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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 39-43

Time management among undergraduate medical students: A study from a tertiary health-care teaching institution in Puducherry

Department of Community Medicine, SVMCH and RC, Puducherry, India

Date of Submission09-Aug-2019
Date of Decision11-Oct-2019
Date of Acceptance22-Oct-2019
Date of Web Publication02-Jan-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Bijaya Nanda Naik
Department of Community Medicine, SVMCH and RC, Puducherry - 605 102
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/JIHS.JIHS_36_19

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Background: Time is a nonrenewable resource and effective time management is the key to better academic performance. Objective: To assess the time management skills of undergraduate medical students of a tertiary care health instituMethodology: This cross-sectional study was conducted among 243 undergraduate medical students of a tertiary healthcare institution in Puducherry. The time management skill was assessed using a time management questionnaire (TMQ) which has 18 items in 5-point Likert scales. A score of ≥58 on TMQ was considered as good time management skill. Results: The mean (standard deviation) of the TMQ score was 52.7 (9.8) overall, and 18.2 (5.8), 19.4, (3.5) and 15.1 (3.4), respectively in short-range planning, time attitude, and long-range planning domains. More than two-third of the students were found to have poor to average time management skills. Students with high readiness for self-directed learning were found to have significantly higher TMQ score [55.7(9.9) Vs 50.1 (8.9), P=0.000]. Conclusion: Majority of the students possess poor to average time management skills. Further study relating time management with academic performance may be conducted and counseling/workshops should be organized for students to improve their time management skills.

Keywords: Medical students, self-directed learning readiness, time management, time management questionnaire

How to cite this article:
Naik BN, Rangasamy S, Vrushabhendra H N. Time management among undergraduate medical students: A study from a tertiary health-care teaching institution in Puducherry. J Integr Health Sci 2019;7:39-43

How to cite this URL:
Naik BN, Rangasamy S, Vrushabhendra H N. Time management among undergraduate medical students: A study from a tertiary health-care teaching institution in Puducherry. J Integr Health Sci [serial online] 2019 [cited 2023 Jun 10];7:39-43. Available from: https://www.jihs.in/text.asp?2019/7/2/39/274533

  Introduction Top

Educational goals are directed at academic achievement without compromising the quality of life of the students.[1] “Emphasizing time on task” is one of the seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education.[2] Stress, frustrations, low confidence, etc., develop when a student is not able to complete the academic commitments and the resulting poor academic performance which they attribute to lack of time.[3],[4] Time as a resource is inelastic, not renewable, and cannot be accumulated or increased. Everyone has the same 24 × 7 hours at one's disposal.

Effective time management is the key to success and better academic performance among students. van Eerde et al. defined time management as “behaviours that aim at achieving an effective use of time while performing certain goal directed activities with due importance given to prioritization of various activities.”[5],[6] Time management is all about judicious use of time available, setting priorities, and accomplish them. In the context of professional course like MBBS, the high importance of time management is undeniable given the high volume academic load.[7],[8]

Poor time management by students results in task half done, dissatisfaction, frustration, and demotivation for future task. It also results in anxiety, depression of not achieving desired academic performance, and poor sleep.[5],[9],[10] Ultimately, physical and mental health of the students deteriorates, hampering their acquisition of skills and knowledge. Because the Medical Council of India envisages a medical graduate to be a lifelong learner, time management becomes indispensible, given the high volume of curricular and extracurricular activities during MBBS.[11]

Several studies have explored the relationship between time management and academic performance as well as personal life. There has been demonstration of positive correlation of time management with academic performance, less stressful life, less role ambiguity, and role overload.[7],[12] Eid et al. also have reported a positive correlation between time management and self-esteem among students.[13] However, most of the studies have been conducted outside India There is limited literature available from India which has explored the time management skills of students. Sunil et al. from Mysore and Khanam et al. from Odisha have demonstrated a significant positive correlation between time management and academic performance among MBBS students in private medical colleges.[14],[15]

Hence, this study was planned to assess the time management skills of undergraduate medical students of a tertiary care health institution in Puducherry.

  Methodology Top

Study setting

Puducherry has a total of nine medical colleges which include one state government college and one autonomous institution of national importance. This study was conducted as a part of self-directed learning readiness (SDLR) study among MBBS students of a private medical college in Puducherry. The medical college has 150 intakes into MBBS course every year. The MBBS course is taught for 4 and ½ years followed by 1 year of compulsory rotatory internship. The community medicine subject is taught from the first through seventh semester in the medical college.

Ethical approval and study participants

The SDLR study has been approved by the Institute Ethics Committee of the Medical College. This explorative study was conducted during April–May 2018 among IV and VI semester MBBS students. Although we intended to include all the students during the study period, only 243 (90.7%) gave written informed consent to participate. Chronic absentees and student self-reporting under psychiatric care were excluded from the study.

Study tool

The study tool, which was self-administered, had four sections. First section had a semi-structured proforma to collect general information about the participants. The various information such as age, gender, class 12th board, language of class 12th board, residence (urban/rural), and current stay (hostel/day scholar) were collected. Second, third, and fourth section had pretested SDLR, motivation, and time management questionnaires (TMQs). Fisher's SDLR scale (40 items in 5-point Likert scale)[16] and a pretested motivation for learning scale (31 items in 7-point Likert scale) were used for assessing readiness and motivation for learning respectively, among the students. SDLR and motivation have been presented in a separate research paper. A validated TMQ developed by Britton and Tesser was used for assessing the time management skills of the students.[7] This tool has been used in Indian context among medical undergraduate students by earlier research.[14] The language validation and pretesting has been done among 8th semester MBBS students of the medical college who were not part of the study. The post hoc analysis of TMQ showed a Cronbach's alpha of 0.798, indicating high internal consistency.

The TMQ has 18 items. Each item is in a 5-point Likert scale and indicates as follows: 1 – never, 2 – rarely, 3 – sometimes, 4 – often, and 5 – always. The higher score corresponds to better time management. The items 2, 3, 9, and 15 are negative items and hence scores reverse. This tool has been validated and used in the earlier research for assessing time management skills of undergraduate students.[7], 9, [17],[18],[19] The TMQ has been further subscaled into three parts: (1) short-range planning (7 items) (2) time attitude (6 items), and (3) long-range planning (5 items).

Study procedure

The students were asked to assemble in a lecture hall. The principal investigator explained the study procedures and tools, and students giving written informed consent were distributed the self-administered study tool. No discussion and talking among students were ensured.

Statistical analysis

Maximum and minimum possible scores were 90 and 18 respectively. The three levels of time management included (1) good or highly skilled (score above 58), (2) moderately skilled (score 47–58), and (3) poor or low skilled (46 and below).[9],[17] Association between time management scores and sociodemographic variables was assessed using unpaired t-test, and P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

  Results Top

The mean (standard deviation) age of the study population was 19.7 (0.9) years and ranged from 18 to 23 years. Other demographic and general information of the study population is presented in [Table 1]. The number of female participations in the study was more than the number of male participations. The participants were almost equally distributed with regard to current MBBS semester and stay. Nearly a quarter of participants each were from rural areas and have doctor in the family. Nearly 30% of the participants studied in the state for class 12th. English was the medium of instruction in class 12th for almost all the participants.
Table 1: Sociodemographic details of the study participants (n=243)

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The level time management skills of the study participants are shown in [Figure 1]. More than two-third of the participants have poor-to-average time management skills. Total time management scores and scores in different subscales are presented in [Table 2]. None of the characteristics, gender, residence, stay, class 12th board, and doctors in the family showed statistically significant association with time management skills. Urban students were found to have significantly higher score in time attitude subscale. Students with high readiness for learning (SDLR score >150) had significantly higher time management score than students with low readiness (55.7 ± 9.9 vs. 50.1 ± 8.9, P < 0.05) overall as well as in all subscale domains. Age was not found to be correlated with time management score (r = −0.035, P > 0.05).
Figure 1: Time management skills of the study participants (n = 243)

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Table 2: Association of sociodemographic characteristics of study participants with time management

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Response of students to selected items out of total 18 items of TMQ is presented in [Table 3]. Only one-fifth of the participants each make a list of things to do each day and plan day before the start. Around two-thirds of the participants set priorities and stick to it. About 30% of the participants spend most of the time on personal grooming. A quarter of participants reported constructive use of time. About 55% of the participants keep the task till the night before the completion. Only a quarter of students reported to have set goals for the entre semester. Nearly half of the students reported doing multiple assignments in peace meals.
Table 3: Students response on selected time management questionnaire items (n=243)

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  Discussion Top

Time management is an important skill that every student must learn for better academic performance. The Cronbach's alpha of the TMQ tool among the study participants was found to be 0.798, which is as good as or better than the Cronbach's alpha reported by other studies.[9],[17]

More than two-thirds of the students had low-to-moderate level of time management skills in our study. Similar findings have been reported by earlier studies.[10],[14],[17] More than half of the students have been reported to possess low-to-moderate time management skills from Odisha.[14] A time management skill study among students in finance accounting course from Turkey reported as high as 92% of students possessing low-to-moderate time management skill.[17] In a study from UAE, Khatib reported around three-fourth students to have low-to-moderate time management skills.[10]

Female students generally accomplish better time management than male students. This has been attributed to better listening, planning, and organization.[20] Many earlier studies also support this fact.[10], 12, [21],[22],[23] However, no significant difference in time management skills between male and female students was found in our study. Khanam et al. and Dalli also could not establish statistically significant relationship between gender and time management skills.[14],[24]

With increasing age, students generally acquire better management skills. Trueman and Hartley have recorded better time management skills among mature older students than younger students.[21] In contrast, we could not establish correlation between age and time management in our study. We also did not find any significant difference in time management score based on area of residence, current stay, class 12th board, and presence of doctor in the family. However, a statistically significant difference in time management score was noted based on the level of readiness for self-directed learning (SDL). Students with high readiness for self-learning had higher time management score than students with low readiness for self-learning (55.7 [9.9] vs. 50.1 [8.9], P < 0.05). Although external factors are also implicated in time management skills, it is more of an intrinsic motivation phenomenon among our study participants. Earlier studies in different parts of the world also have demonstrated similar association between SDL and time management skills.[25],[26]

We could not find any significant difference in three subscales of time management based on gender, residence, stay, and class 12th board, except statistically significant score in time attitude scale based on residence. Similar findings have been reported by Khanam et al.[14] Except long-range planning, Pehlivan et al. also have not reported significant difference scores over all and in subscales domains.[17]

We found that only one-fifth of the students make to do list every day. Only one-third of the students reported to set priorities in our study. Khanam et al. and Oyuga et al. have reported 29% and 41% of the students to set priorities in their respective studies, respectively.[14],[27] In contrast to a study by Khanam et al.(48%), only one-fifth of the participants reported to plan day before start in our study. About 29% of the participants reported in our study to waste time in personal grooming. Higher proportion (43%) of students has been reported about personal grooming other studies.[14] In our study, only about a quarter of the students reported constructive use of time. Other studies have reported more than 40% of the participants using time constructively.[14],[27] We noted that majority of the students stretch the completion of assignment till the night before due. Similar findings have been reported by Khanam et al.[14] Only a quarter of the students in our study were clear about the goal for the entire semester. Other studies reported 35%–80% of the students having clear about their semester goals.[14],[27] Similar to a study by Khanam et al., nearly half of the students reported piecemeal completion of multiple tasks in our study.[14]

Improvement in self-attitude and increase involvement in constructive activities can improve time management skills of the students. Sevari and Karim found positive influence of training on time management skill with academic performance and self-efficacy.[28]

Strength and limitation

This is one of the very few studies from India among MBBS students, which has highlighted time management skills among undergraduate medical students. Response rate was more than 90%. Cronbach's alpha demonstrated high internal consistency and reliability. It also provides an opportunity for the curriculum developer to look into how students can achieve better academics without putting stress to their quality of life.

Generalization should be done with caution because of some limitations. The findings are from a single medical college. The study was conducted when students were relatively free as no imminent university examination was there. Desirability bias could not be completely ruled out due to self-administer nature of questionnaire though anonymity was ensured. Although students were explained clearly the questionnaire, misunderstanding and guessing response could not be completely ruled out.

  conclusio and Recommendation Top

Nearly two-third of the students had low-to-moderate time management skills. High readiness for self-learning was found to be significantly associated with better time management skills.

There is a need to train the MBBS students on management skills like time management for better academic performance apart from course curriculum. This can be accomplished by organizing time management workshops for students. The teaching learning process should shift from passive teacher-centric to active student-centric mode with primary responsibility lying on students. This will help them better management of time, effective learning, and better academic performance.


We thank the students of SVMCH and RC for participating in this study.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]

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