It seems like I am getting a lot of questions on studying and study habits lately. Currently, the trend is that students are overwhelmed with the amount of material. We often talk about how the actually content of med school isn’t really that hard, it’s the sheer enormity of what you need to learn in a minimal amount of time.
I am blessed with a fairly logical stress reaction. When I have felt the pressure in school get the better of me, that is when I make a study plan. I considered all of my courses and the material I needed to know, right now. Not next month, not next semester, but strictly where do I need to be right now to keep my grades up and keep my studying moving forward.
Once I had my list of topics, which when you only worry about right now and not the future the list suddenly gets quite a bit shorter, I then think about what steps do I think I need to take to have ingest that material. Is it more time going over my notes or the lectures? Do I need to work on some practice questions? Do I need to watch some YouTube videos to supplement everything? Already then, I have an actionable list of things that I can concentrate on. At that point, I can schedule them throughout my week and start crossing them off my list as I go. And we all know how great it feels to cross things off a list.
Aside from feeling like you are taking back the control of your studies, the other power in creating a study plan is that it gives you license to relax. If you have accomplished everything you need to for that day and don’t have to get a head start on the next days work, you know you can relax. In fact, you have scheduled only the amount of things you HAVE to do each day, so you can leave tomorrow for tomorrow and know that you’ll be okay. As we’ve talked about before, it is important to also work downtime into your life so that your brain can recuperate and repair your mental health. By knowing that you are on track and have done the things you were supposed to, you can now give yourself license to watch that movie, go to the beach, have a spot of rum or whatever it is that you do to unwind. More importantly, you can do those things without the guilt of “oh, I should be studying instead.”
Once you start this practice, you may find that you use it quite a bit. In fact, this is a strategy that I use almost weekly in all areas of my life. First thing Monday morning, I consider all the things that I need to get done and put together a plan to accomplish them. I do schedule them to the day, but not to the hour. That allows me to have some flexibility built in.
It is important to keep studying and keep growing as quickly and efficiently as possible. Adopting this simple strategy will make navigating med school much easier!