getting behind or if you are right on track. It is also super important I think to have a meeting with your preceptor monthly to check in so this is also something you should have as a checklist item.

The way I created my own guide instead of my RPDs paper list was in Evernote. I love Evernote so much and even use it to this day for all my blogging stuff! I am still using the free version which gives me access on my computer and phone, if you want to add more devices you may have to purchase a plan. I created a folder for residency and created a PGY-1 Timeline document for all my long-term planning. I will add in some screenshots of what that document looks like now.

You can see I clearly never went back to formally check everything off but I promise I did complete my project lol! If this looks messy to you please feel free to make it more organized I just wanted to show you truly what mine looked like. You can see any deadlines I had I put in bold and then when I completed something I changed the color to grey. Again I didn’t make this write away so my initial data pull, IRB approval etc are not on the list but they should be on yours.

My advice to create this for your own research project would be to sit down with your preceptor and discuss everything that needs to be down throughout the year and around when they think you should be done with each piece to finish on time. In the end your research checklist should at a minimum contain:

  • Monthly preceptor meetings/check-ins
  • IRB requirements & deadlines
  • Data collection information & deadlines
  • Manuscript information & deadlines
  • Midyear poster submission information & deadlines
  • Any other conferences/presentations information & deadlines
  • Data analysis information & deadlines
  • Reminders & to-dos as they come up (you can see in mine I even have email my preceptor about X question or fix my chart for blank, anything related to my project I put in that list to keep track of it all in one organized place)

I used this same method of listing out all the requirements and deadlines for things like my CE, teaching & learning, and honestly any assignment that came up because I liked having everything in one place. You can do this for any project or assignment you want to! I will drop in some more screenshots of my organized chaos for you below. (Click to make each one full size!)

I hope this post was helpful and a great step towards getting yourself organized for your upcoming residency year! If you have any questions please leave them below, or you can also ask me on Instagram (@theluxepharmacist) via DM or by commenting on my post from today announcing the blog post!

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Welcome to The Luxe Pharmacist! My name is Madeline. I am a Clinical Pharmacist with a flair for style, wellness, and all things beauty. Here you will find my favorite things and places, as well as more of my life as a woman in pharmacy. I believe there is always room for a little luxe in your life, so go ahead and dive in! Thank you for visiting my blog, cheers to living a luxe life babes!

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