Hi everyone! My name is Khanh Ton, and I’m a second-year optometry student at The University of Houston College of Optometry. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, a lot of us have seen our classes canceled and switched to online courses. As we move into this new stage of the school year, I wanted to give you my top advice on staying motivated while you are stuck at home!
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Tip #1: Get organized
A clean and organized desk motivates you more than a cluttered one. Try to have everything you need within reach so that you don’t have to get up to grab supplies and be distracted. I have my desk near an outlet with chargers ready to go if my iPad or laptop ever runs out of battery. On my desk, there is computer scratch paper and my pencil bag, which is filled with erasers, pencils, highlighters, and pens. This way I have everything I need in one place so I’m not inclined to pick up my phone or do something else when I leave my study space to get what I need.
Tip #2: Plan and write down your goals for the day
Whether it be on a sticky note, Google Calendar, or those cute daily planner sheets, write down what you want to get through for the day. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of crossing off things on my list, or the euphoric feeling of tiny achievements, but I love writing down goals I want to accomplish for the day. When I finish my to-do list, I feel less guilty for binging Netflix!
Tip #3: Use the Pomodoro technique
I find using the Pomodoro technique to be the best way to get through a long study session. There are free apps, like Forest or Flora, that restrict any app usage while they’re on. I usually set it to 30 minutes with 5-minute breaks in between. After my third or fourth session, I’ll take a break for 20 minutes and then start again.
Another tool for the Pomodoro method that I like is going on YouTube and searching “Pomodoro.” There are videos with 25-minute Pomodoro timers that you can have playing in the background. The videos can range from classical music, to rain sounds, to quiet fireplace sounds. My favorite is from the Study Music Project.
The only downside to those videos is that you can’t set your timer to the exact time that you want to use because they’re all around 25 minutes.
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Tip #4: Focus on ONE task at a time
I sometimes catch myself thinking about something completely random as I’m studying and I stop whatever I’m doing to follow up on that thought. That could range from sending an email or a message to someone I forgot about. This makes me lose my focus and then I slowly lose the motivation to continue what I was working on.
The best way to counter this is by putting your phone in another room. That way, you’re not getting distracting notifications, nor are you able to follow up on whatever random thought you have, because your phone is too far away.
Tip #5: Make flashcards to help with your studying
Sometimes the thought of having to get up, take notes on a class, get out a paper, pencil, eraser, iPad, and pull out your notes may seem . . . exhausting. Especially if you’ve had a long day or are even are just feeling a little tired. If you make flashcards as you’re studying and following along with your notes, you can just kick back with your favorite coffee/snacks and do them at a later time. Doing the flashcards itself is a more laid-back and easier way to study. It’s the best way to not physically do a lot of work but actively learning the material.
Tip #6: Make your favorite drink and study snack
I am a huge coffee and tea drinker, and I’m always learning recipes to make different types of drinks. I always have a drink at the table with my favorite snacks to sip and chomp on as I’m doing flashcards.
I find that having a cute mug with coffee gives my workspace a coffee shop vibe, and motivates me to focus on my work.
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Tip #7: Implement a study routine
If you follow a routine every day, that will build great habits in the long run. Building a routine is easy, but sticking to it takes discipline. Building a routine will help free up more time and make it less stressful for you.
For example, if you make a routine to study from 9am-12pm, break from 12-2pm, back to studying around 2-5pm, then have the rest of the day off, imagine how guilt-free you’ll feel doing other things. While you’re studying in those dedicated times, knowing that you’ll have dedicated break time for the rest of the day will help motivate you to stay focused and finish the task at hand because you’ll get your reward later!
Six hours of dedicated studying to me is better than spending the entire day dedicated to studying with few breaks in between.
Tip #8: Do not study in the same room you sleep in
You’ll be more motivated studying in an area that doesn’t have your distractions in arms’ reach. This will help you focus a lot better. If you live in a studio apartment or a dorm room that does not have a separate room, I suggest facing the desk away from your bed and apartment. Either place it against the wall, or out the window for natural lighting!
Tip #9: Don’t get discouraged
Don’t get discouraged when flipping through your PowerPoint notes and seeing that you have 10 powerpoint presentations of 100 slides each to get through. I’m guilty of this! Sometimes it seems daunting to start knowing you have too much to get through. Know that small progress DOES add up. Take it one chunk at a time and slowly get through.
Tip #10: Do right by your future patient
You’re not learning to pass an exam anymore. You’re learning so that you know how to approach the next person who comes into your office. If you’re not in a graduate program, know that you’re learning the material that’ll show up again on your Optometry Admission Test, and optometry school. You got this!
I hope you and your families are staying safe. Happy Studying! :)
CovalentCareers is committed to supporting optometrists and optometry students during the Coronavirus pandemic. For more optometry-specific resources and information, visit our Optometry COVID-19 Resource Center.