Happy Monday! It's been a while since I posted last, but things were a bit hectic at work and home in the weeks leading up to our wonderful vacation! We're back now, and although things won't be slowing down anytime soon, I missed you all and posting so here we are for another edition of Med School Monday!
Today I wanted to talk about something that is not at all unique to medicine, it really applies to any demanding career that requires years of "sacrifice," and that is the principle of enjoying the ride.
Too many people on this path believe that "sacrifice" is required to get to where they want to be. And don't get me wrong, lots of hard work and many priority shifts need to be made to get to where you want to be, but to put life on hold until you've made it just means letting good years go to waste.
I think if any of you follow the blog you realize that I don't believe in putting life on hold. But it's only because of early experiences with death and suffering that I've realized every day is a gift. I don't believe in living each day like it's your last (that would just be plain reckless), but I do live with the constant reminder that nothing is promised. We should plan for the future, as this path is hard to travel without some (ahem, a lot) of planning, but we should still be enjoying every day of the present.
So with all that said here are six tips for enjoying the ride on your way to whatever your big dreams are.
- Schedule in time for what you love. I've professed my love for planners and organization schemes many times before (here and here just to list a couple), and as important as it is to have your schedule for classes or rotations or work, it is just as important to schedule in time for things important to you. This could mean scheduling a date night on a random Thursday or taking a trip to the spa during a morning off.
- Learn to be efficient. This will help you with scheduling time for other stuff mentioned in number one. See this post for some tips on how to study efficiently. A lot of the same tips are helpful for managing your work tasks as well. Try to get out of the mindset that you are at work just to be at work, nobody pays you to just be there, they're paying for what you're supposed to be doing. So do it! It's hard to remember this if you do shift work, get paid by the hour, or have someone telling you when you can go home (hello all of third year medical school), but even if this is the case, get as much done in the time you have to be there.
- Take vacations. Let's stop sucking at taking vacations. If you get vacation time, use it. Plan before vacation for all the work/studying/etc. that has to happen so you can actually enjoy your vacation, and do whatever you have to do to make that vacation happen. Nothing helps clear your head and re-inspire you like a good break. Getting back from vacation now I feel so motivated to work harder - it's a great reminder for why you work so hard in the first place.
- See the bigger picture. It's easy to get caught up in details and minutia and lose sight of the big picture. This leads to silliness like worrying about things that don't really matter in the grand scheme of things, and lots of time wasted that could be spent doing better things. Whatever your big picture is, keep it in mind and refer back to it when you start getting lost in the details. Having a mentor helps for this part of things - someone who is where you want to be and can help shed light on what ends up mattering and what doesn't.
- Stop the comparison game. Seriously. Comparison is the thief of joy. And it's true. The times you feel most stressed out are likely the times that you're comparing yourself to someone else, or your work to someone else's, or your thighs to someone else's, comparing comparing comparing. It's so hard not to, but try to be more aware of it and stop it! Most of the times you're comparing your dirty nitty gritty to someone else's perfectly prepared highlight reel anyway - most people don't share their nitty gritty for the world to see - remember that. And a lot of times you're comparing at different time points - don't compare yourself at point A to someone else at point E (especially when you don't know their point A)! There are just so many variables in our lives that we truly can never compare ourselves to others.
- Figure out where you can "skimp." This might sound a little lazy, but you can't (or at least shouldn't) give 100% in every task on your to-do list. You'll burn out quickly if you try to be the best at everything, and there's no need to be. Figure out where it matters, and focus your attention on that. A mentor is helpful here too, as is getting good old feedback. I used to ask my attendings for feedback (or just observed their body language for what they paid attention to and what they could care less about), and realized that the large majority cared about thorough yet succinct presentations of patients - I focused on that and spent less time on things like writing the most elaborate and extensive patient note (they didn't read them anyway), and because of this I did well on rotations. Of course, if I noticed that the notes meant more to them I would shift my focus there. It doesn't mean you should do anything poorly, you should still be proud of your work, but just realize that everything doesn't require 100% and prioritize accordingly. This quote below is one of my favorites to keep in mind when I realize I'm trying to give my all to way too much (via):
I hope you all find these tips helpful and can start (or continue) enjoying this amazing ride we're all on our on our way to our dreams! Just remember that this is your life, right now, in this very moment. Live it!