A lot of us are spending even more time studying at home than we planned since the beginning of the pandemic. When it first started, I was sent home from my Internal Medicine rotation, but still had to study for the exam. As soon as that was over, I began my dedicated Step 2 CK study period. I am going to write a post about my experiences with Step 1 and 2 for you guys, but for now you can check out my YouTube videos here for a glimpse into my daily study life and also my reactions to getting my scores.
Okay, back to what I actually wanted to talk about in this post. During this time, I went from laying in bed and ignoring my responsibilities to having to find ways to be productive so that I could succeed on my upcoming exams. If you are stuck at home studying here are my tips to increase your productivity and be the best student you can be!
You know this already. You need to get enough sleep to be well rested and have your mind be sharp. Studies show that sleep helps with memory as well. Remember when you were a kid and you had a bedtime? Well, it might be time to revisit that as an adult. I’m going to be honest and tell you guys that I’m still working on this. My body can operate pretty well on 6 hours of sleep, but I would much prefer getting the recommended 7-8 hours for adults. The mentality of “sleep is for the weak” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is tired. I have friends in med school that get 8 hours of sleep every night no matter what and get the best grades. YOU NEED REST.
Establish a Morning Routine
This has been a game-changer for me. I used to kind of just stay in bed until the last minute and then rush to get ready. During the pandemic when we switched to virtual classes, I was laying in bed until lecture started. Now, I wake up with enough time to do things that make me feel refreshed. For me, it’s some brief form of exercise and prayer. Sometimes I read a novel that is completely unrelated to medicine. Pick one or two things to do that energizes you and helps you feel ready to tackle the day.
My phone is my main distraction – specifically social media. So I turn it off or put in far away from me. I’ve had multiple times were I deleted all social media apps because I had no self-control. I’m not saying you have to be that drastic, but be aware of what takes your attention away from studying. Pack up the video games in a suitcase. You don’t need to check emails right now. None of these things are going to get you the A you want to get on the exam. Everything can wait until after you’re done studying.
Study Space Made for Success
Since we are studying from home now, you may be spending all day at your desk, or some other table. My desk is pretty bare bones to make sure I don’t spend time staring at things that might be distractions. I keep my laptop, iPad, and notebook/textbook on the table because that’s all I need. In the past, I’ve had a corkboard above my desk with fun things that may have been motivational or made me happy. Whatever it takes. Just set up your study space for success.
This is how I’m able to study for 8-12 hours a day. If you’ve never heard of this before its basically a method where you are productive for a set period of time and then take a break for a shorter period of time. This has been a game changer for me to increase my productivity. I use the Forest app but you can easily just set a timer or just keep track of the clock! Set it to 50 minutess to study and then 10-15 mins of break time. I promise you will be so surprised by how much you get done!
You need to have a plan of what you want to achieve in a given day. It should only take a few minutes to make a to-do list. Keep It Simple Silly (KISS)- make sure your to-do list is reasonable. Don’t expect to through 30 lectures in one day and expect to memorize them all perfectly.
Do the Hardest Task First
I used to try to get all the smaller tasks done first to have more things checked off the list, but then I would be left with the most time consuming things at the end of the day. Looking back now, I acknowledge that this makes no sense because then I would be too mentally tired to take in all the information that I needed! Please don’t do this. Tackle what you need to get done then leave the smaller tasks that take less mental energy for later.
Be aware of your most productive time of the day. My brain works best in the morning. This means that I often end to wake up early to get things done. If you’re a night owl, that’s okay too. Just adjust your schedule accordingly.
These things have changed me for the better and I hope they can help some of you increase your productivity and kill your exams and assignments!