How to be the most efficient with your study time

In third year, you lose control of your schedule and are left at the mercy of your dead fuck my life GIFattending and residents. With the early mornings and early evenings, by the time I get home, I only have a few hours to study. Especially if I go to the gym, things are even more constrained. And I’m not the type to stay awake late, I’m surely in bed by 11. So, when I sit down to study, I have to be efficient. Here are some tips to help you maximize your time.

First and most important is to make a SCHEDULE. Before you sit down to study, you should already know what you’re about to accomplish. This way you keep yourself on track and can sense if you’re getting behind. You can do this day-to-day with to do lists, but to be most successful, you want to make this schedule at least on a weekly basis. On Sunday, you can generally map out what you plan to accomplish that week. Then each day, before sitting down, review that plan and make amends based on the amount of time you have to study that night. Particularly during third year, when you already know what resources you want to get through, you can actually plan out your study schedule entirely before the rotation starts, then make changes to it as you go along (this is what I do).

phone call GIFWhen you sit down you need to minimize distractions. Turn your computer notifications off and put your phone on do not disturb. I usually keep my phone in another room or on the floor out of my sight. You can check up on messages/DMs/snaps during a break, but never mix your studies with your social life if you’re trying to be efficient. If you aren’t in an ideal location, plug your ears or listen to your favorite background noise with headphones.

Take advantage of your time during the day to decrease the amount of other random things you need to do at night when it’s study-time. Respond to emails, online shop, do busy work for school, work on the application, etc. Do these more mindless things before trying to squeeze in studying during the day–which actually requires brain power. So when it’s time to focus on studying, you won’t have so many little tasks to complete beforehand and waste time.

Lastly, you need to intentionally prioritize your studying. Seems intuitive, but if you don’t believe that your readings/questions/review/etc. are top priority in that time period, you will easily find distractions and reasons to do other things. You might find yourself cleaning something, constantly getting stuck on instagram, fiddling with another hobby of yours, or caught up on the phone with friends/family. So when you say the next 2 hours you are going to finish X, Y, and Z, you need you be firm and really mean that!

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Hope these tips help you next time you prep for a study session! Have a wonderful week, and Happy Valentines Day in advance!

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Reclaiming your time | Time management 101

Time management is one of the most difficult things for many people to master, especially the professional student. Some people have always had a knack for it, and others have always felt like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I come at this from the student perspective (professional and pre-professional), but most of the advice I have will actually be applicable to people in the “real world” too. I consider myself credible on this topic after successfully juggling school, extracurriculars, social life, etc. for many years now. I will cover just the basics of time management, just enough for you to get started on your journey to reclaiming your time!

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In order for you to master your time you need to first recognize what you’re doing with your time. What are the fixed times in your day (classes, work, etc.) and what are you doing with all of the other hours in the day that aren’t fixed? This can be done mentally or through hour-by-hour tracking. You might notice that a chunk of your day is spent napping or you spend way too much time between getting home from school, showering, and dinner before you’re ready to be productive again. Small revelations can make a big difference in your management.

The next step is to figure out how you want to manage your time. This step also takes a little self awareness because there are so many ways to go about this & you want to choose one that best for you. Planners are so cute and chic and make your flat lays pop, but if you’re never going to actually write in it, what’s the point? If you want to go electronic, you need to make sure you choose something that syncs between your phone and computer. In other words, don’t use iCal on your Mac when you have an Android phone–try google calendar instead. If you are a ToDo list person, I don’t believe you can ever truly master time management, because there’s nothing about them that actually manages your time, they just help you stay organized. They are a great add on to an already established schedule. Personally–well first of all I’m a micromanager of my time, so a lot of what I do is unnecessary for the average person. I use iCal which syncs in real-time between my phone and laptop. I’m able to color coordinate (unnecessary) categories such as personal, academic, specific student orgs, etc. I can usually schedule out about a week in advance, but sometimes I end up scheduling out the day on the morning of–it be like that sometimes. I schedule free time and breaks also, which I advise so you be sure you have little blips of time for yourself.

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So, once you’ve chosen your method, the final, but most important thing, is to know what you have to get done, and how much time it will take you to get done. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is being overambitious thinking they can finish something in less time than reality. I’ve learned it’s always better to overestimate how much time something will take because it takes the edge off and if you finish sooner, then great! Then you can take a break or keep it pushing and go to bed earlier. For example, if you have a one hour block between class and a meeting, you will serve yourself better by reviewing old material or sending some emails than trying to tackle a new lecture you got that day. You’ll spend so much brain power and just when you’re starting to flow, your times up. So save hard core studying for times when you can dedicate at least 2 hours or time.

After that, all you need to do is actually figure out when to get things donewhen in the day and when in the week. With the first step (recognizing what you’re doing with your time), you would have realized which days are heavier on the extracurriculars and have more awkward gaps of time, and which days can be real hard core study days. In order to most efficiently map out a day, you need to determine when you are most productive. Are you a morning person (like me) and can wake up at 5:30am to study before classes? Or do you get your best work done between 9 and 11pm. You’d want to schedule your main studying during your peak productivity hours, and your busy work/errands/exercise/etc. for your off-peak hours. How much sleep do you need a night to be alert all through the day (no nap included)? Sleeping more and napping less can make a big difference as well. And if you hold leadership and have a million extra tasks you need to get done, take advantage of bursts of time that might not even feel “free” like waiting for a friend or breaks in class or that 5 mins before class really starts.

These are some of the things that have helped me improve my time management. If you’d like to know more about his I schedule my days specifically, please contact me. I hope that these tips help you get a better grip on your days. Or if you know someone who struggles with this, pass this post along to them! Have a great week!

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How to keep fighting the good fight

What do you do when you’re ready to throw in the towel?

It doesn’t take much time after starting school that all the excitement gets sucked out of everything and you’re just fighting to stay afloat. That’s not a very optimistic statement to make, but there’s some truth in it, especially in medical school. There are random moments when you’re reminded of why you’re putting yourself through such suffering, but they seem few and far in between, until you get to the clinical years. For the first two years of med school, lots of people use the swimming analogy: everyone is just trying to stay afloat. There’s times when you’ve got your stride and you’re cruising, and at some points (most points) you’re barely making it, swamped by the waves that keep coming and coming…and coming. It takes so much effort to stay afloat, eventually your body gets tired, and you want to say screw it. But you can’t. Because you’re supposed to get a couple letters behind your name soon, and you really want those letters.

So what do you do? Here’s some tips from my experience on how to keep fighting the good fight.

  1. Keep good friends around you–I don’t use the term friend here loosely. When Isay friend, I mean someone you can confide in, who knows your weaknesses, who you don’t have to explain yourself to, who only wants to uplift you. When we share our joys they are doubled, and when we share our burdens, they are halved. Medical school isn’t meant to go through alone. It’s important to have friends around you that can encourage you and tell you that you can do it when you don’t believe in yourself. Watch the people you surround yourself with, because negative, toxic friendships can easily add to hardship. happy dog sad hug adorable GIF
  2. Don’t rely on your own strength–We are all strong people, especially to be in this field. We know how to fight to stay up late or wake up early, study harder to get the results we want. But sometimes the fight just isn’t in us. Human strength isn’t always enough and we need to call on God to give us the supernatural strength and power we need to persevere. Surrender it to Him and let him take control. Staying faithful in the Word and strengthening your spirit can help you tap into that power on demand.
  3. Have an outlet/escape–It feels like my life is consumed by medicine, especially so back in first and second year. I found that it was actually harder for me to stay afloat when I convinced myself that I didn’t have time to refresh and do things I enjoyed. I would envy people who had time to keep up with TV series until I realized that they were making time for things to let their brains escape while I had mine on lock down. I learned that taking breaks can actually make your time studying more efficient. So when you feel like you’re ready to throw in the towel, do it. Refresh. But only for a little while.
  4. Give yourself positive affirmations–write them on your bathroom mirror, put  write you are beautiful writen GIF hem on your screensaver, leave sticky notes around your room, recite them to yourself every morning. Positive affirmations help increase your mental toughness, so when doubt, weakness, or negative energy comes your way you can easily block it out because you’re full or positivity. Examples include your favorite uplifting quotes, bible verses, or simple phrases such as: “you are smarter then you think,” “I am powerful,” “I’m going to be a doctor one day,” “You make the world a better place,” “you are important.” You get the idea.
  5. Trust the process–The road isn’t easy and it’s not supposed to be. This profession isn’t for the weak hearted. The process is meant to test you, sharpen you, grow you. We all struggle. When someone on the other side tells me that everything is going to be OK, it’s hard to swallow in the moment. But then I cross that hurdle and realize that they were right. When the going gets tough, instead of getting worn out, we have to trust that we will be better professionals because of this, and let our future selves motivate and pull us through.

Thanks for reading. If you liked this post, check out this one on Embracing the Journey! Subscribe below for more updates from The Balancing Act.

Confronting Failure

New school year brings new challenges.. discussion about failure and coping with it

This post was inspired by the handful of people who’ve reached out to me about their struggles to adapt to the new demands placed on them in a new academic year. I’m sure there are many others in the same boat. For most people the new year is just starting to take off. If you’re a pre-med/pre-health in general, you’re feeling pressure to perform well this year to stay competitive. If you’re a first year professional student, you’ve probably been hit by an 18-wheeler and just trying to pick up the pieces of your life. As a second year, the dark cloud of STEP1 or other board equivalents are starting to encroach, all the while you’re trying to hold leadership and get ready for the tests that are right in front of you. Every year brings on it’s own individual stresses, pressures, and challenges. But also more laughs and memories, deeper understanding, and further mastery of a craft. Each year is a new balancing act, and it can be hard in the beginning to get your footing just right–naturally.

We each give our own meaning to the word failure, but either way it goes it cuts deep, and many times we let it negatievly affect our attitude and actions following. We turn against ourselves, bashing all of the work we put in, interrogating inwardly in attempt to discover the root of the issue. You’re such an idiot is my personal favorite line for myself when I encounter failure. I used to ask myself where did I go wrong? Failure really is a tough pill to swallow, especially for people going into healthcare, as we’re held to a higher academic standard and everything is about being “competitive.” We’re conditioned to place so much of our value in our GPAs and when something threatens to tarnish that, it hurts.

In college I would call my dad when I didn’t do well on an test and he (in true Nigerian fashion) wouldn’t even sympathize with me or validate any of my feelings. He would ask Did you do your best? and once I said yes, he’d say, Then it’s ok, you can’t ask for more from yourself and you can’t change anything now. All you can do it learn and move on. Oddly, his stern message actually would make me feel better; I would feel almost stupid for beating myself up. His message never changed no matter how many times I called him, even in medical school. Of course, I’d also call my parents with good news too, so they knew my potential. With time, I’ve matured enough that I can have that conversation with myself. Every once in a while though, I’d convince myself that my best wasn’t enough, that I could have done more. I know there are other people who do the same. It is such a drain of energy living in the past and present at the same time. When I would tell my sister about it, she would tell me This isn’t the last time you’re going to get grades like that, you’re not always going to excel, so you shouldn’t spend your energy dwelling on it. It’s one test. My family is very straight-to-the-point if you haven’t figured lol.

But I got mentally tougher! And I’ll tell you what I learned that helped me cope with failure. We were not designed to succeed in everything we do. Otherwise we would never have mistakes to learn from, never have obstacles to make us stronger/wiser. It’s only scary because we don’t know when we’re going to fail. And there are many times when it feels like we simply can’t afford to fail. But God knows when we will prevail and when we will fall short. And He has planted people in our lives for us to turn to in either case. When I decided to put my trust in Him, the fear of failure began to wash away. I knew either way that I would be OK, because that is part of His promise to me. With each failure, we become mentally stronger, more resilient, more determined–if we choose to. We can choose to become consumed by our pitfalls or we can choose to thank God for them, learn from the experience, and become better students, clinicians, and leaders. It has taken a lot of growth for me to be able to say, “You gave it your all Ijeoma, you just weren’t meant to make an A this time. But you know what, you’re gonna bounce back and kill it next time.” I’ve become a better student student because of that. It’s all about your mentality, which you (and only you) have the power to control.

I hope this post inspires someone who feels like their school year got off on the wrong foot. I’ve definitely been there, and you are not alone!

When we tackle obstacles, we find hidden reserves of courage and resilience we did not know we had. And it is only when we are faced with failure do we realize that these resources were always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives.” – A.P.J. Abdul Kalam


4 Apps that will change the studying game

Discover new ways to stay on track this exam season

The semester is ending and finals season is upon us. If you’re wondering how you’re going to get through it alive, here are a few apps you can try to keep you focused, curb distractions, get you out of bed, and hopefully make your life a tad bit easier.


If you’ve ever felt like you get distracted too easily or can’t focus for long periods of time, the pomodoro technique may be great for you! Boost your productivity by breaking down your work into 25 minute intervals separated by 5 minute breaks. Then, after 4 cycles have passed, you take a 15-20 min break. You can search “pomodoro” in your app store and find a variety of apps that can time this for you and keep you on track!

Self Control (Mac only)

SelfControl is a compute app that lets you block your own access to distracting websites like social media, buzz feed, online shopping, etc–whatever your poison is. Just set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click “Start.” Until the timer runs out, you can’t access those sites–even if you restart your computer or delete the application.


Most of you already know about this app/website, but may not be using it to its fullest. Not only are you able to make simple flashcards for quick memorization, but the site can design games and tests to help you learn too. Also, if you have a friend who makes cards, you can search for them and simply add them to your personal files! You can also just search for & add other random card sets that cover topics relevant to you. My favorite is the phone app. You have access to all your card sets in the palm of your hand. Anything that gives you the ability to study efficiently & on the go gets high recommendations from me.

Sleep if You can

This is for you hard core snoozers out there. This app functions as an alarm, but instead of just hitting snooze, you’ll have to get up and take a picture of an image that you pre-set (ex. bathroom sink), solve a math problem, or a couple of other options that suit your fancy. So, if you like to take “naps” during the day before/between studying that turn into full blown sleep after about 5 snoozes, try this out.

Wishing everyone the best of luck in their exam periods; we got this!