Medical school students are a testament to the principals of patience, tenacity, and the effectiveness of caffeine. Your med school years are some of the most strenuous and rewarding you'll ever experience. However, it can be easy to get overwhelmed--stressors stack up pretty fast, and breaks for med school students are rare.
Sometimes, it really is the little things that make all the difference. We've written about life hacks for physicians before--small daily changes that can radically improve a doctor's quality of life. But even if you aren't quite running your own practice yet, you still deserve some life hacks of your own!
1) Get Comfortable
You know from day one in med school that you'll be logging a lot of hours at your desk. So, settle in. Create a study space that isn't just clean and organized, but comfortable too. Start out with an ergonomic chair (and any cushions that can make things easier on your posture during hours-long study campaigns). Then, invest in a desk that creates the very best workspace for you. You may even ask older students or practicing physicians where they like to shop for office furniture. Make sure you have all the small accompaniments of a comfortable desk, too. Find good noise-cancelling headphones to keep in a drawer nearby, and a "hydration station" with a carafe of water or a small humidifier. Create a second home in your study space that allows you to focus all your mental faculties on your work.
2) Backup Your Notes
This tip is helpful on multiple accounts. To start with, of course, backing up your notes means extra security--no worrying about losing important documents or accidentally destroying paper notebooks by accident. But it's also a great review strategy. If you take handwritten notes, typing them up will reinforce concepts; if you print out .pdfs or slideshows, going over them with a pen in hand is a great way to remember the highlights. Make sure any digital notes you save are backed up to your physical hard drive and the cloud. Consider investing in an Evernote-enabled notebook, like this Moleskine, so you can take notes in the field and upload them on precious break time.
3) Invest in a Printer
A quality printer can make or break your confidence for the day. If you've ever experienced the panic of waking up to a suddenly nonfunctional printer and sprinting to a library or print shop, you understand. Invest in a well-reviewed printer to make presentations, paperwork and notes that look great and are on time. If you have housemates who are also in med school, go in together on a good printer, and take turns restocking paper and toner.
4) Go On a Distraction Diet
If you find yourself logging on to social media, YouTube or a favorite blog every time you're near a computer, this is for you. Limit your portion sizes of mindless media and Internet distractions. You'll save a lot of time in the long haul that can be dedicated to bigger fun on off-hours. There are browser plug-ins and downloadable apps that can streamline your mobile and desktop Internet use and block distracting sites temporarily. Don't study or work in a room with a TV, and have ready-made playlists so you aren't fiddling with a radio station during desk time. Avoid those "five-minute breaks" that spiral into a Wikipedia binge--you'll have time for those again, eventually!
5) Prioritize Yourself
Don't allow physician burnout to strike before you're practicing on your own. Now is a great time to plant habits that will prevent burnout in the future. Make your time off truly "off." Use it to relax and enjoy time with friends, not to start planning for your next exam. Take care of your body, too. Schedule a massage or head to a yoga studio any time you get the chance. Consider a weekly relaxation ritual that you make an absolute must--reading a novel in the bathtub or spending a couple hours with a favorite old movie. These steps may feel like idle time, but you'll look back on these memories fondly when you're in the midst of hard work once again.
Physicians and students: did we miss any tips?
Let's hear your strategies in the comments!