Peer Advisor Blog Articles

7 Not-So-Common Tips & Techniques to Balance Work, Study, and Social Life

Peer Advisers are upperclassmen who are trained to assist incoming students make the transition into professional grad school. One of the way they assist is through the Peer Advisor Blog. Here is an example of such a blog article that may even be helpful to you as a pre-optometry student as you go forward…

justn610By Peer Adviser, Justin Nguyen, SCCO Class of 2020

Hi, my name is Justin and I am part of the OD Class of 2020. I’d like to share some general tips and techniques that have allowed me to balance working ~15-20 hrs/week as a part-time tutor, studying, and also fun! These tips are applicable to anyone looking to be more efficient with their time, whether working or not.

#1: Figure out the best study habits that work for you and stick to them.

There are so many different habits and techniques in regards to studying. Everyone is different and has unique personal preferences. Are you at your best in groups or alone? Should you study in the library, outside, Starbucks, in a study room, at home, on your bed with Netflix running in the background? Should you use lecture capture (more on this during orientation)? The answer is up to you. Take considerable time to experiment and see what works best. Really try to understand yourself and what keeps you focused. For example, in my four years of undergrad, I never sat in the front row during lecture. I sat in the back and what did I do? I just fell asleep 75% of the time. In grad school, I decided to see if sitting in front made a difference and I was amazed by the results. I found myself more attentive and I seemed to remember things a lot better. But again, experiment for yourself and keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Also, if something that used to work doesn’t seem to work anymore, it’s time to switch it up!

#2: Schedule management that works for you

Similar to study habits, I recommend figuring out your best methods/tools for managing your schedule and stick by them. For some, this may be keeping a well-organized planner. While this may work for some, I like to have my schedule on me at all times. That said, I plan my entire life on Google Calendar because I can always view it on my phone or laptop (see below). Also, most of the events are automatically listed through MBKU’s Google Calendars, which helps a lot (thanks class secretaries!). If you’ll notice, I color coded lectures (brown), exams (pink), labs (purple), work (yellow), extracurricular events (green), and gym (teal). This helps me visualize my plans better and just makes my calendar look more organized in general. This calendar may look busy but that’s because I try to fill up the spots as much as I can. Psychologically, this makes me more inclined to actually stick to my plans, no matter what they are, so a lot of the events are just hours that I dedicate to studying and making sure I’m on top my school work.

#3: Meal prep

If you’re ballin’ on a budget like me, meal prep is the way to go! The benefits of meal prepping are many: fun to do (hopefully), fast, healthy, and saves a ton of money. I usually get my ingredients from Costco or Stater Bros but any local store should have good deals. Some easy and fast things that I make are rice, chicken, steamed vegetables, pasta, and sandwiches. I’m definitely nowhere near chef-level, but basic recipes like this keeps both me and my wallet full and happy. I usually dedicate about 2-3 hours on Sunday to making meals that will last me till Friday. But doing so saves a lot of time going out to get the food, thus creating more time to devote to studying or work.

#4: Cramming doesn’t work anymore

Yet, we all still do it to some extent. Sure, depending on how well your short-term memory is, cramming might be reliable for you for most of the exams. However, remember why you’re here. As a crammer myself, I have to remind myself this all the time: we are not here to pass exams! We are here to learn the knowledge and skills to deliver excellent healthcare. Numerous studies, and personal experience, show that cramming is not an effective way to retain information or skills in the long-term. And I’ve learned that dedicating even 1 hour a day to review material far outweighs any amount of cramming.

#5: Listen to lecture capture in the car (or on your walk) to school (*requires data usage)

**Lecture capture is a platform that audio/video records lectures – more information at orientation and in the student handbook**

I started doing this in the spring quarter this year and I wish I had done it sooner. Rather than listening to the same music/playlists in my car, I switched it up and threw on lecture capture via my phone. Since my commute is ~25-30 minutes, this helped me retain a good amount of information. It’s also okay to just listen passively to the audio since you are driving. While driving I didn’t pay attention all of it because I was focused on the road, but I felt that some facts stuck in my head which helped me remember a lot of facts and concepts when it came to exams.

#6: Teach others

As a tutor, I often tell my students to teach the concept they have just learned to me. This ensures true comprehension and understanding. That said, take the time to quiz and teach your peers the material that you’re learning, whether it’s Optics, Anatomy, Applied Biomedical Science…anything goes. I’ve found this to be a great technique to learn and retain information.

#7: Don’t neglect your sleep and mental health!

One thing you don’t see in my calendar is sleep. Yes, it may seem crazy but I also schedule sleep. Personally, back in undergrad, I used to be a complete night owl. Even worse, I probably averaged 3 all-nighters a week and my mental health took a serious toll. I was always groggy, unmotivated, sometimes even downright depressed, – simply from not sleeping enough. Putting sleep in my calendar actually helped me commit to a healthy balance so that I made sleep a priority. Once I realized just how important sleep was, I saw an increase in my test scores, mood, and overall day-to-day efficiency.


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