time-and-life-management-for-medical-students-and-residents-1st-editionAuthor: Michael Sabel, MD
Publisher: Thieme – 76 pages
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

This slim, mini (7.5” x 5”) book is probably the most valuable resource you will need as you enter and begin your medical residency. It was written by Dr. Michael Sabel who has directed medical resident training programs for more than 20 years. So he is uniquely qualified to write this guide for you.

Having spoken at length with numerous residents, this is how the majority of residents describe to Dr. Sabel their first year or two as residents:

“When you start your residency, your life will change dramatically. You will suddenly find yourself in a whirlwind of obligations. Tasks that you don’t master will be thrust upon you. You will be afraid to fail and you will fail. You will be responsible for complications. Pressure will be incredible and you will be happy when your day (or quite often the night) is over and you are out of the danger zone.”

Dr. Sabel has put together this precious little book to help restore sanity into those who did not prepare themselves, and failed miserably. They just did not prepare adequately and encountered disaster after disaster, and in the process, wasted precious time, effort, and money.

“It is the purpose of this book to stimulate thought processes that nurture a healthy attitude toward organizing one’s time and life so as to improve one’s own quality of life as well as the patient’s well being,” he writes on the back cover.

Dr. Sabel has organized the contents in this book with the outline shown below. Upon browsing through this book, we learned that a lot of what he writes is based on his practical experience and development of insight as he saw students fail, as well as succeed.

  • Introduction
    • Part I – The Eagle’s Perspective – “Macro”
      • Goals
      • Roles
      • Regeneration
  • Intermezzo: You Are the Boss (of Your Life)
    • Part II – Boots on the Ground – “Micro”
      • From Goal to Action
      • Sorting
      • Planning Your Week
      • Acute Disaster Management: Three Major Points
      • Anxiety Management: The “Power of Now” Approach
      • Networking
      • The Mentor
      • The Need for Reevaluation
      • The Art to Learn from Others
  • Epilogue
  • Recommended Readings
  • Recommended Videos
  • Recommended Software
  • Reference

All the chapters are very useful, especially those that help you develop your macro perspective in Part I. I found chapter 3 – Regeneration – to be rather refreshing. It starts with a quote from Abraham Lincoln:

“If I had to spend six hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first hour to sharpen the axe.”

Preparation, as we all know, is critical to success. While preparation makes us more productive, it is also important to maintain a high level of productivity by taking necessary breaks and regenerating our energies instead of wearing ourselves out. Dr. Sabel gives other examples.

He writes: “Practicing medicine is a very long and difficult journey. Combining this ambitious goal with all the other aspects of your life is very demanding. To reach your destination you will need to continuously regenerate the most important tool that you have: yourself .”

Some of the many important topics presented and discussed in this book are:

  • The macro-perspective: goals, roles, regeneration
  • The micro-perspective: from goal to action
  • Planning your work
  • Acute disaster management: three major points
  • Anxiety management and the “power of now”
  • Networking: finding and working with mentors; reevaluating; learning from errors

This handy guide is small enough to fit into your coat pocket and become your trusted companion as you go through your daily rounds visiting your patients.

This book clearly shows you how to think, plan, and write down your short-term and long-term goals; sort through activities and set your priorities – highest to lowest; learn and develop medical skills; avoid time-stealing non-essential activities (except necessary relaxation); develop and sharpen your focus on achieving your goals on target; schedule your hours, days and weeks in the most efficient way; deal with disaster; manage anxiety; become fulfilled and happy, and lead a balanced work-home-social life.



Michael Sabel, MD is Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Hospital Dusseldorf in Dusseldorf, Germany.