Medical school has been getting harder and busier each year. There is more material to review, but also more clinical work to be done. In order to study, I need to make it a priority or else it won’t happen. I have a few tips that help me to carve out study time, and I think they’ll help whether you’re studying for an exam, prepping for your next healthcare rotation, or trying to get some practice in for the CASPer® test.
Take my day yesterday. I was rounding on patients from 6 am – 8 am, then in surgery from 8 am until 7 pm. That’s 13 hours of clinical time, and tonight I’ll sleep for 7 hours (because otherwise my brain can’t function properly). That leaves 4 hours that I can use to do what I want! Today I chose to finish this blog post, I made a quick dinner, and I ended up studying for an hour. Even though I thought that I wouldn’t be able to get anything done after a day of back-to-back surgeries, I still got some studying in. (Also, I recognize that I’m in the privileged position of being able to have control over my free time. I know other people don’t have this ability; this is just my experience and what works for me.)
Here’s how I made studying happen on a busy day:
1. I put it in my schedule
If your day is busy, things that aren’t on the schedule might not get done. When you schedule something, you tell your brain that you’re prioritizing it. For me, something about typing that task into my schedule solidifies that I actually need to do it.
2. I have a schedule for my day
Tip 1 only works if you have a schedule. When I was doing my Masters, I consistently felt like I was too busy, but simultaneously not getting the things I wanted done. That all changed when I made myself write out a schedule. The nice thing is that you don’t have to put absolutely everything on the schedule. Unless you want to. I found it helpful to add in my classes/clinical schedule, my workout, and my dedicated study time.
3. I broke my studying time into chunks
This one works fantastically for me! If I have 20 minutes, I love to use that time for studying. I find that 20 minutes is long enough to get into a groove, but short enough that my tiny attention span can stay focused. Plus, these small chunks done a few times a day is spaced repetition, which is helpful for remembering all the info I just learned.
4. I put my phone away
Such a hard one! But vital if you feel like you don’t have enough time to study and then find yourself scrolling through Insta for half an hour. I always have my phone on silent, but if it’s within reach it’s still distracting. Now I keep my phone in another room so that if I want to look at it I have to get up. I make my laziness work for me.
5. I’m aware of how much TV I watch
I couldn’t believe how many hours a day I used to watch TV. It’s is an effortless way to relax at the end of the day, but it’s a time vortex. I thought nothing of sitting down to watch a show shortly after cleaning up the dinner dishes and until going to bed. But that usually ended up being many hours. Now, I go to my computer after dinner and do an hour of studying, and get just as much relaxation from watching a bit of TV once everything is done for the day.
Now get out there and crush your study time!