How to Increase Your Efficiency as a Student

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Time is of the essence. Especially leading up to and within medical school, optimizing your time management skills and efficiency is paramount. I want to help you be successful in academics but also have time to enjoy yourself and lead a healthy lifestyle.  

Study Smarter, Not Harder

More time studying does not always lead to a better outcome. Make sure you are using your time wisely. Take the time to critically look at what is working and what is not working in your study regimen. I made another video and post describing how to study efficiently.  

Bursts of Studying

This goes hand in hand with studying smarter. A lot of students make the mistake of trying to study “all day”. No matter how strong your willpower, you will have diminishing returns as your brain gets fatigued with prolonged focus. I am a huge proponent of the Pomodoro technique as you are probably already aware. This comes in handy here, but taking a step back, lets apply this principle of bursts more broadly. Use larger break times in your studying to get errands done or perform other activities like exercise. For example, lets say you go to class from 8AM to 12PM. You take a break by eating lunch with your friends for 30 minutes to an hour. Since you just took a break and should be relatively refreshed, use the next 2-3 hours to study. Break up the monotony by going to the gym and getting a workout in for 1-1.5 hours. Go back home and study again for a couple hours. Take your next break by eating dinner, cleaning up at home, and doing whatever other errands. Wind down and enjoy the rest of your night. Or if you have an exam quickly approaching, spend that extra time to fit in more studying.  

Plan Ahead

There’s a spectrum of how broadly or how finely you want to plan your schedule. Some people prefer planning every minute of their day, others just list a couple larger goals to accomplish. I was somewhere in the middle. Find out what works best to you, but stick with it For example, let’s say again I had class from 8 to 12. I would then block out a chunk of time from 12:30 to 2PM for my problem based learning (PBL)  lookup, 2-3 hours to go over learning objectives from lecture that day, exercise at the gym around 3-4:30, make Anki cards from 4:30 to 6, do a little bit of work on my research project from 6 to 7, eat dinner around 7, and finish my research task after dinner and before sleeping.  

Practice Discipline

If you want to be successful in medicine, you need to prioritize studying. Plain and simple. Discipline is a muscle requiring regular exercise and I go over it in more detail here. Find ways in your day to exercise your discipline and move you closer towards your goals. Don’t just rely on brute willpower In my case, I made it a habit to sleep and wake up at consistent times, even on days that I started late. This maintained momentum, kept me motivated, and helped me focus Critically look at your habits that prevent you from being productive or studying as much as you need to, and find ways around them  

Fill in Down Time

Use audiobooks that are relevant to your board exam or clinical rotation while you are commuting. Fill brief moments of down time with quick studying! I cannot emphasize this enough. This made a huge difference in not only my scores, but also the impression I made on faculty and residents with my knowledge. I was shocked by how much I could get done over the course of a day by doing Anki cards when waiting in line, waiting on people, or even walking between places. There are times when you may have to be pretty intense about this – like during third year clearkships or closer to exams during your preclinical years.
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