Tightrope Time! Balancing Life in Medical School

September 20, 2013
Emily Hause

389px-Adi_Holzer_Werksverzeichnis_850_LebenslaufEverybody always jokes about the crazy life of being a medical school student. As soon as you’ve been accepted, your friends tell you, “See you in four years!” Then, when begin orientation as a student, you get several lectures about maintaining a balanced life in medical school.

That said, no one ever really tells you HOW to achieve said magical medical school life balance. The thing that I have discovered so far is that balance definitely doesn’t happen accidentally. It’s also something that I struggle with every day.

The key to keeping my life balanced, especially through the craziness that is anatomy, depends on keeping all of my priorities in mind while focusing on accomplishing long and short-term goals. So, for your reading enjoyment, here are my goals and priorities.

Long and short-term goals:
These are pretty explanatory.
Rock classes and learn a bunch so as to become an awesome doctor
Do well on x, y, z upcoming exams and quizzes
Have a positive attitude every day
Priorities when trying to achieve goals:

Sleeping/Eating- For me, eight hours of sleep each night is essential. Any less than that and I can’t do all the crazy things that I need to do each day. The same is true with food. I love eating. I especially love eating homemade, healthful food. I make sure to pack my own lunch each day and have a home-cooked meal for dinner. These two things help make sure I’m on track and ruthlessly energetic and perky for everything my day throws at me.

Studying- As a first-year student, studying eats up a huge chunk of my time. The amount of time I spend studying varies greatly depending on how many days there are until the next exam. That said, I strongly advocate for setting content-knowledge driven study goals, not time goals. I set out to learn an artery diagram, not study for two hours. The difference is small, but important.

Exercising- Sadly, this one seems to be the first component that gets sacrificed when I am crunched for time, but I aspire to exercise daily. Spending all day sitting and studying or listening to lecture is terrible for my cardiovascular health and psyche. I try to compensate by running around outside as frequently as possible.

Socializing- In addition to doing bonding activities with my new med school classmates, I try to make time to hang out with non-med school people. Being around medical students all the time can be exhausting and overwhelming. As I moved several thousand miles from my home to go to school, socializing can be tricky. Fortunately, my friends and family frequently humor me with email updates, gchats, texts, phone calls and Skype dates. (Shout-out to anyone who I have harassed via any of these media in the last 4.5 weeks!) Talking to these very important people refreshes me and helps remind me why I want to become a doctor.

Working- Very few people work during medical school. When I mentioned that I do work, one person asked if the university even allowed you to work during your first year. I don’t suggest working during medical school unless you absolutely love your job. I make working a priority because I am always happier after 2-3 hours of teaching/tutoring than before I started.

Now that you know my goals and priorities, you may be wondering exactly how I work this into a weekly schedule. Next week, in Part 2, I’ll explain how this shakes out schedule-wise.
Happy studying!

Emily Hause Emily has been a teacher for Kaplan for over eight years; she's taught MCAT, ACT, SAT, SAT2 and tutored pretty much every subject under the sun in both the classroom and live online (aka Classroom Anywhere) settings. She's also worked for Kaplan in content development and teacher mentorship roles. Emily is currently a fourth-year medical student at the University of Colorado and is hoping to go into Pediatrics. She's involved in many campus opportunities such as being a Prospective Student Representative, admissions committee member, CU-UNITE member, and co-president of the Education and Teaching Interest Group. Prior to medical school, Emily got a BA in Biochemistry and Spanish from Lawrence University and a Masters in Public Health- Epidemiology from the University of Minnesota. In her free time, Emily enjoys dancing, baking, playing tennis and exploring her new Colorado home.

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