Pre-medical and medical students (not to mention residents and beyond) typically have jam-packed schedules and a perpetual dearth of free time. Extended holidays are hard to come by and it is thus important to effectively maximize one’s precious time off. This can be achieved by carefully planning one’s travels, engagements, and appointments during the holidays.
1 | 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 (AKA the homies). 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 (e.g., ringing in the New Year). 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, is key to being able to see everyone during the holidays.
2 | Travel and See the World
Traveling and seeing the world is a valuable experience for anyone privileged with the resources to do so. 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 travel, 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.
3 | Attend Health Maintenance Appointments
It is important to keep up with health maintenance appointments (e.g., annual physical, dental cleaning, vision checks), even if one feels perfectly fine. Most students do not have much spare mental bandwidth or time during school to schedule and/or attend such appointments; thus, the holidays are the perfect time to schedule health maintenance appointments so they do not have to be done when school is in session.
4 | Catch up on Errands
It is easy and common for busy premed/medical students to fall behind on non-school related errands and action items (e.g., managing one’s finances, deep cleaning one’s domicile, updating one’s wardrobe). The holidays are the perfect time to catch up on these errands and knock them off one’s mental checklist. Doing so will alleviate stress and enable one to end the year with a clear conscience that everything has been taken care of.
5 | Reflect on the Past Year and Look Forward to the New Year
However briefly or extensively, it is important to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year. Go through month by month and catalog all of one’s accomplishments and the positive events one experienced during the past year. Then, recount all of one’s mistakes and the adverse events one 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. Investing the time to do some introspection can help provide a sense of direction and perspective on one’s life.
The holidays are an important time for catching up on many important aspects of one’s life that might be neglected during the academic year. Holiday time typically diminishes as one advances in medical training; thus, it is important for aspiring physicians to become adept at carefully planning their schedules to maximize their time off.