Episode 71

Episode 71: How To Manage Your Time In CRNA School

Jun 29, 2022

CRNA 71 | Time Management

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Time management is a key aspect of being successful in CRNA school. When you effectively manage your time, you increase your focus and boost your productivity. Today, host Jenny Finnell talks about time management and goes over some strategies you can start implementing into your routine. Tune in to learn how to manage your time wisely and get a good game plan around how to do this by the time you get accepted into CRNA school.

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How To Manage Your Time In CRNA School

We are going to talk about managing your time at CRNA School. We are going to go over some strategies that you can start implementing into your routine now. By the time you get accepted to CRNA School, you have a good game plan around how to do this. This is something that I wish I would have had some guidance on prior to starting my program. I still managed despite probably what I would consider not the best time management skills. Adopting a system is going to allow you to keep on schedule, not procrastinate and not let yourself get overwhelmed with everything that’s up here. It allows you to organize your time.

Time management is a key aspect of being successful in CRNA School. This is also something that, after talking to various programs across the country, they agree that students need help prior to starting their program because a lot of students have never had to juggle how busy they will then be in CRNA school. From what I’ve heard from every single person, including myself, the way I felt is CRNA school is a lot.

NAR Boot Camp

There is a lot of information thrown at you at once. The academics are hard but it’s a lot. It’s an obscene amount of information that you have to learn relatively quickly. That’s why everyone was like drinking from a fire hose. How can you slow down that fire hose a little bit? It’s good time management and effective study techniques, which I teach in our Nurse Anesthesia Resident Bootcamp.

I also dive deep into this topic of time management in the NAR Bootcamp. If you are a CRNA Prep Academy student, make sure when you gain acceptance to CRNA School that you are utilizing the Nurse Anesthesia Resident Bootcamp prior to starting your program. We have several programs that are looking to adopt this into their curriculum because that’s how much it’s needed.

I highly recommend that’s the course of action you do. Plus, you are going to be able to take advantage of other things we do. We did a question and answer session. We did a clinical question session inside our academy. Hopefully, if you follow me, you will see announcements. You can join this event but we have a clinical Q&A session. We hear the word term pimping and CRNA School, which is where people ask you clinical-type questions when you are in the middle of doing something else.

It puts you on the spot. It makes you feel a lot of stress. It’s like being in a school interview where they are drilling you asking these questions, and you are like, “This is a testing my knowledge.” When it’s done correctly, it’s an effective learning tool. Over the years, it’s gotten a bad rap because you can do it not so nice. You are doing it more to make someone feel inadequate. If you do it correctly, in a way that’s more engaging, let’s chat about it, then it can be beneficial, and it can help the student learn. We did a session like that.

Ultimately, what I’m saying is to join CRNA Prep Academy, not to get the Bootcamp but to do other events that we do throughout the month. Every month we do activities. We are going to be getting ready to start a clinical care plan building sessions, where you can pick my brain. We are going to pick a topic. We are going to do vascular, and we will cover vascular cases. I have a care plan template that I’ve compiled from at least four different care plan templates and made the best of the best for you to start building your care plan library after picking a real serenade brain who has done these types of cases. We are going to be doing that also this fall of 2022.

I hope that you come to the academy to not just utilize the Bootcamp but also to take advantage of other things that we are doing. You can purchase it in our Bootcamp outside of the academy but it’s $597. It’s a way better deal. If you are going to pay for it over five months, which is when you registered dripped over five months, it’s $260. It’s a big saving, and it is also why I recommend joining the academy if you want the Bootcamp.

Digital Is The Way To Go

We deep dive into time management but it is key. The organization is a big part of it. You have to use a tool, whether you a paper and pen calendar thing or whether you prefer digital. I was an old school. I preferred pen and paper. If you saw my desk, you would see tons of sticky notes and pieces of paper, which is not efficient.

It’s not an easy way to when I found the biggest hindrance to using pen and paper is when I want to find something that I know I took notes on. I can’t find it. It’s like, “What notepad is that in? What sticky note is that on?” If I had all my sticky notes out, I would have a collage of sticky notes on my wall. It’s a little ridiculous. If I had it virtually, most virtual systems now would allow you to search key terms, which will allow you to find your notes quickly.

Time management is a key aspect of being successful in CRNA school. Click To Tweet

Even your notes on your phone, if you can’t find what you are looking for, you can search through your notes that way. Digital is the way to go, even if you are like me. It’s hard to break old habits but I do encourage you to get a blend of both. If you are not willing to give up the whole paper thing, I do encourage you to have a digital way that you track your time and stay organized.

An organization tool that I use is Asana. It has way more than what you need. I use it for CRNA School Prep Academy business, which is a big production. I should probably tell you guys the behind-the-scenes of CSPA. If you are interested, let me know if you want me to do an episode on the behind-the-scenes of CRNA Prep Academy, the business.

I use Asana, and it’s free. You wouldn’t need half of the stuff that’s in there because you need it for basic calendar functions but it’s nice. It allows you to color-code things. It allows you to build out different projects and tag your husband if your husband can, or your spouse, whoever. Your friends and family can also get a free account. You can tag and add them to your account so they get notified.

If you are planning a date night, you can fit it into your schedule. You can tag your significant other, “This is our date night.” Let them know so they can automatically see it. You can also use your Google Calendar or Apple Calendar. That’s perfectly fine too. You can sync and share calendars with whoever you want to share them with. That’s also an option.

The reason why I like Asana is that it allows for better visualization and planning of various tasks. You might need it as far as organizing your school but for a personal life thing, sharing a calendar app like Google Calendar or Apple calendar is a nice way to go and share it with whoever you want to share it with, so you are both on the same page. That’s my recommendation for being organized.


Scheduling, you need to think about this ahead of time. I know you probably will, “Jenny, I don’t know my syllabus yet.” It’s okay. I want you to brainstorm and get an idea of the time that you can set aside to tackle your schoolwork. You have to block off chunks of your day that you know for sure you can dedicate to school.

Set a time for what I call the fundamental needs. It is your need, whether that’s physical needs such as working out or meal prepping. For health, personal time for your to-do list, for example. Family, kids, and significant other. Schedule a date night. Hopefully, you do it once a week, if not at least once a month. Knowing ahead of time what your idea timeframe is that you have every day is going to allow you, once you get your syllabus and start filling in those blocks.

You have to work out your schedule and get a handle on what you feel like you can do. That way, when you do get your syllabus and your schedule, you can start filling in the holes and where you have time to work. It allows you to be more organized and set boundaries with your time. If you know you need a certain time for family or personal time, make sure you build that into your schedule versus if you don’t, you may neglect it, forget about it or made say, “I will keep working. I will keep doing my schoolwork.” You end up over time suffering the consequences.

Batching And Picking The Time Of Day

That’s why scheduling a blocking out your time is key. I do give a guide on how to do that inside the NAR Bootcamp. It comes with a workbook that you can fill out. It gives examples of how to do that and how to identify what these fundamental needs are for you. I also share with you mine but I have identified it anyways. There are such things as batching and being selective with what time of day you choose to do things.

It makes the most sense to pick tasks that are similar. I batch my show because it makes no sense to do three shows in a row versus trying to do one every single week. If I did that, I would probably get a snotty nose and not be able to do it or I would have a busy week and forget. You guys would only have an intermittent episode from me because I like to stay a month ahead.

A nurse putting gloves on while standing near a sink

Time Management: Prioritization of your tasks is a must. It’s one of the key things you need to do in CRNA school.

I do this with all my tasks for the most part. The things that I can batch, I do batch. It makes it easier to stick with the same task. It makes it more efficient, and it allows you to get into that creative space where you can put all your time, energy, and focus into that. With that being said, I’ve planned for this. I didn’t whip out a batch session. Like the night before or even a day or two before, I outline, for the most part, what I’m going to talk about. I have notes like bullet points. I don’t go crazy with my outline. I bullet points and rift you guys.

Ninety percent of my episode are me riffing off the top of my head. There are only a few that I’ve done where I’ve legit planned and have outlined notes thing, batching and picking the time of day. I know for me, my hardest tasks are what I’m the most focused should be in the first half of my day. Meaning from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM is when I should do the tasks that I need to be laser-focused on doing because I have the most attention at that point.

I have lunch, get sleepy, and need a nap. I don’t take a nap but that being said, in the afternoon, I can still bring forth the energy. I know I can but by 3:00 and 4:00, I struggle with difficult tasks. I’m zoned out by then. I do know that at that point in the day, I have to typically align my tasks to be things that don’t require a ton of focus or easier tasks.

If you are a community member, you are like, “Thanks, Jenny. I get the worst of you.” You get my best but I tend to save my community management for that, meaning at the end of my day, I will go into the academy. I will answer questions inside the community or save that task like when I’m rocking our son to sleep.

I try to save that task because, for me, it doesn’t feel super hard to do that task. I will answer questions and type them out but if I’m trying to produce content and make content, it takes more brain power for me. I try to pick the time of day that works best to get my task done. If you are doing the NAR Bootcamp, you will see the example I showed you about how I block out my time.

For the most part, I’m pretty flexible now. I do still work at the hospital. What you see for my schedule is not going to be your schedule but I want to give you an idea. Once a week, I will work at the hospitals at CRNA. I have a big giant block of work where I’m only at the hospital but I prefer to work in my workspaces at various times a day.

I have a big chunk in the middle of my day, where I do most of my work. I take a break at lunch. First thing in the morning, I answer emails. For example, at 6:30 in the morning, I answer emails. At 5:30 in the morning, if I can get up, I try to work out but it hasn’t been happening. I have different periods of my schedule that I try to build my work around and also personal time.

Taking Breaks

Breaks are important, and I, myself, am guilty of neglecting this but there is an app or technique called Pomodoro. You can find apps that help you with this. I personally need an app because I’m not good enough about remembering to do it without an app holding me accountable but it sets a timer where you work for 25 minutes straight, and you take a 5-minute break.

The five-minute break is a breath of fresh air. It’s a breather. It’s not enough time to do anything else. It’s more like getting a drink of water, going to the bathroom, grabbing a snack, thinking about what you are going to do next, and going back at it. It doesn’t feel like a giant break but it’s enough to give you that mental space to get your creativity flowing again. It gives you a little bit of a mental break from all the stimulation and thinking.


Thinking takes a lot of energy and work. The Pomodoro Technique is a great one. What helps is the prioritization of your tasks. This is a must. This is one of the key things that you need to be doing in CRNA School because you are going to have a lot of things on your plate on top of personal things. I suggest having two different prioritization charts. You need to have a school one and a personal one. There is an Eisenhower Matrix that you can follow. If you google these things, you can easily find them. That’s the technique I teach in our Bootcamp, where it has four quadrants. Every quadrant has a different priority and an urgency set to it.

Multitasking leads to inefficiency, overwhelm, and burnout. Click To Tweet

What happens is sometimes we neglect what’s in quadrant two to where they become an urgent task. We think, “We need to do this but we will do this first.” You can get into this vicious cycle where everything you do becomes urgent because you didn’t plan for it well. You always find yourself putting an important task off until it becomes urgent. It’s hard to break that vicious cycle, and that can affect your ability to do your best work. If you are rushing to get something done or cramming to study, you are not going to be nearly as effective as if you plan for it better and take a longer time to study something, so it sticks.

Cramming is not the way to study. You are not going to help yourself out on midterms, finals or boards. Prioritization is key but in school, you are going to have to break up your personal and school life because your school life is going to be busy. It’s going to be hard to blend the both because they are going to feel overwhelming if you do.

It’s good breaking them up into separate charts, and this should happen every week. Every week you need to be breaking up your tasks. On top of having a set schedule where you block time off every Sunday, you need to prioritize your tasks for the week, both personal and school. What is good about breaking them up is it allows you to see something in each category how urgent is this personal task versus how urgent is this schooling task. How can I accomplish and even do some of these at the same time?

Maybe I can study while I cook dinner, I can study while I run my child to baseball practice or something like that. That way, you don’t feel like you are neglecting your schoolwork but you also don’t feel guilty for not getting it done. It allows you to be more creative. It is what I’m saying by splitting up the charts and trying to see if there’s anything that you can maybe do two things at once.

That being said, make sure you are pairing that wisely. Women are good at multitasking. I don’t know where I’ve heard and believed that. I know I grew up thinking that women took on the responsibility of juggling all the things. I’m probably not the best thing to think about yourself because multitasking leads to inefficiency. It leads to your ability to not give your all to one thing and leads to overwhelm mostly and burnout.

It makes you feel icky. It leads to anxiety. I don’t think multitasking isn’t a thing at all. I was always questioning whether it was a good thing. When I started learning more about time management myself, I was like, “It is not a good thing.” They scientifically have proven that it does create inefficiency when you try to multitask.

With The Pomodoro Technique, you put all your focus for 25 minutes into 1 task. You are not like, “Five minutes here in this task. I’m going to go do this, and I’m going back here.” It doesn’t allow you to give your all to any one thing, which leaves you half-finished in a lot of projects. Multitasking can be a bad thing, and it can affect your efficiency.

What I used to do in school was I used to study at the gym. That was how I felt I was multitasking but it worked well. To workout was more of a physical thing, and to study was more of a mental thing. I combined a mental thing with a physical thing, and it didn’t feel like I was trying to do two mental things at once.

Try to picture doing two physical tasks at once. It’s not possible. Why are you trying to do two mental tasks at once? It’s also not possible. That’s what I mean. If you are going to combine two different tasks, make sure 1 is physical and 1 is mental, not both mental. You can’t do two physical things at once, so you shouldn’t need to do two mental things at once.

You want to build out buffers into your schedule because, inevitably, things will come up. Things will change, you know how it goes like, “I didn’t picture that will happen. What do I do?” If you don’t leave yourself any buffer time in your schedule, it becomes a sense of urgency again. The buffers are nice to give yourself and if nothing comes up, take the personal time or maybe get ahead if you feel that’s something you can do. There’s nothing wrong with getting ahead but there’s also nothing wrong, equally with taking some more personal time if you feel like you need it. That’s where the buffers can work well in your schedule.

A nurse writing something on a chart

Time Management: You can get into this vicious cycle where everything you do becomes urgent when you don’t plan for it.

Saying No

Say, “No.” I know if you are reading this blog post, you’ve probably read that I vent about my frustrations in school about always having to say no to things. I want to say yes to hanging out with my girlfriends or going here doing that. I was like, “No,” but I wanted to say, “Yes.” It felt hard to say no all the time. It got me upset at one point. I blew up. It was like, “I can’t take this anymore.”

Saying no can be hard but it is vital because you have been in this for several years. This is your priority. The best advice I can give is you have to try your best to explain to your friends, your significant other, and your family why you have to say, “No.” Let them know what your schedule is. They know when you are more likely to say, “Yes.” My biggest piece of advice is to let them know, “Not this weekend but if you want to do something, I have blocked off the weekend of June 27th to do some fun things. Maybe we grabbed dinner that night.”

Let them know when you are available but instead of them reaching out sporadically on their schedule and you always having to say, “No.” It’s more about communication and letting your friends and family know when you are available. They know the right times to ask. They don’t ask you at inappropriate times when you always have to say, “No.”

The reality is you will have to say no more often than what you are used to being in CRNA School. It can wear on your heart a little bit. You are doing this temporarily. When you are done with school, you can say yes all the time. You are going to be like, “I got to say no again because now I’m too busy.” It’s only temporary. It is what I can say. You will see the light at the end of the tunnel. Your graduation day will come. Trust me. You will find all the things to fill that free time.

Environment And Community

At first, when you first graduate and take boards, you are going to be like, “What do I do? I don’t even know what to do. I’m sitting here. I got to go find something to do with my free time.” Over time, you are like, “I don’t have enough free time.” Over time, you find ways to fill it. Trust me. Environment and community are something that maybe you guys haven’t thought about. I’m sure as heck didn’t but it is vital, and here’s why.

Your environment can be conducive for learning or not conducive for learning. If it’s noisy and you can hear the dogs because they are barking. Even like visual cues, if I see my laundry basket, I’m going to be like a squirrel. I have to do a full laundry. My kitchen sometimes is a bad place for me to be because I get my kitchen, and I’m overwhelmed with dishes and all the clutter. The kid’s toys are half-chewed and mangled by the dogs. I’m like, “It’s over.” It’s anxiety-provoking to be in my kitchen.

I often like to go with my little dungeon of a basement doing my work because, for the most part, it’s the least stimulating place I have in my home. You have to also find that environment for you in school. Sometimes it works best if you get out of the house. I would sit at Panera and study or the library, in Starbucks, or wherever you chose to get your studying done. Find the right environment.

Community is huge because it’s the accountability piece. Think about it. People pay for personal trainers. Why? They know how to go to the gym, or maybe they don’t know all the techniques but for the most part, any one person can go to the gym and do an exercise. They pay for a community and a personal trainer for, A) Accountability and, B) Strategizing. The community is a great way for you to not only be held accountable but strategize. I’m thinking you are maybe not, “I don’t know how to bend my leg that way or lift weights this way. Thank you. That’s a new strategy for me to try to get the result I want.”

Community is like paying for a personal trainer in school. Being a part of CRNA Prep Academy, part of the community, having a place to ask questions, connect with classmates, and however you want to do it. I know a lot of classmates form their own private Facebook groups. That’s a great way to do it too. You need to have a way to stay connected.

I liked the virtual classroom setting. It’s convenient, especially for those who otherwise would have to commute a lot. There’s also a big downside. A lot of our students I’m seeing are losing that sense of community in the school. They are losing that accountability in the strategizing piece. The loneliness can set in.

You will have to say no more often than you're used to, being in CRNA school. It can wear on your heart a little bit, but you're doing this temporarily. You will see the light at the end of the tunnel, and your graduation will come. Click To Tweet

I talked to a student who is out of state where typically, this program, for the most part, likes to keep its own. It likes home-grown people because it wants to keep people around for jobs. They don’t let in a lot of out-of-state students but the few students who did get in from out of state feel lonely because a lot of the classmates all have their little buddy system. They feel like loners, and that’s unfortunate.

That has caused a lot of emotional stress and strain for this particular student. That’s where I’m like, “You need some support.” That comes in with the community. You got to find someone to connect with, whether that’s classmates from out of state. You have to find a way to touch base with them frequently and often. You feel like you have someone there for you. I get it. You are not going to always connect with all your classmates as human beings. They are going to have certain people you are going to connect with and with some certain people you are not.

You have to try and find at least one person to be that support person that is also in school with you. It’s great if you have a supportive significant other. I have that but I still sometimes felt alone, even though I had someone to go home and talk to. I feel guilty saying this because my husband is amazing. He was always supportive and there for me but sometimes, I felt like I needed to talk to someone who actually was experiencing what I was experiencing.

I don’t know why. I don’t know how to explain it other than the fact that it felt more reassuring that I had someone else who was like, “Jenny, let me tell you this because I resonate with what you said, and this is how I feel now.” You are like, “You spoke my mind.” It’s something about having someone else who is going through the same thing to connect with and can make a big difference in your mental health. That’s what I experienced. I’m sure a lot of you maybe feel the same way or will feel the same way going forward. I don’t know how to explain it but your classmates can be a huge support during school.

I hope you guys enjoy this episode. This wraps up time management in school. I am excited for you. I’m rooting for you. If you are a CSPA student, please utilize the Nurse Anesthesia Resident Bootcamp. You have access to it. It’s a great way to get a headstart on your CRNA journey. To cover what we cover on the Bootcamp, we’ve started off with the intranet institute history, which you are frequently tested on and expected to know when you start your program and enter the anesthesia concepts.

We cover the basics of anesthesia, different equipment, machine, mechanics, and things like that. It’s basic. We expose you to what you need to know in anesthesia school. When you start your programs, you are going to have the foundations to build upon. It’s not going to all seem completely foreign to you, and you will have an understanding of why we use certain things in anesthesia.

We also do an intro to Anesthesia Chemistry. I had a student ask me if he needed to know the Krebs Cycle. It’s for Biochem, but no. You don’t have to do the Krebs Cycle for CRNA School. We teach you Chemistry that you have to know for CRNA School. He’s doing the same thing. He’s binge-watching Khan Academy or whatever one does all the Chemistry.

Do The Bootcamp

It’s unnecessary. Do the Bootcamp. I promise you, we have covered what you need to know in the Bootcamp. You don’t need to do anything else. The beauty in our Bootcamp is if you are going to go out and watch every Khan Academy video, stop now, enjoy your free time, and go utilize the Chemistry course, which will only take you a little over an hour to do, and you are going to be golden. That’s all you have to know to build the foundation for CRNA School.

Save yourself time and frustration, the same thing with Physics. We teach you Physics that you need to know for anesthesia. It’s a narrow range of concepts in Physics that you have to understand. We also do a two-part series on the intro to Pharmacology. We did a two-part series because we do a lot of Pharmacology in anesthesia school. As you can imagine, we push drugs all day.

We don’t want you to go out, read every textbook and try to memorize every drug. We teach you what you have to know for anesthesia school and give you a good foundation to build upon. We also do the introductory Writing course. We call it Scholarly Writing because now you are writing DMP papers. Some of you may be like, “How in the world do I do this? How APA with all this stuff?” We run through a Writing course with you.

We also do an Anesthesia Math course. I had a student who was like, “On my interview, they asked me how to convert a milligram per ml to mics per ml. I planked.” It’s not a hard conversion at all. She’s moving decimal places over but it’s one of those things where if you are not familiar to do it quickly, it can be scary. You are like, “How do I do this?” We break down Anastasia Math for you. It’s not hard.

A lot of people think you have to be a math whiz to be a CRNA. It’s not true. It’s pretty basic elementary Math that you have to do. It’s ratios and percentages. Math was not my strong suit. I like Math but I have always struggled with it, and I do fine. I also have mild dyslexia and still do fine. I know that 100 million times to triple-check myself on my numbers.

Honestly, the more you do it, and the more familiar you get, the easier it gets. We also teach study techniques and time management. We teach mental wellness. This is huge. In the last episode, I covered how to deal with anxiety. We deep dive into mental wellness. The problem with mental wellness, and I even spoke to the students who I mentor or do clinical with. The students don’t know they need help until they need help. It’s like, “I’m good. I got this.” They get to the school, and they are like, “What do I do?” Trust me and embrace the mental wellness aspect now prior to starting school. You will thank yourself later. I promise.

We also get into the grit of how to endure. We cover a preoperative assessment thoroughly, induction of anesthesia, maintenance of anesthesia, emergency of anesthesia, and clinical tips for success. Make sure you do the Nurse Anesthesia Resident Bootcamp. It is there already part of your membership. I hope you guys enjoyed this episode. I will see you next time. Bye.

Important Links

Get access to planning tools, valuable CRNA Faculty guidance & mapped out courses that have been proven to accelerate your CRNA success! Become a member of CRNA School Prep Academy here:


Book a mock interview, personal statement critique, resume review and more at https://www.TeachRN.com

Join the CSPA email list: https://www.cspaedu.com/podcast-email

Send Jenny an email or make a podcast request!



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