Building Successful Habits

Updated: Sep 8, 2019

Hey y'all!! Happy Sunday (: & you know what Sunday means-- I'm back with another bloggggg!

Well, I just completed my second week here in medical school, and I think I'm ~kinda~ starting to get adjusted, maybe? Lol. Its a process, for sure, but I was definitely much better this week than last. If you remember in my blog post last week, I was talking about how I was struggling to find the motivation to study. If you're anything like me, no matter how badly you want something, sometimes it is just HARD to start doing the work. However, just because it's hard to start, doesn't mean we can just NOT do it. We gotta find ways to motivate ourselves, and get it done. Period. So this week has been full of me finding ways to motivate myself, which I hope y'all can find useful too.

1) ASK FOR HELP: Last week, I was really struggling getting used to being back in school, and just re-teaching myself how to study. SIU was a whole new world to me with their different learning style, and I was not even sure how to approach it. I would sit down to study, and just not do it, simply because I was confused where to start. Luckily, SIU has an extremely supportive minority community, and all the first year students get assigned a second year mentor. As soon as I received my mentor assignment, I sent her a message to introduce myself, followed by the LONGEST message about all my struggles during my first week. I didn't have time to be prideful, or fear coming off as less intelligent than my peers. I needed help, and the longer I took to ask, the more behind I was gonna fall. And wow, I am so so so happy I asked her. She told me that when she was in her first year, she went through the same thing of not knowing where to start, and she also reached out to her mentor for help. She assured me that it was normal to feel lost/confused, because she and her classmates went through the same thing, even though at the time it seemed like everyone else had it together except her. That's the thing though: EVERYBODY is struggling just as much as us. Maybe they hide it better, but the real successful people are the ones who accept when they're confused, and reach out to get the help they need. Who cares what anyone else thinks about it? You cannot do everything alone, and sometimes-- really, most times-- it is perfectly okay to ask for help.

2) STICK TO WHAT YOU KNOW: This is truly the key. When you're starting in unfamiliar territory, it is so easy to want to do what everybody else is doing. I told y'all, all of my peers had been at SIU for two years already before me, so I definitely just assumed they were the experts on how we should approach this. As I mentioned before, we do problem based learning at SIU, where we get a case and then come up with learning issues around that case. Learning issues are basically just a list of topics/questions that we should know & be able to answer. We also have lectures, but most of them are not required, so if you don't want to, you really don't have to go. When I met up with the other students before we started classes, some of them suggested that we don't focus on the lectures, and mainly just focus on the learning issues... However, for me personally, this method of studying is too unorganized. I was getting overwhelmed, because like, where do you start? If I'm just given a broad topic to know, it's hard to know how in depth to study it, or if I'm even focusing on the correct aspect. When I explained this to my mentor, she told me that she also tried this study method at the beginning, and it didn't work for her either. She told me that everyone learns differently, and just because their method didn't work for me, doesn't mean I'm somehow less smart than they are. The advice her mentor gave to her, that she now passed on to me, was to:

1. Make a list of all of the lectures up until midterms.

2. Plan out dates to study each of them, and dates to come back and review them at least 3 times. (Note: The reviewing part is essential, because seeing information one time is not enough for you to actually retain it. Each time you review the information again, your brain is becoming more familiar with it, and you are able to understand things that you may not have even realized you didn't understand the first time through.)

3. After studying the lectures, use outside resources to clarify anything I didn't fully understand, and then answer the learning issues based on all of that information.

Basically, the lectures give me a foundation of material that I can build upon with outside resources, instead of just trying to do it all myself. Now, why I say stick to what you know-- I did a masters program last year at Loyola that was basically first year medical school. I went through my entire first semester having the same struggles that I was having now, and it took me all the way to second semester to figure out a study method that truly worked for me... and guess what it was? Making a list of all the lectures and planning out dates to study and review them. L O L. I literally went back to my old Loyola excel sheet I created last year, and just changed the name, dates, and lecture titles. (Ignore all the stuff I haven't done yet lollll. Now that I have a legit plan, I'm working on it.)

It's crazy that I had totally forgotten how I was studying before, because I was too focused on trying to do what everyone else was doing. I should have remained confident in what I knew worked for me, and I could have started the year on top of my game. BUUT regardless, it's fine. Its better that I realize now, than getting all the way to next semester again. Moral of the story: Stick to what you know, and please, don't ever doubt yourself. Learn what works best for you, because what works for the next person may not be what's best for you. And that does not make anyone any smarter than you- everybody just learns differently!

3) MAKE A PLAN: This is always my go-to for getting started on any task. Now that my mentor had given me a solid method for how I need to study, it was my job to actually make a plan for myself. What I like to do is- every week, usually on Sunday, I make a to-do list in my phone for every day of the week. Here's an example of what my to-do list looks like right now:

I used to keep it all in a planner, but my phone works best for me just because I always have access to it, and I can change things around as I wish without it getting sloppy lol. But regardless, the KEY is to make a plan- whether it be in your phone, a planner, or on post-it notes around your room. JUST MAKE A PLAN. And me? I write pretty much everything on my to-do list. Anything I need to do, even something as simple as remembering to pack my taffy apples, is going on my to-do list lmao. This is how I assure that I don't forget to do anything, and that I have enough time in the day to do it. Some days, I even plan out the times I need to be finished with each task by, as y'all can see on today's list (9/1). This isn't my full on to do list either, because if you look at Monday, I have written to plan out what all lectures I'm going to study each day this week. The point is though: I have a plan, I have a plan to plan, and nothing will get forgotten. I literally live by my to-do list. Each time I finish something, I just delete it off the list. My goal every day is to just successfully complete my entire to do list. Now, its not perfect at all, and sometimes I just can't actually finish everything I wanted to. But regardless, having a plan helps more than not having one at all.

4) USE YOUR TIME WISELY: These days, it is so easy to waste hours on social media. I do it, you do it, we ALL do it. It's entertaining, and once you start scrolling, time seems to just fly by... and before you know it, its been 3 hours, and the most productive thing you've done is pick out 3 new hairstyles you want to try lmao (I am sooo guilty). Since it's so easy to waste time, you have to put mechanisms in place to avoid doing it. If you have an iPhone, apple allows you to set screen time app limits, in which you can limit your social media to only allow a certain amount of time per day. They even allow you to set a password, so that once your time is up for the day, you get locked out of the apps unless you put the password in. So, I tried to do this myself, but I HAVE NO SELF DISCIPLINE... so I just kept typing in the password and giving myself extra time lolll. I hate myself, truly. But, because I realized I clearly couldn't do it on my own... I had a friend in my class set the password for me, and just not tell me. Now, whenever my social media limit is reached, I get locked out of the all the apps, and I don't even know the password to let myself back in. It truly holds me accountable, and doesn't allow me to waste any more time than I need to on social media. I honestly love it, because it forces me to have to work on other things, rather than just idly scrolling through my timelines.

5) FOCUSING: Lol, now just because I'm locked out of social media doesn't mean I'm automatically like "Ahh, okay, let me study." Trust me, I find PLENTY of other ways to waste my time. I'll spend forever and a day planning out exactly how I'm going to study, but all that truly means nothing if when its time to start, I don't actually sit down and do anything. So, in teaching myself to break all of these bad habits, I went on a search for a way to make myself focus. AND, I think I found the answer!! I discovered this new app called, "Flora - Focus Habit Tracker", and it changeddd the game. Basically, how the app works is that when you sit down to study or focus on whatever it you're trying to do, you plant a seed. As you're studying, your seed grows into a tree, but if you get distracted & try to go off of the app and use your phone for anything, you'll kill the tree. Sometimes, if you're really trying to hold yourself accountable, you can even set a price, and if you kill your tree, you have to pay (the money goes towards planting a real tree somewhere, so its still for a good cause.) However, when you actually remain focused & grow your tree, you start this "grand tour" and grow a bunch of different plants each time you successfully complete a focus session, eventually creating an entire garden. The plants you grow in your garden only last 7 days though, because this keeps you accountable to make sure your garden is always full. AND THE BEST PART IS-- You can do it with friends! Like, I can send my friends invites to join my room, and vice versa, so that we can have study sessions together even if we aren't actually together. It really holds you accountable. Also, you can set "tags", so each time you’re on the app, you can set the tag for whatever you're working on. This helps so that over the course of the week, you can see what you spent most of your time doing. For example, my tags include: working on learning issues, studying lectures, reviewing Anki flashcards, book club readings, blogging, and working on Beauty and Brains. Those are just the things that I personally need to work on, but you can make your tags ANYTHING you want. If you're in college, you might just make your tags all of your different classes, to make sure you're spending enough time studying each of them. To make it more fun, me and Jennifer created a little competition out of it. Every week on Sunday, we are going to check who has the most focus time/ the biggest garden... and whoever loses has to order the other one whatever meal they want for the day. Sounds like a free Sunday dinner every week to me, huh? Lol. ALSO, just realized Jennifer is currently winning, but we not buying meals til next week so I'm finna hit the library and catchhh upppp.