How do you become a successful medical student?
The new school year has already started (or will soon) for most of us. Not sure how my summer vacation went by so quickly, but I find this to be a great time to revisit some habits of successful medical students.
1. They Read Something Non-medical Every Day
Yes as a medical student you will already have a lot of reading to do. But to avoid being sucked into the “medical wormhole”, where everything in your life is determined by your study schedule, it’s important to include reading material that intrigues and diversifies you.
If your choice of reading is a novel, allow yourself 15 minutes of your day (ideally when you wake up or before bed) to get lost in it.
If you, like myself, enjoy reading about current events or self-improvement related material, select 2-3 interesting articles to read.
An app that’d I love is Pocket. It’s a simple app that allows you to save online articles and other reading material on your laptop or phone to read offline. They also suggest some very great content! The material also appears very elegant, and I easily find myself reading 20 in a row!
2. They Create To-Do Lists
Whether you’re in medical school or college, there will be a lot to do on a daily basis. It’s important to have some method of listing your priorities and tasks for the day. I have used a combination of Google Calendar for my meetings and classes, Todolist for my phone, and Momentum as a quick program for my browser.
Success in medical school is often built on organization, so make sure to have a method and stick with it.
3. They are Active
Personal health and fitness are key to doing well in medical school, yet it’s one of the most avoided habits by students.
Even if you can find 30 minutes in your day to run, lift weights, play sports, do yoga, etc. you will notice many benefits.
Personally I begin most of my mornings with a workout. This allows me to feel like I’m beginning on the right track. Furthermore, it motivates me to stay productive the rest of the day.
As medical students we study and work hard to invest for hopefully a bright future, but we must physically, as well as mentally develop ourselves.
I’ll write a future post about how to add quick efficient workouts into your busy schedule, but think of some physical activities you could see yourself doing.
4. They Consistently Eat Healthy
This goes hand in hand with the previous tip – you need to do both to reap the benefits. You know what they say, “Abs are made in the kitchen”. 😀
I’ve found that a surprising amount of my peers or conscious about what they eat. Long gone are the days where my college classmates would eat Chick Fill A or Wendy’s for every meal.
Be careful not to fall into the trap of ‘I ate healthy yesterday, so I can splurge today’. This just delays the damage. Plus we’re trying to develop successful habits, and habits require consistency.
A healthy proportion of your nutrients, from carbs, fats, and protein, are essential for optimal performance in medical school.
5. They Schedule In the Fun
I mentioned this in my post about tips for succeeding in medical school, but it’s important to always have something to look forward to every day. You never want to go to bed feeling like you wasted day – you might as well not have gotten out of bed.
It can be as unique as trying out a new experience or restaurant to as simple as spending time with a significant other. Just find something or someone who is worth crossing the finish line for after a day of studying.
6. They Find New Hobbies
If anything, medical school is a time to find yourself. A majority of medical school students are still quite young – thus we a lot of potential and self-development awaiting us. Try to not waste this critical phase. Adding a new hobby allows us to progress and enhance our repertoire of skills.
I had bought a simple acoustic guitar at the end of college, and have spent many evenings in medical students learning the basics. I am no where close to where I want to be, but it’s a project and skill I can constantly work on when I want to de-stress.
This blog is also a hobby I’m introducing in my life! The goal is to use it to improve my reflection as well as my writing skills, but I must devote time to reap the fruits.
So find a skill or hobby you would like to learn and spend a few hours (1-4) a week on it.
7. They Don’t Forget Their Support System
Don’t just turn to your support system when you need something from them. For me my family and loved ones have been essential in getting me through my first year. Calling them, and calling them often, has allowed me to remember who I’m working hard for.
Even though medical school constricts free time, you should still find enough time to stay in touch with those who matter.
8. They Continue to Grind
One of my favorite quotes is,
“The Grind doesn’t know what day of the week it is.”
I was watching a youtube video when I heard this and couldn’t stop think about the drive behind successful people.
Things will get hard, days will be tough. You, however, have to work harder and be tougher if you wish to overcome obstacles. More importantly, you must work harder and tougher consistently.
Medical school is always described as a marathon vs. a race. For anyone who’s done a long distance run, mental fortitude is large component of race day. Similarly in medical school, the difference between a successful student and those who wish they were one is the idea of the consistent drive until the task is done.
9. They Get the Correct Amount of Sleep
Now notice I didn’t mention the typical advice of getting 7-8 hours of sleep. I recommend finding how many hours you can function properly on. I’m someone who can get by on 5.5-6 hours a night. You may need more and that’s fine. Just make sure to not short change or over do it on the sleep!
I use an app called SleepTime which wakes me up around my alarm time when I’m in my lightest phase of sleep. Thus far it has done a great job, and I’d recommend you to give it try!
10. They Self-Reflect
Too often my peers, as well as myself, note regrets they we had from the previous weeks. Now instead of waiting for a quiz or test to tell us to study harder or better, if we had only done daily self-reflection, our bad habits would have been highlighted.
Self-reflections is not only important to catch ourselves in the act of making bad choices. They also serve as reminders of why we are on this path of being health providers. My reason for going into medicine has often been lost in the piles of reading materials and to-do lists. Reviewing why I’m doing this helps address any negativity in my life, and makes the next day easier to tackle.
These self-reflections can be done in your head, a journal, talking to a loved one, or a blog. Just make sure to have a venue to vent and review.
The habits of a successful medical student are not secrets or novel. They difference is consistency, and this will be a common theme for medical school and life. Be aware of the good and bad habits you are employing, and give some of the above tips a try!
Want to check out other helpful posts? Try these ones:
How To Study In Medical School [Ultimate Guide]
Best Pre-Med Majors To Get Into Med School [Full Guide]
Summer Before Medical School: What Should You Do?
How To Be More Productive In Medical School
4 Tips To Succeed In Medical School
If you’re a first or second-year medical student wanting guidance on how to succeed in medical school, read my book, The Preclinical Guide. I provide all the tips I wish I knew day one of medical school. Check out the book here.
Until next time…