Feeling like you're in a rut lately? Now, we're not talking like, had a bad study session or couldn't study for an afternoon. We're talking full-blown in a rut.
Maybe you've been feeling isolated during study time, or you're losing focus on your "why," or all of your days are blending together. When you scroll Instagram, it might seem like everyone else has all the motivation in the world. This really isn't the case—you're not the only one feeling this way.
Here are 8 things to switch up your routine and pull yourself out of a studying rut.
1. Change your environment
Do you study every day in your "usual" spot? This might be contributing to your rut!
Think about it, studying day after day at the same bland desk setup with no distractions adds no importance to the memories generated there. It decreases encoding strength because you’re bored.
Monday: Coffee shop
Wednesday: Hospital cafeteria
Thursday: Local bakery
Friday: Local brewery
Saturday: Take your studying with you to the gym
Sunday: Friend's house
Set up a study session somewhere new! You can even post up somewhere where there WILL be distractions. Yes, you read that right. A surprising finding from learning research identified that memorization improves when studying in varying surroundings and with mild distractions.
Unique experiences stand out. Next time you're in an exam and you see a questions you'll subconsciously remember "oh yeah, I remember I studied that at that awesome coffee shop that had the good muffins."
Note: During your study sessions, try to really focus on the study material you're studying. You'll find that the differences in the environment and the mild distractions are perfectly ignorable—the point of these factors is to enrich memorization, not to actually distract you!
2. Mix up your approach
Cherilyn Cecchini, MD said that her approach while studying for her USMLE step exams evolved over time.
"In preparation for my first exam, I created a schedule to study over a six-week period. I used several different resources, but ultimately I did not perform competitively, which told me that my approach had not been effective.
For my second step exam, I decided to use a different preparation program and an entirely different technique. I wrote out flashcards and held myself accountable for actually remembering the high-yield information. I dedicated a shorter period of time to studying—these changes worked out better for me.
I made sure to nail down the areas in which I felt weak, but also strengthened my knowledge base in disciplines in which I felt confident, to achieve the best results possible." - Cherilyn Cecchini, MD
Long story short, how you've been studying all these years might be contributing to putting you in that rut. Try different methods of studying. Try finding a classmate or friend who is feeling the same way and implement these study techniques together.
3. Set achievable goals
Try setting a micro goal, or a goal that is simple and achievable! When you start seeing these micro goals pile up, you'll start feeling like you're really making progress.
One simple way to do this is to set up a Personal Trainer with MedStudy. It will show you study subtopics on a study board, after you preview/read that subtopic, you mark it done! Then, before you know it you have knowledge of a full section from the Core. The satisfaction of marking each subtopic "Done" will surely keep you motivated.
Set micro goals with MedStudy's Personal Trainer
4. Prioritize sleep
Be honest with yourself for a second... Are you getting enough sleep? If you said "absolutely not" (like we suspect you did) this could be one of the major things driving your rut.
Aim for 7–8 hours per night. Getting more sleep will not only help you feel more refreshed and ready for your day, but it will actually help you learn/memorize more too. So yeah, put down the medial tome and go to bed! Your brain will thank you tomorrow.
5. Remember your why
Many of the physician educators who we work with say that their patients and the relationships that they build with them is the reason they love what they do. Reflecting on the impact that you'll have on your patients and the significance that you'll have in their lives can be a source of motivation.
Though it might sound cliche, remembering your why is a good practice to keeping your spirits high.
Keep these reflections in mind:
- “Why did I choose a career in medicine?”
- “What positive impacts will I have on my future patients and those who care about them?”
6. Try meditation
7. Address learning disabilities
Many high achievers like yourself have a learning disability that they have never recognized. If you’ve had trouble with reading, calculating, learning, or testing, get a thorough learning disability assessment.
A good starting point for more info and resources is the Learning Disabilities Association of America.
8. Seek help
Let's be honest, you could be doing everything right and still feel like you're in a rut. Medical school is hard, to say the very least. It's totally normal to have a couple rough days, but if you're consistently feeling down and like you can't pull yourself out of a long-term rut, it's probably time to ask for help.
Let a mentor, friend, parent, spouse, professor, or someone else close to you know how you're feeling. It's also a good idea to look into seeing a therapist to talk through how you're feeling, they can often supply coping techniques that you wouldn't know about otherwise. It feels good to not be alone in your med school journey.
Want more study tips? Read the free StudyWise guide. It take a deep dive on how to maintain a strong motivation to learn and how to optimize physical and mental health to excel in med school, even on the days it feels like you're just getting by.