Wednesday, May 20, 2015

USMLE Studying with a Countdown Timer

Now that I'm less than three weeks away from writing my USMLE Step 1, I'm doing my best to put in some quality study time each day. As amazing as it is, being in vacation mode is not really that conducive to studying, unfortunately... I know it's under time pressure (with its associated constant slight anxiety and I-should-be-studying guilt) that I'm most productive, so for the past few days I've been holding myself accountable by studying with a countdown timer.

After trying out and deleting several study timing apps, I discovered Ultimate Stopwatch & Timer, which is just wonderful. It's free, simple, aesthetically pleasing, ad-free, and very user friendly (you can even accidentally exit the app without the timer reseting). I've been setting the countdown to 12 hours (in the hopes that one of these days I'll actually achieve that duration of studying time...). Even if I don't get in the full 12 hours of studying, I find that the app really does help me to focus. I pause the countdown whenever I do something non-study-related, which makes me think twice before opening my email or clicking on Instagram...and when I do need a break, I'm conscious not to take too long (gotta restart that countdown!). Using the countdown timer has become a bit of a game and, believe it or not, does make studying marginally more fun :)

Here's how things went with using the timer today:

At 8:20 am I was settled in at school and ready to study. Started the countdown timer (from an idealistic 12 hours):
study timer app
Study, study, study:
By 9:30 am my stomach was grumbling, so I snacked on an apple while starting on the First Aid psychiatry chapter:
At 11 am I was hungry (or maybe just bored) again -- Harvest Crunch cereal to the rescue:
By 12:23 pm I'd held out long enough -- lunch time! I left the timer paused with 3.5 hours down, ate my yogurt, granola, and banana, checked my email, and perused a couple of blogs.
study timer app
And ten minutes later the countdown was back on. On to personality disorders...
fun with PDs
Paused the timer at 2:20 pm for another break (ate an orange):
study timer app
And paused it again at 2:30 pm to tutor for a few hours...
study timer app
Science 10 -- pretty fun to tutor!
After finishing tutoring at 5:15 pm I headed home, stopping by a produce store and a grocery store on the way.
The Root Cellar -- such a nice produce store!
admired their allium bouquets (I love allium; straight out of a Dr. Seuss book!)
I got home at 6:30 pm, got together a quick dinner, and ate around 7 pm.
simple summery dinner: burger, corn (the sweetest ever!), and watermelon
aaand cleaned out the Nutella jar with a spoon (partially procrastination, but also NUTELLA)
At 7:47 pm I restarted the timer and was back to studying...
countdown app
...with a snack:
honey dijon kettle chips!
And barely half an hour later it was snack time again (gosh, this study log is turning into a food diary...and not the most respectable one). The timer was briefly stopped for snack acquisition:
countdown app
Bikano Indian snacks, yum!
I was amused by First Aid's try-hard attempts at memory aids (some of them are great, others just...are not):
Call Me Maybe
A brief pause at 9 pm to send some texts:
countdown app
And a not-so-brief pause from 9:50 pm to 10:21 pm, to brush my teeth and subsequently get distracted doing who knows what (probably chatting with my mom):
countdown app
back to counting down!
Another pause, after getting only 5 minutes of studying in:
Then more studying...and repeated escorting of ants off my notes (our kitchen is infested!):
Then I hit this ugly-looking page (renal physiology!) and figured it was a good place to call it a night.
no thanks
Well, with 4 hours remaining on the timer, I only made it two thirds of the way through my 12-hour goal...but at least I got that solid 8 hours in and feel that I concentrated pretty well while the timer was running :)
If I get in 8 hours again tomorrow I'll be happy -- but I'll be still aiming for that 12!
making progress in First Aid (the non-highlighted columns are chapters I've skipped for now...cough, biochem & neuro)

How do you like to structure your study time?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...