If I had it to do over again

September 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

The promise of  freedom and leisure now weigh heavily on a single day. My 70 days of summer are coming to an end and as is typical when beginning a new round, I find myself thinking about what I have learned and how I will do better. I was successful in my transition from not having studied for years to doing nothing but study and now is the time to fine tune and upgrade these skills. Something that is of high importance to me is the setting of goals for myself. Not just tasks that need to be completed, but improvements I want to make. I want to acknowledge and accept my weaknesses and construct steps to make them strengths.

I’ve been building a list of goals in my head for some time now and I feel the next step is to immortalize them in text. My list of goals for the summer was one of panic, haphazardly thrown together in the midst of exam chaos with two months of summer vacation as my oasis. “Oh what I could do with that time!” I thought to myself then. The first couple days, even weeks, of summer vacation were then spent in a state of guilt. The pace I kept during the exam period was not one that could’ve been sustained for one day longer than it did. I knew that and yet I still felt a nagging guilt at not being able to live up to the projects I concocted during that time. I’ve made peace with it now and am satisfied with the studying I have been able to do these past few days. Can’t very well go to my first neuroanatomy lecture about “Meninges, hemispheres, the lateral ventricles ” without knowing anything about the brain.

That said, here are my goals for this next semester. These are what I will strive for, but I will be satisfied with any progress in this direction. Progress, not perfection.

Goals for the New Semester

  1. Review lecture material before all lectures.
  2. Attend all lectures. Be prepared and take effective notes.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’re here to learn.
  4. If you take horribly messy notes during a lecture, rewrite them, or at least decipher them, right away.
  5. Review studied material at the end of the day or early the next morning.
  6. Don’t waste time on the cosmetics of note-taking. Be organized and efficient, not everything needs to be beautiful and perfect.
  7. Keep a logical order to your notes. You need to be able to study from them later.
  8. When taking notes, don’t just rewrite the book text or make perfect recreations of the drawings. The books are already there. No need to make your own.
  9. Don’t let “dead time” slip away. Arrange tasks to complete during the couple of hours here and there between lectures.
  10. When reviewing, don’t just read over, try presenting it to yourself on the whiteboard and explaining it out-loud.

Those are my goals for now, I’m sure the list will get longer (or shorter) after the semester starts.

During the second to last week of the previous semester, I found myself wide awake in bed and all the worries of the world racing through my head. (Caffeine.)

With my possible sleep time working its way down to 5 hours, I knew I had to do something – and that something was to write my thoughts down. I was in a bit of a sheepish mood at the time, so what I ended up writing was a list of “brilliant” (translation: stupid) ideas I’d had as a medical student. After my sarcasm wore out, I settled into a more positive state and ended up with a second list, more inspiring and insightful than the first. For your entertainment – and preview of my overworked, over-caffeinated, early morning mind – these are those lists.

My Top 5 Most Brilliant Ideas as a Med Student

Early morning musings, some random night in May 2013
  1. Anytime I’ve had coffee after 20:00 – example, right now. It is 1:15 and I have 11 hours of school tomorrow, starting at 8 am….not the best planning B!
  2. All nighters before exams – Sadly, I don’t think this one is going anywhere. There will always be more to study/learn/go over and I will never feel confident enough in my knowledge to allow myself a good night’s sleep…in good conscience, of course.
  3. More is better – Can’t say this is ever true. You will never need MORE as a med student. Unless we are talking about time…if so, please give generously.
  4. Pushing of ANYTHING until later – you will never have enough time for it. Whatever it may be. Towards the end of the semester, 100 new things will have popped up. For me right now? My 15-page paper in Chemotaxis on a subject I have no clue about due on some unknown date for that poor elective class that I am always forgetting about.
  5. Not keeping things simple – Why spend 8 hours on a physics lab that no one is really ever going to read while someone else gets the same credit for 10% of the work? And those beautiful study guides I spent 40/50 hours on? No! There’s no point in even writing it down/making it look pretty if you are never going to look at it again and it’s not going in your head.

My Top 5 Actually Good Ideas/Tips

Companion early morning musings, some random night in May 2013
  1. Going to lectures – Hellooooo, accountability! We know about 0% about just how awesome our brains are. For example: I attended lectures in biochem this semester, but didn’t review the topics (or even really know what was going on during the lectures) and yet I was able to spout out answers to 5/6 questions in a biochem lab 3 weeks later. Where does this stuff come from?? Yes, lectures feel like a waste of time! But towards the end of the semester, the confidence you gain from knowing that you were at least AT the lectures will be a saving grace!
  2. Make lists – in those few, quiet moments when you are trying to relax but your mind is going 1000 miles a min (see: drinking coffee after 20:00) the BEST thing to do is make a list of everything on your mind. You can’t do anything about them there in that moment anyway, and putting them on paper will remove the pressure of needing to remember it all. That way, you can sleep like a baby and postpone the freakout to the next day.
  3. Study with other people – talking about the topics will make you learn it faster AND better than going it alone. If anything, it will give you an idea of where other people are and stop you from thinking everyone knows more than you. Make sure to find someone you study well with! You have to both bring something to the table and motivate each other, plus have similar goals/habits (i.e. if you can pull all-nighters with no problem, studying with someone who needs to sleep 8 hours is probably not the best match). You are not alone!
  4. Self-control – …the program! Download it! It will block all of those addictive sites (heard of Facebook?) for a time period you decide. Turn on the program and you can’t access those sites – no matter what! Even deleting the program won’t help! And put your phone/iPad on airplane mode or in another room.
  5. Music – 8tracks.com will save your life. Music = motivation.

On a page adjacent to the first page of these lists is a quote I noted down before the lists were written:

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. – Thoreau

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