Most of the study tips I post I write based on strategies I used as a pre-med in college and throughout my first three years in medical school. A time when, although you feel like you never have enough time to get it all done, you really sort of do. Then came Liv (my daughter), aaaaand my Step 2 CK exam that was conveniently scheduled for the month after she was born, and my study habits had to be completely re-invented. I'm hoping this post will help other student moms and non-traditional students, whether you're working full-time and going to school, taking care of ill parents, or really any commitment that tugs at a large majority of that oh-so-precious study time.
Get over the idea that you need big chunks of time to study. I used to love having a nice uninterrupted two hour chunk of time to do some studying. Although now and then I can find time like that, more often than not things can only get done in 15 minute chunks here and there. Don't brush off these small chunks of time as being too short for accomplishing anything - especially with memorizing, these are perfect little chunks for memorizing a couple of facts, and these little study bursts really do add up throughout the day. If you have the luxury of sitting at your laptop for this studying I love using the Self Control app to eliminate any distractions that might eat up that study time.
Be ready to study anytime. It's hard to study during a quick 20 minute break or ride on the train if you don't have your study materials with you. But if you're already carrying a diaper bag or your work bag (or a baby you just got to sleep and are terrified to put down for fear of waking her back up) not many of us are lugging around all of our textbooks and notebooks, too. My iPhone was my savior during times like these (which during Liv's first month of life was pretty much all the time). Here are a few apps that helped make my phone a great study tool.
- Using the TurboScan app I can take pictures of chapters I need to review or figures I want to study from books I have (or even those in the library). It takes seconds to do! You can save these as PDFs you name yourself (like Renal Review or Coagulation Cascade diagram).
- Using the Kindle Reading App I organize all of my PDFs and can easily read and review them from my phone. There are also many books available in Kindle format so if you'd rather just buy textbooks in that format, you'll be able to read them from your phone too!
- Download the app specific to whatever Qbank software you use if that's part of your studying. For Step 2 (and Step 1) I used the USMLE World Qbank app. You can easily do practice questions and review answers on your phone this way! This was a majority of how I studied for Step 2.
Use two windows on your computer. Sometimes you're just going to have to get work done during time you should be spending with your little one. Times like these I like to open two windows on my laptop - one with YouTube for Liv and the other with whatever I'm working on. Right now Liv really likes this video - it's all nursery songs that we can sing along to with her sitting on my lap or standing next to me while I work on the floor.
I hope some of these tips could help a few of you! Please share with anyone you think it could help out! Happy studying! Remember to be easy on yourself. We're juggling a lot, more than we probably ever thought possible, so give yourself a pat on the back and keep doing awesome!