Pre-medical and medical students (not to mention residents and beyond) typically have jam-packed schedules and a perpetual lack of free time. Extended holidays are hard to come by, making it important to effectively maximize your precious time off.
Many people will tell you that you absolutely need to take the holidays off for a much-needed break. While we agree that breaks are critically important to your wellbeing and success, the holiday season can be an ideal time to take advantage of concentrated studying or application prep.
Don’t go into your holiday time without a plan. Whether you decide to utilize it for precious studying, rejuvenating yourself with friends and family, or catching up on life tasks, you need to be intentional with this precious and scarce time off. Here are six ideas for how you can effectively manage your time off over the holidays.
1 | Attend Health Maintenance Appointments
It is important to keep up with health appointments, such as annual physicals, dental cleaning, and vision checks.
Most students do not have much spare mental bandwidth or time during school to schedule and/or attend such appointments. The holidays are an ideal time to schedule health maintenance appointments so that you don’t need to worry about them when school is in session.
2 | Catch Up on Errands
It is common for busy premed/medical students to fall behind on non-school related errands and action items, such as managing your finances, keeping your residence tidy, or updating your wardrobe.
The holidays are the perfect time to catch up on these errands and knock them off your mental checklist. Doing so will alleviate stress and enable you to end the year knowing everything has been taken care of.
3 | Spend Time with Family and Friends
For many students, the holiday season is likely one of the few times during the year where they can return home and spend time with their family and home friends. These relationships, which form the bedrock of one’s social network, are important to maintain, no matter one’s path in life.
It is also fulfilling to uphold traditions with family and friends. Arrange your schedule so that you can maximize your limited amount of time with family and friends, who also have busy schedules during the holidays.
Everyone’s situation is different. You might find it extremely stressful and taxing to spend time with your family and home friends. It’s important to give your family some of your time, but make sure you manage your own needs. This is a busy time in your life, and you may need some of your holiday time for rest, new year preparations, or tasks you haven’t been able to get to while deeply entrenched in school work.
4 | Travel and See the World
It’s okay to do something just for you over the holidays. Traveling and seeing the world is a valuable experience for anyone privileged with the resources to do so. It will give you a broader view of the world and provide brand new experiences you wouldn’t be able to find staying in your familiar locations.
Many students on the medical track have limited time to do this, and the holidays represent one of the few solid chunks of time to travel. Take advantage of your time off to explore a new place in the world, especially if you are in college or the pre-clinical years of medical school. Long chunks of time off become harder to come by when you enter the latter years of medical school and residency. Make sure to book your flights and accommodations months in advance, as the holidays are a busy time for travel.
5 | Utilize the Time for Concentrated Studying or Application Prep
It’s important that you take some time for yourself over the holidays. Do whatever you need to do to get yourself ready and prepared for the new year. At the same time, the holiday break affords you with a number of days off. Depending on where you are in your premed or medical school journey, this may be the ideal time for extra studying or application prep.
Having your mind clear of the daily grind of school will give you concentrated time to study for an upcoming test or prepare an important aspect of your medical school application, such as your personal statement.
Don’t feel pressured to work through the whole holiday season, but you can take advantage of this time during critical years of applying to or attending medical school.
6 | Reflect on the Past Year and Look Forward to the New Year
It is important to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year. Go through each month and catalog all of your accomplishments and the positive events you experienced during the past year.
Then, recount all of your mistakes and the adverse events you experienced. Reflect on how these experiences shaped you and those close to you, and take time to appreciate everything (positive and negative) that has happened in the past year.
Furthermore, take time to look ahead to the challenges and opportunities of the new year. Creating a list of goals for self-improvement is a good first step. Whether it be to ace that big standardized test or run a marathon, come up with a short list of goals and a plan for working towards achieving those goals. Taking the time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you hope to go can help provide a sense of direction in your life.
The holidays are an excellent opportunity to catch up on many important aspects of your life that may have been neglected during the academic year. Holiday time typically diminishes as one advances in medical training, so it’s important for aspiring physicians to become adept at carefully planning their schedules to maximize their time off.
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