From mapping to memory palaces, STATMed Alumni share the skills that have transformed their studying habits
If you’re struggling in medical school (or a related field), the tools you’re using may be working against you. If you’re relying on reading and re-reading material or continually listening to lectures but not getting the results you’re looking for, the issue could be your tools and strategy. In part two of this miniseries, Ryan is back with six recent STATMed Study Skills Class alumni. In this episode, they share which of the skills learned in the Class have most impacted the way they approach studying.
“After going through the homework sets you’ve been giving us and diving into the maps and memory palaces, I, personally, have seen my brain change and be able to store and retrieve information more quickly and easily than I ever have in my entire academic career. And I think that’s the biggest game-changer. I’ve seen that I have way more potential than I think I do, and that’s what makes it most exciting about using this as one of the tools.”
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Welcome to the StatMed Podcast, where we teach you how to study in med school, and how to pass board style exams. Your host is Ryan Orwig, a learning specialist with more than a decade of experience working with med students and physicians. In part two of this mini series, Ryan sits down with recent alumni from the Stat Med Study Skills class to debrief from the class and discuss the skills they learned to transform their study habits.
So helpful and it’s something that I would argue most of us here would probably agree it’s something we wouldn’t have come to on our own, or it’s something that a YouTube video wouldn’t have been able to effectively teach us. You really have to go through the process, be guided through that, practice that regimented approach to understand it’s value. And then once you have it, I don’t know that it will ever leave me. I think…
Yeah, and Ashley, so let’s pivot this, and we can have some cross talk, you guys can chime in on a thing. So I’m gonna come through and sort of ask you guys, this is a little different than what we have in the outline. Let’s go with one of the big, let’s talk some individual skills we’ve learned. I think if somebody’s listening to this they’re like these guys are talking about methodology. They’re talking about skills. What do we mean? Nobody knows what we’re talking about. You guys didn’t know coming in what are these skills you’re talking about? And I’d be curious to know what you were thinking then verses now on some of this. But anyway, so Aron, give me one of the big, what’s one of the biggest skills that you think are gonna make a difference? This methodology we keep alluding to. Let’s talk about individ, what’s a big changer for you?
Right. The biggest changer for me is definitely gonna be mapping and memory palaces. Before taking your program, I was quite anti doing all these cartoons and animations ’cause I always had the mindset when you’re in school you’re not gonna be looking at cartoons, and creating all these stories and animations. It sounds so silly and ridiculous, but then after taking-
Okay, hold on.
So maps and memory palaces, these are what I would call augmented skills, outside the boundary skills. Not everybody’s gonna use these. Anne’s like I’m never gonna use that. We tried it, that’s totally cool, it’s 100% fine. We don’t know who, but Aron coming into the class, if would have predicted is he gonna like this skill, yes or no, if he previewed it, he would have been on a scale of one to 10 likelihood of even entertaining it, it probably would have been a one for you, Aron, right? He’s saying yes.
He’s like yep, yep, no way am I drawing pictures or doing crazy memory palaces. But now, why are you so enthused? Why, what flipped the switch to make you be like I’m all in on this?
Because after going through the homework sets you’ve been giving us and really taking a dive into these maps and memory palaces, I personally have seen my brain change and be able to store and retrieve information much more quicker and easier than I ever have in my entire academic career, and that’s, I think that’s the biggest game changer, seeing that I have way more potential than what I think I do, and that’s what makes it most exciting about using this as one of the tools.
Right. And that could be a core method for some, it can be a supplemental method for others. Some people just use it as a 5% boost. Think about what a 5% boost means on a given block exam or your shelf exam or your boards.
Oh, huge, for sure.
Or it can be more, right? I have people that make a tremendous profit from that. Who else can speak to their thoughts on memory palaces and maps as far as, Tess, what do you have on this? What can you say to this?
I mean I believe it was yesterday in class we were practicing a set list of memory palace and it was this long list of different bacteria and causes to pneumonia. And I was like, I would sit down and self test myself over it using the memory palace. And after I was done, I would look at the list, I was like wow, I could never imagine doing that before. I just produced this big long list of information, and I was just so amazed, honestly. And I can still pull it up in my head right now.
Right. It has that staying power. And then, people, I have people do it, and they say I haven’t studied yet. The making of it is the study, right? People think they need to read over something or look over it and it’s a waste of time. So it’s the making and then the self testing, the visualizing, tapping into that visual memory, very powerful stuff. Who else can speak to anything on maps or memory palaces? Do we have any thoughts on this? Just put your hand up if you wanna go. Okay, Veronique.
I think, I didn’t, I didn’t have an affinity for the maps initially.
But it was the, yeah, it was a skill that I am still learning. But the memory palaces, just the ability to use my creativity, my mental creativity in order to study and learn this information is really exciting.
It’s kind of mind blowing, right? It’s mind blowing you can use this whole other part of your brain and your personality and your knowledge base to encode vast amounts of information in a systematic manner is king of like oh my, it’s a mind expanding notion, and you guys have the tools now to make the mechanics to do it. And you’ve seen it right?
Yeah, absolutely. Once you self test a couple of times, that’s your feedback. It’s telling you the outcome.
Yeah. So we use retrieval practice, or called self test, to, that’s part of the learning circuit within a given memory palace, but that also gives you the feedback that reinforces the learning, shows you what’s working and what’s not. It’s all, it’s the self feeding mechanism. And that’s how we can do the class in a relatively short period of time, and expect growth to continue. You guys know this now, you’ve heard me talk about this for 40 hours at this point. And you can see it. It’s like the proof is in the output. You guys can be like oh my gosh. I’ve had people do maps for memory palaces and hate it. Hate the notion of it, and then they have to, then they see what the outcome is on the self test, self check though, and they’re like oh no, it works. Good problems to have.
Good problems to have, right?
Good. What else do you have on that? Anything else?
I was just gonna say that it’s, it’s unlocking this aspect of myself, this creativity aspect of myself that I feel has been really dormant since I started medical school.
And perhaps is making me feel the way I do.
Leading to a little bit of a burnout, and just feeling like I’m not myself, and that I have to just close off certain parts of myself to study this, but this is showing me that no, I can use all these different aspects and still be successful.
Excellent. Thank you. David, and as you’re transitioning, now look, what Veronique’s saying is she has these dormant parts of her creativity that have been shut off and this is a way to access it. That’s great, but Aron would probably say that’s not, he wasn’t itching for that creative outlet, he just found a way it worked. So in other words, some people identify as creatives who are excited to then use the creative parts of their brain. Others are not creative, and they were saying no, I’m a pretty much nuts and bolts science based person, I don’t have that creative itch, and they still find profound benefit in it because of these different modalities to which this sort of thing unlocks. David, what can you say about maps and memory palaces?
You know, it’s funny that you were just talking about people that don’t consider themselves creatives because I would say that I wouldn’t consider myself a creative at all, especially in terms of drawing and art. I don’t know, I have no innate talent for that. So taking maps specifically and using those for the first time was really eye opening because all I did was trace a bunch of pictures and put them together into a single document, but the randomness of everything really helped to solidify whatever we were going over. So I don’t know, it was really helpful for me, and something I never though I would use.
Of course not.
Yeah, similar to-
Yeah. The amount of random nerd books that I’ve read and shows that I’ve watched over time can be really helpful for all that stuff, and now I got a use out of them, which is unexpected and cool.
Absolutely. Yeah, the idea that I can take, you can take stuff from TV shows or fantasy books or movie series you’ve watched and use that to encode vast amounts of pharmacology or biochemistry or disease states, I can’t swap it out, but you can’t piggyback that onto that scheme and it’s pretty fascinating without it being . You’re not trying to sell the show to Disney or Netflix. It is a truly utilitarian tool, and, again, we are very good at teaching this. All that said, this is just the bonus skills. I don’t care if anybody, nobody even has to use this stuff, so that’s where we start off. Who can talk about one of the more fundamental skills that maybe they got from the class? So, Elise, what can you say about that?
I think for me the frame working and the dynamic reading and marking are going to be the most profitable. And it’s funny because I think something that some students who would approach this class may think, and I certainly think this about myself, I’m organized in all other facets of life, why does it fall apart in a classroom? Or, I think I know how to read material, why am I not able to read and interrupt what the professor is putting out in the way that I need to to be successful? And these tools are foundational for me. I have said to you several times revolutionary is the word I would use because it gives a very specific, very regimented approach to the material, and you can’t really, in a very good way, you can’t really waver from that. You have to follow that approach, and what you end up with at the end of the process is a series of similar and very structured approaches to each individual lecture, which gives you that ability to self test. It gives you that ability to practice retrieval without having to add a whole bunch of other notes. Without having to add a whole bunch of other resources. And so it’s funny because it’s so simple, and I think for future students who considered a class, as they go through this process they’ll find out wow, this isn’t rocket science, but this is so helpful, and it’s something that I would argue most of us here would probably agree it wasn’t something we would not come to on our own, or it’s something that a YouTube video wouldn’t have been able to effectively teach us. You really have to go through the process, be guided through that, that process, that regimented approach to understand its value. And then once you have it I don’t know that it will ever leave me. I think I’ll be using this tool for every scientific journal that I edit in the future for every approach that I have throughout residency and as an attending.
And that’s a pretty powerful thing to be able to say.
Oh, yeah. And I do, I do intend this to be a life changing event for people, and that sounds a little, maybe it’s grandiose, but it is, that is the plan. That seems to be the case. You mentioned, frame working is that key skill of finding the structure that’s hidden. This is what the top down learner needs. The top down learner’s primary patch has to be about seeking and finding framework, okay, so she’ll be okay, so seek and finding framework, find the structure, find the framework, and again, extract it physically, externally drawn out. Then the dynamic marking is a sort of set of goals for as we read. I’m a reading and learning specialist. Everybody I work with obviously is highly literate, but all of these skills, if you think about it, they’re all dealing with how do we deal with textural constructs. How we approach, how we approach a PowerPoint, a 50, 70, 80 slide PowerPoint deck? How do we approach a dense review book? How do we read a test question? A USMLE, a Comlex level test question. All of it is reading, and it all, and what Elise also said it loses the fact everything in med school, in medical learning, starts with organization. Ownership of organization, seeking and finding organization. Those bottom up learners don’t have to. The bottom up learners can pound Anki decks, they can sit in lecture and just shovel a bunch of details down their throat. They can just start learning from practice questions. But that’s not good enough for us, and this is part of our problem culturally is we’re treating all med students and people in these medical fields the same. Oh, you’re smart, you got into our school. They’re not looking at it as who’s a top down learner, or a bottom up learner, who’s a strong structure builder, these ones that thrive from details? Or a weak structure builder, the ones like me, like you guys, who need to find that explicit structure. So to me the biggest game changer for everybody has gotta be frameworks. Frameworks where it starts, dynamic reading and marking in a way that, at least one of the four cogs has to be connected back to the superstructure framework, and then all roads leading to retrieval practice. I mean, again, that’s the plan. I can say that in five minutes, and, Elise, as you said, you could find most of the stuff on the podcast or on videos, but the class is the class for a reason, right? It’s the practice, it’s the connectivity, it’s the feedback, all the homework stuff that I’ve curated to put you guys through your paces. Part of it is that deductive me, blah, blah, blah, telling you all the rules, illustrating it step by step, but then there’s that inductive piece, where I’m having you guys wrestle with the examples and then get the feedback. I mean that’s part of the, the recipe, right?
Absolutely. And I think that the value of doing this in a structured enviornment is having that opportunity to practice and receive feedback, and then also, and I think most of us would argue this has been invaluable, is the ability to round table about the skills. The ability to share insights, and to be able to relate to other students who you probably, I would think for most of us you’re not having these types of conversations on campus.
These aren’t the types of conversations that students are openly discussing over lunch after a tedious or difficult lecture. These are the conversations that happen in hidden spaces and really result in the need for repeated semesters, and the need for a reset. And so the power too of this, the value for me has just been having that opportunity to learn from others, and we just went, just about an hour ago we went through a technology workshop, and we had a couple people in our class who shared skills. And those are the types of things that if you don’t have the skill, you might spend hours of your life trying to obtain it, or you can tap into a network, and work together, and be able to share and skill build together. And so to me that’s the value of this class. It’s not only learning these things, and doing so not in a vacuum, not in a silo, but having that opportunity to really learn and grow together.
Absolutely. So our test taking workshop is our other big platform, and that’s where we re engineer the test taking for the boards, test taker says I’m a bad test taker, that needs to be one on one, that does not really benefit from the group. But the learning class absolutely learns from the group. I had somebody ask me, it could have been one of you guys, somebody in one of the classes coming up this summer, they were like I want other people in the class to be like me. I want them to be like MD students repeating second year. I was like no you don’t. She was like I think I do. I was like no you don’t, you don’t want that. So I was like what you want, forgive me, let me just clarify. You don’t want that. What you want are like-minded people. It doesn’t matter if you’re a PA student, a veterinarian student, a first year rising to second year, first year repeater, second year repeater, step three international medical grad. I’ve had a neurologist do the class, he had failed his neuro exams five years in a row, it doesn’t matter. Everybody’s on the same page because we’re all struggling and frustrated with the stuff. And it’s usually, like I said, a handful of profiles. And it all fits. And then we have this amazing experience. And then we flip the class over so we’ve got more on demand videos, and that let’s us have more of those round table discussions that we had. I felt like I knew you guys better after the first day of class than I often do a class after the third or fourth day, because we had to, the way that I flipped it allowed us to talk so much more. It was absolutely invigorating for me because I knew you guys were getting to know me, and I was getting to know you, and you guys were getting to know each other so much better. And that is very powerful. That’s what’s called hidden curriculum. It’s not like the explicit curriculum on the list, but it is absolutely one of the intended benefits, and it does my heart well to know that you guys, ’cause we haven’t talked about that necessarily. That’s so exciting for me because I want that for you guys. What else can you?
Well I’m medical school, and can only attest to this in this group, but probably unlike PA school in which the classroom years, the curricular years are so divorced from the reality of the practice of medicine, they’re on two separate planets.
I think the beauty of this class is that we are working together in much the same fashion that we will be working together in the future, and having that, that idea of a group, future positions, future PAs, I can’t speak for the veterinary sciences, we won’t be treating the dogs and the cats, but just that ability to connect and relate is very remissant, and such a great future picture of how we’ll be working together in the clinical space. And there’s a lot of value in that too because there is a need for vulnerability. There is a need for honesty. And there need to be more people who say I don’t know instead of pretending that they have all of the answers. And this is a great first step in having students like us who say hey, maybe I fumbled, maybe I didn’t do so well. Maybe I need to go back to the fundamentals, and some of the rudimentary basics, but once you obtain those, my guess is that you will be a far better physician than those who say I’m good at everything, I’ve gotten through everything quickly, I know the answers because we will hopefully be able to better work together, and to better understand our patients who come in with feelings of failure about their own personal health. And that you can’t buy. That’s something that you just have to experience, and that’s part of this process for me.
Good, very good. Who else has another skill? So we talked about maps and memory palaces. Talked about frame working and dynamic reading and marking a little bit. What’s another skill that we learned? Aron, you’ve got one.
Yeah, one of the biggest game changers for me in the core methods was retrieval practice. So my original method of studying was just going through the slides and reading them passively over and over again, and falling into the trap of illusionary productivity that by seeing the material again and again I will be good for the exam, but it turned out that that is not the case. But making . Not at all. Not the case.
That’s putting it mildly, right?
Mildly, very mildly. But transitioning into this active form of studying, of forcing my brain to recall the information is where the biggest jumps in my success happened. And being able to go through that change has definitely helped me improve overall as a student.
Let me say this too. So Anki is the big, one of the big tools out there. And so Anki, I’ve watched how this has taken over the talk about medical education space, it’s the number one recommended thing in med school, maybe number one, number two, number three, I don’t know. It’s taken up all the thing. Anki’s great in that it’s retrieval practice, it’s distributed, it’s interweaved, it’s got an algorhithim, it’s a software, ba ba ba ba ba. If it works for you, wonderful. Anki is going to be very effective with those bottom up learners, you guys know this. So there’s people that can learn from the details. Can you guys talk about how Anki is not good for you and why? David.
Yeah, I mean one of the weird things about Anki is that it will give you all of these different things that you’re trying to retrieve over time. So you’ve maybe made your own deck, or you’re using something like the On king deck. Something large, something that’ll give you hopefully the breadth of information that you are supposed to need for any given test based on boards or based on what you’ve made. But the weird thing about it is it isn’t going to give you enough. It might not give you enough context to kind of form the interconnective understanding of the material that you might need in a test question to be able to say okay here we go.
So it’s, well in other words it’s the framework. It’s missing the framework. The Anki is going through with all the details, but it’s not building the framework. I think that’s what we discussed in the class, I think that’s what you’re saying there, right? And so we have to get past that on the other side.
Exactly. I think you made a really good analogy for this. It’s like if you’re building a city, but you stop building any roads in between different places. You might have your city, but you’re not gonna be able to get from point A to point B effectively.
Yeah, yeah. I’ve run into some people at the boards prep level, and they got through the first two years, and they’re prepping for step one, and they’ve Ankied themselves all the way through, and they didn’t, unbeknownst to them they’re top down learners, so they have all these buildings of information but no interconnectivity, which does not allow for any application or clinical application, or even access from different points of view. So it’s like oh man. I’m worried that that is a coming catastrophe for a subset of the medical student population because they are actually top down learners. Yes, Aron?
Right, so just going off of that, I think the way to find the silver lining is to make sure to framework first if you wanna use Anki. That personally has been helping me a lot because when I first started using Anki, and because I identify as a top down learner, it was just all pieces of random information going in my head, but once I went through the Stat Med Program and started frame working all of the context and the material, then going to Anki and seeing if it would work for me, it has been much better for me because I can be able to put all those pieces that I’m learning in retrieval practice, and have it all organized in my head together. It may not work for everyone, but for me, I think having the framework first definitely augmented my usage with Anki. And going back to what Mr. Orwick said was I don’t think Anki should be the end all, be all solution to studying. It’s a tool, but it’s one of the tools. So when I use it I use it for a limited amount of time, but I don’t use it for the whole day like some of the other students do.
Well, okay, so there’s a lot to unpack there with it. For some people, if it’s the end all, be all and it works, and they’re happy with it, more power to ’em, right? We let that go. It’s more about the, it’s more about you guys, our top down learners. What one person, like Aron might say is it’s a matter of when we bring it in, in what context and what role. Perfect. Somebody else might say I don’t even need it because the framework, and the dynamic reading and marking leads to retrieval practice off the framework. Both are right. It’s all about, and you guys know this, when it comes the class, it’s all about the why and the because. You just tell me, you guys now are super smart motivated people. It’s about your telling, I’ll ask you why are you doing this? You’re like well, this is why, da, da, da, da, da. Let me tell you, I’m doing this because of this. It’s fantastic. It’s so exciting as an instructor to be able to just let you guys roll with it because you guys did all the heavy work. That was a lot of work. That’s like a semester’s worth of work in 10 days. It’s a lot, it’s not too much. Air quotes, not too much. It’s a lot. But it’s worth it, it’s what we wanted to get from this. So, I think you can come at it from different directions with it, but I just think that we wanna be careful listening to what everybody else tells us, and then feeling bad when it doesn’t work for us when in fact we just might not be wired or predisposed to it. So retrieval practice, anybody else have any thoughts on just retrieval, let’s get back to just the power of retrieval practice. This is one of those things in the literature, the learning literature we know is the biggest money maker. We want get away from, I use the word review as a bad word. To review to me means I’m looking over stuff. I’m rereading. I’m entrenching familiarity. Can anybody comment on how well familiarity treats them on test day? If you’re robustly familiar, David, what can you say about robust familiarity on test day?
Robust familiarity is why I did not pass my classes that I didn’t pass. It just didn’t help. Just flat out. You can look at something a whole lot, and maybe, maybe you’re just one of those people that can remember things unusually well. That’s awesome, do that.
Yeah, what works for you.
It works for you. But for me it was an absolute shotgun to the chest. It just doesn’t work.
Yeah, painful. Anybody else have any other scathing indictments on familiarity? And, again, it’s great though because the soul, every time, I feel like if I, and you guys can tell me if I’m wrong, if I’m gonna complain about something in the learning sphere of medical education and board prep, I think we have a solution for it. And it’s because I’ve collected them over the last 15-20 years, and aggregated them, and built the tools to offset them. So, yeah, I mean look, familiarity, we gotta watch out for. And then you guys have the tools to do it now with our core methods, and then the methods along the outside. What about some of our, our time management, ’cause I think time management sounds so lame. We’re gonna learn some time management skills gang, but it’s so important. And you guys are excited about time management, I know you are. What are some of the specific skills within, under our time management umbrella that might be an exciting? Tess, what can you tell me about it?
The one skill that I really love, and I’ll probably use the rest of my career and everything when I get to boards and prepping for that is the academic study agenda.
that? I don’t know.
ASA, as we like to call it. We have our own internal vocabulary. Sidebar, I hope you all are so excited about the different names and tools we have. I love hearing you guys use the vocabulary. The learning vocabulary we talk about, or more specifically the study skills we talk about, and the management skills, and the test taking skills. I love hearing people come back to me with this made up vocabulary. You cannot be an expert in your learning, learning theory or executing your learning in the run of play in med school and PA school, board prep, what have you if you don’t know the names of the tools and the rationales to go under them. So academic study agenda, ASA, that is what I would consider a micromanaging tool, a way to micromanage yourself. It is a rolling fluid to do list that is only filled with study based items that you guys are learning how to generate, breaking large tasks into smaller tasks, crossing items off, and then most powerfully leaving stuff behind, left behind because there’s not enough time in the day. You’re never gonna get enough stuff done. I know this is a very important thing that we’re all working with, and wrestling with. So what’s so exciting about this ASA, the academic study agenda, the micromanager for you, Tess?
So for me, like you said, it breaks bigger tasks down into smaller ones. And for me, I’m just someone who likes to have a list and cross things off. That’s so satisfying.
Wait, wait. Let’s because you’re a human being, right? Human beings love breaking things down, crossing items off lists, and being like yeah, I crossed that off. I do it, I’ll do the thing, and be like let me just write that in there, even though it’s already done, so I can cross it off, when I’m really using the academic study agenda in my world. Now look, my world is not anywhere near as demanding as being in med school, PA school, vet school, none of that, I know that, but I am a business owner, and I’ve got a lot of things on my plate, sometimes I’m really, really struggling with productivity, so when I’m doing that I do the ASA for myself. And let me tell you, and breaking the large task into smaller tasks is a skill we can grow. It’s easier to do now that we have study skills that lend itself to this. But this idea of crossing things off, it’s what? It’s motivating. What else can you say about it? Looking back and seeing what you’ve done, all that stuff, right?
Yeah, so in my semester in PA school, I just had a mental list going which was, I found out, terrible. So now when I am going to be using these I’m gonna cross it off once I’m done, and if I call it, that end of the night, I wake up the next morning, and I see and can tell what I still have left to do. It’s nice.
Where to pick up. I mean isn’t that one of the bigger problems when we’re studying is like where did I leave off? What have I done? What haven’t I done? If I skip this now, will I even remember that I didn’t finish it? It’s all right there. And why is it all right there? What’s one of my, one of the, the phrase I might have said the most, which would be an intersecting contender, making things external and explicit. One of my favor dichotomies. Or the dichotomy within the dichotomy. The opposite is internal implicit bad, external explicit good, period. That’s it. I really think that we, just because we used to do things internally implicitly doesn’t mean we need to continue to do it. The staggering volume of junk you guys have to do, you’ve gotta make the stuff external explicit. And, again, the advice isn’t like hey gang, go make stuff external explicit. The tools that we’re teaching lend themselves to this. Can anybody else speak to the power or their relationship with this micromanager, the Academic Study Agenda? Does anybody else have any thoughts on it? Yes, Anne.
Hi, it’s just that, it just make me so happy because it’s not just a list because the list is endless for us. It just, it gave me permission to just, like you said, make it a rolling list where I could just finish a certain nonnegotiable item for this hour, for this 50 minutes, take a 10 minute break, and then go to anything I didn’t finish before that. I could then reassess again and see okay, in my studying now, do I really need everything that’s on the list or can I just do away with them and just change the list and make it more meaningful to what I’m doing now? Because before it was just oh, did I do two blocks of URL? Did I do 1,000 questions on, 1,000 Anki cards.
But there was really no point. There is no point.
Right. So this is really important.
It gives you what now?
Oh, but the ASA really changed how I looked at making this in the first place.
Yes. And well we’re populating the list with study skills that’s gonna allow for that, but here’s what I like. She’s like nonnegotiable. In other words, within the list she’s getting for the hour, we’re talking about the academic study agenda, like making the work flow, generating raw ideas for workflow while studying where you get to pick and choose. She’s using this term nonnegotiable. This, in other words, what’s the most important thing I need to work on right now? I’m gonna work through this, maybe some other stuff, then I get to the next hour after my break. Notice she’s talking about a little pivot, a little look back. Okay, do I need to drag any of that stuff forward? Am I gonna leave some stuff behind? And then what are my priorities? She’s talking about prioritization and depressurization. Why? Because there’s just so much. There’s too much to always master all of it, we gotta leave some stuff behind. This isn’t a trip into the woods with a group of kids. I mean you go on a trip, I know this is gonna get morbid, sorry. You don’t go on a group, ah, we took 10 kids into the woods, we made it back with eight, let’s call it a win. That’s a, sorry, I don’t know where these things come from. You’re like do I wanna send my kids with Ryan in the woods? Yeah, I’ve got a good track record, but that’s just a horrible metaphor. But in this situation, yes, we can leave stuff behind, they’re not kiuds, they’re just items on a to-do list in an enviornment where there’s too much to learn. Anne, anymore thoughts on that?
Yeah, because before I did not give myself permission to just let go. It’s as if I wrote down that list it’s set in stone, and I can’t erase it at all, I just have to keep going through it even if it’s not useful anymore for the thing that I need to do for now. So with this ASA, if I had eight hours in a day, and I had only eight nonnegotiable in that day, I could walk away and think at the end of the day hey, I actually accomplished eight important things rather than 30 things that I don’t know if it’s useful for me or not for the next day. I told you this before coming in-
Yeah, you, hold on. Sorry. So, yeah, you’ve got a list that you can look back and see what was actually done and what’s crossed off, and then behind that list the actual things you made using your study tools. And now you were saying you told me before we came in what now?
Yeah, I showed, I told you about my schedule where I spend several continuous eight to 10 hour days, sometimes six days a week just grinding. And then I stop at night, and then the following day I wake up, and think what the hell did I do yesterday?
Did I even inch forward or am I in the same place I was yesterday? Now I know where I am actually.
I love it.
And I could see, yeah, otherwise I’d be in this, in this study room just marking the days like Monte Cristo or something.
And, again, so that gets to one of our mentalities, right? One of the big mentalities I’m preaching you guys is the entrepreneur versus the office drone or a prisoner like the Count of Monte Cristo. So maybe just sidebar that. Does that speak to any of you guys? So Aron, this idea of the entrepreneur versus the offer drone, again, that’s more of a mindset, dichotomies. The skills should wrap around this, but what can you say to that, Aron?
Right. I think one of the most important pieces in time management, where I think everything pretty much rests on is the end of the week business meeting with yourself because it doesn’t matter how great or how bad that week went if you don’t take the time to reflect on what happened that week then the following week is gonna be hit or miss, and you wanna be able to know exactly what went right and what went wrong so you can navigate and improve as the week goes on. So I think, I think it’s so important to set a dedicated time, not just walk around and be like okay, I think I did good, but actually sit down, and have okay, this one hour I looked at the ASA, the study manager, I did so many, 50 10 blocks, and doing that explicitly and externally with yourself I think is what’s gonna make any student improve over however long they’re studying for.
Right. Well this is part of that ownership, treating your, ’cause a lot of people come in I don’t get it, I study 10 hours a day, why am I not doing well? And I can’t even begin to answer that ’cause I don’t know what you’re talking about. This is about ownership in what you’re doing, but it’s also about behavior change. It’s about getting better week by week by week. Everything you do, if you self reflect you will grow self monitoring skills. And so we weaned to go week by week by week using all the stuff that we learned to do. Can anybody else speak to the entrepreneurial versus office drone mentality? Does anybody have thoughts on this one? Yes, let’s see, Elise first.
I think this goes back to, for me, the ideal versus real scheduling tool. And really looking at how we were spending your time during the week, and taking accountability for that. So you’re not just showing up on a job, spending eight hours doing whatever you’re doing, and then leaving it. You really have to take accountability for each and every hour. And as a former analyst I love the allocation of the hours. I loved going through this process of being able to look at specifically where time is going. And then at the end of the week being able to tally those hours. So if you spent four hours in a particular category that you hadn’t intended to, how does that effect your overall productivity? How is that effecting your sleep? How is it effecting the time that you should have been studying. And I think that that’s something that’s a really neat tool because you’re not sharing this with everyone, it’s not something that you need to be broadcasting, but you can be brutally honest and vulnerable with yourself, and call yourself out during what Aron was talking about with our weekly meeting, really looking at that and saying okay, I didn’t do so well in my personal study time this week or I didn’t exercise a single day. And in terms of my brain power I could see how that effected me. And then you can make corrections next week. and so it’s not this amorphous blob of time that you’re dealing with, it’s very specific, it’s very structured, and it gives you the data. As you talked about throughout the class, it’s this idea of having the data to fall back on, and to do an analysis so that it’s, you really have a specific thing you can work on. And look, we’re not, none of us are perfect, and so we’re not going to go from one week with a lot of feelings of missteps or things that we could have done better to being excellent the next week. And so it’s really figuring out where are those areas where you can make improvements week over week, and then seeing how it effects all aspects of your life. And most importantly I think for most of us are our study lives, our performance on exams in this two year period, or in our board prep.
Yeah, no, absolutely. And then also it is feedback. That’s what I talk a lot about too. You’re using this pivot point in the business meeting with yourself to look back, make some adjustments, get better. It’s like going from out of shape to getting in shape, trying to bring in an exercise routine where if you look day by day you’re not gonna see the result. But if you do this for five weeks, four weeks, five weeks, six weeks, you’re gonna be in a dramatically different place six weeks down the line, maintaining it. And we also talk about the opportunity of being in this class as a true pivot point in your life for true change. We all want change, we all want to be better, but this is a real moment to add new institutions and landmarks to your life. And I think the weekly business meeting is a fantastic thing to add to your lives. Easier said than done as a lot of this, but very doable. And you guys are motivated. And you guys have a lot of motivation, whereas maybe the average person on the street might not. This is about you gotta optimize your time ’cause time is currency, time is your most scarce resource, wars are fought over scarcity. This is a big deal. This is a big deal. Let’s do one more time management thing that we can talk about within this scope. Does anybody else have any thoughts on any of the time management tools? It could be the study structure, could be the study manager. Could be making your plans. David, you have something?
Something that I thought was really helpful is the study manager idea itself gives a really good way for me to know exactly what I’ve seen and how many times I’ve seen it, and whether or not I’ve actually tested on it, or what I’ve done in the study session. Just outside of the study, the study agenda because having that external explicit view of okay, I’ve done this many self tests on this, and I’ve done this, I’ve mapped something in this lecture or I’ve gone through the framework. Being able to see that from the perspective of that top down view that I’m in the satellite, I’m just looking down on the Earth figuring out what’s going on. Super helpful.
Yeah. And I think it’s essential. I think it’s essential because that is the, the macro manager to the micro manager. I don’t want you guys having to keep that in your minds. I want you to offload that, and then you can track it, ’cause we tend to overstudy areas that we’re more comfortable with, and we avoid the uncomfortable things. And then all of a sudden we get to the test, we’ve hit one topic six times, and the weak topic one time, and that’s imbalance. The study manager’s a big piece of this. I know you guys all sort of understand that.
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The StatMed Podcast. If you liked the show, please be sure to rate it on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts. You can find more test taking and studying strategies specifically designed for med students and physicians over at our blog at statmedlearning.com. Thanks for listening.