I’m a Lazy Medical Student: How Do I Improve?

Being a lazy medical student is just a state of mind. You can fight the feeling by forming good habits, getting disciplined and reminding yourself of your reasons for studying in the first place. A little momentum? Goes a long way.

I remember my first year in medicine after my long, epic one-year marathon through A-levels. It wasn’t pretty. The temptation to slack off and take my foot off the accelerator, given the journey I’d just had, was constantly there in the back of my mind. So I had to fight it. And fight it hard.

Here are some of the strategies that helped me. As well as a whole bunch of others I found from other former lazy medical students scattered around the internet.

Why Do You Feel Like a Lazy Medical Student?

Before we dive in I think it’s important to think for a minute about why you perceive yourself as being “lazy”. Are you being overly-critical, surrounded by other hard-working people in med school?

Perhaps that might be the situation. In which case I’d recommend taking some time out for a while, doing something outside of school and getting a fresh sense of perspective. I’m pretty sure you’ll see you’re working on a par with most other people – even if it sometimes feels the opposite!

For those of you who do feel truly lazy however? I get it. You’ve done a little self-analysis and that’s the conclusion you’ve come to. In this case the following pieces of advice could help.

Overcoming Your Inner Slob

Personally, I like what MedBros have to say when it comes to combating your “inner slob”. Using goal planning to counter procrastination and serve as a constant reminder about where you want to go in med school, here’s what they have to say.

The recommendations the boys make? Adjust today’s vision for one of the future. Then write out your goals – on a list, on a calendar, on a digital note-taking app, whatever – with those things in mind.

Doing so relieves the stress and the uncertainty about what you have to do to stay on track. And helps you build momentum as you strike off things from the list.

The video above also serves as a good reminder to act now rather than wait later too. Keeping yourself in mental-check so you don’t waste time in places or events that have long since served their purpose.

Don’t Look to Motivation as the Way Out

Something important to note here is the topic of motivation. Maybe the video above got you fooled into thinking that’s what you have to wait for in order to shake yourself out your lazy rut.

Let me tell you; it’s not. Motivation, as my man David Goggins likes to say, is crap. It’s a fleeting, passive feeling. And not one you should ever be dependent on if you’re actively looking to change your ways.

Instead you should look to build habit. Utilise techniques that get you to take action rather than simply wait for things to happen. And discipline your mind to do the hard things with the promise that eventually tomorrow will be easier.

And you’ll edge closer to those future goals and dreams.

If you have any doubt? Here’s some proof of how that works.

How to Study When You Don’t Feel Like It

Whether you’re a slob or not, I’m sure you can recognise the feeling of not wanting to study. I know I do. It happens each time I get home at night and even more ferociously on the weekends.

Even right now, in the throws of my summer break between 3rd and 4th year, I’m again feeling it bad. Right now? I know I should probably be keeping up my half-hour summer reading habit complete with some light flashcard study. But powering through it feels such a chore.

This is why I really like this video from Medschool Insiders. Which, recognising the monotony of the grind and our inner urge to be lazy, persuades us to take a more systematic approach.

Key suggestions here?

  • Analyse your own habits by keeping a journal of your actions and emotions. See what patterns emerge and what energises or depletes you.
  • Respond to your inner thoughts out-loud. Question your own motivations. Change your language to avoid self-negations and talk yourself into doing what you want to do anyway.
  • Lower your activation energy. Break down major tasks into smaller ones. And then go even smaller again. That way you can knock out a few things fast without telling your brain you’re making too much of a commitment. While momentum builds as a result.
  • Implement the pomodoro technique. I’m actually a huge fan of this and have been doing it since my first degree. It basically involves setting a timer for 25 minutes and then working with no distractions until the timer ends. Then you take a five minute break. Complete three “pomodoro’s” and then you get a 25 minute break. Really powerful stuff.
  • Start with the easy tasks first. Make your bed and clean your room (thanks JBP). Do the washing up. Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea. Get moving then focus down on what needs to be done. Without caving in to further procrastination.
  • Lower your expectations. This is another good one that can really help with getting you started when you simply just don’t feel like it. Tell yourself you’ll complete less then you originally planned. Doing it that? Makes you feel better about yourself. Often giving you the extra push you need to see the task through.

Additional Tips

A lot of the time I think laziness can sometimes be masquerading as overwhelm. Intrinsically we are motivated to act. It’s just we often don’t know where to start.

A few extra tips that have often worked for me in the past:

  • Searching out more effective ways to do things that involve a lower time commitment (study techniques etc).
  • Exercising first thing in the morning. The endorphins and feeling of having started the day right often make things much easier moving forward.
  • Time table in relaxation time. Gives you something fun or enjoyable to look forward to that you can treat as a reward for putting in the hard graft first.

Don’t give up. Being lazy needn’t be a life sentence. The above tips? Can be definitely be used to help turn things around.