Do you sometimes feel like you could study better in a zoo than you can at home? Your roommate’s bugging you, your phone is going off, the dishes need washed, laundry is buzzing, you’re hungry again and the kitchen is right there….is this a familiar refrain? If you find it hard to focus at home, the following tips will help you become a study at home champion. Sure the dishes might sit in the sink an extra day and you might have to wear that shirt for a second time, but at least you’ll pass USMLE Step 1!
The convenient thing about the library is there is no bed for napping. When you’re there, your options are dictated by the environment of tables, computers and books. You can read, write and study – or do all three at once if you’re a show-off. At home, you must create a work space that suggests the same options. And preferably not in the vicinity of that bed that is making come hither eyes at you.
Set up a serious work space, and designate it only for studying. That may mean converting the kitchen table to your study zone by clearing it of all familiar objects and setting up your books, a picture that reminds you why you’re in med school and all the materials you’ll need for studying (ahem, Picmonic…). If you have the benefit of an office, retire to this room to study and shut the door. It becomes a separate place from the rest of your house. When you’re done, leave and shut the door again, turning your the rest of your pad back into a living space.
Many students study until their brain or their body gives out. Picture someone wandering the desert until collapsing from dehydration…not exactly an image that elicits a thirst for studying. The more you dread studying, the more distractions pop up, especially when studying from home. Suddenly emptying the dishwasher, alphabetizing your movies and matching all the missing socks becomes an immediate priority.
Instead, set a study time period that perhaps culminates in a reward, and your brain immediately focuses on the end result of finishing. Respect those hours. If you say you’re studying for four hours, stop at four hours no matter what. Nobody likes a boss who keeps them late, especially when the boss is themselves.
Do you have roommates who can’t comprehend why you’re always hitting the books? Does your mother have a spidey sense for calling right when you’re tackling a particularly complex disease description? You have to set expectations for the people in your life so they can respect your busy schedule and yet still maintain a relationship with you.
Once you’ve set them, let other people know your study hours. If, from 4 to 7 p.m. you’re studying, then people know not to text, call, Snapchat, talk to or otherwise distract you during those hours. Of course, this may mean your mom will call at 7:01 p.m., so if you want to reward your studying with 15 minutes of video games, build in a buffer. Even if you’re in the common area of your apartment, suggest your roommate pretend you’re invisible during those hours. Implement this, and you’ll both value the non-study hours even more!
There will be days when none of the tips above work, when you feel like you’re on a death march as you approach your books. So change it up. Get out of the house. Go to your favorite coffee shop or a park or a med school buddy’s house. Changing your scenery will feel like a mini vacation and recharge your brain for more studying.
If you want to change the scenery entirely, join Picmonic and set aside those cumbersome books and pages of chicken scratch notes. Every slide in Picmonic takes you to a new world of picture and sound-based mnemonic devices where you almost effortlessly learn what you need to know to pass your exams.
About the author: Jenna Lee Dillon writes about the topics that interest her most: food, women’s health, food, how to be a Super Brain Hero, food, travel, books and food. She was once called a Grammar Nerd and thought it was a compliment.
Ron Robertson, Co-founder & CEO, Picmonic Inc.
Ron Robertson founded Picmonic as a 3rd-year medical student at the University of Arizona. He’s at the helm of Picmonic’s mission to lead and inspire a new era of learning through innovative and effective educational solutions. Ron holds a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of San Diego with a focus on memory science, is the product visionary behind Picmonic, and is involved in every aspect of the company.
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Remember more, boost your test scores and maximize your potential with Picmonic, the world’s best visual study tool for medical school, nursing school, and more! More than just pharm flashcards and study guides, the Picmonic Learning System will help you dominate your classes and review for the USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CK, NCLEX®, PANCE, MCAT, and more with our research-proven mnemonic learning system.