It’s easy enough to fall into a pattern in vet school. Get to the school before the sun comes up. Sit in class all day. Study. Leave after the sun has gone back down. Repeat Monday through Friday. Oftentimes the long studying hours leak into the weekend. Add in afternoons in surgeries, patient care until late at night and early before class, treatment crew, shadowing in the hospital, group projects, club meetings, public events at the school on the weekends, wetlabs….it can quickly feel like you live in that building.
And that’s why you have to get out.
If I have learned anything in vet school, it is how to procrastinate productively. And by procrastinate, I don’t mean put off my school work, per se. I am busting my butt pretty much every waking moment of the day to stay on top of my school work. I get to school several hours before our 7:30am lectures to get in some quality study time before class even starts. I work over the lunch hour and in between classes; I’ve got to-do lists upon to-do lists and even with the highest degree of organization I’ve ever had in my life do I get to completely cross off my list of tasks to complete and things to study for.
When I’m running out of time, it quickly becomes a matter of quality over quantity. Not, “how many times can I read over this lecture again” or “how many flashcards can I get through in the next few hours”, but rather can I get through this material in a manner that I can actually learn and retain it? If I don’t have the time to pour over a lecture to the most minute detail, can I get through this material in a manner that provides me the main objectives and over-arching themes of the topic? What do I absolutely need to get through, and what can wait or is less important?
And in order to have that quality brain-space to fit in what I can in the waning hours of the day that I have free, I do something that often seems counter-intuitive.
I leave the vet school, and I spend time doing things that have absolutely nothing to do with vet school.
Rarely can I get out of a day full of lectures and go to the library or home and get straight to studying for another 4-6+ hours, and actually learn and study with any productivity.
So instead, I go to the barn. I ride my horse. I go to work and clean stalls. Maybe I have a huge exam so I don’t have time to work or ride, but I run out to my horse’s field and give her some cookies and some scritches before I head back home to study. Maybe there’s an errand I have to run.
Whatever it is, I go do something that isn’t about small animal surgical techniques or nutrition calculations or diagnostic imaging or whatever it is that I have on my plate later that day. I put a total block on all the to-do lists, all the things I have to get done, all the exams and lectures to review. I procrastinate so I can clear my brain of the day. I go outside while there is still daylight. I take some time to remember that there is life outside of vet school.
And then I can come back to my laptop, my pile of notes, the dozens of sets of notecards, the library cubicle calling my name, and I can tackle them with more gusto than if I had spent that 2 or 3 hours trying to power through the same material. In procrastinating for just a little bit, I end up being more productive in the long-term.
It’s pretty easy to let vet school take over your life. There’s a lot to do, and never enough time to do it. But I’ve figured out that taking the time to get away–no matter for how long or short a time–makes me a better student and a happier individual.