Before attending vet school, I spoke to other veterinarians about which colleges I should apply to. Without hesitation, one veterinarian responded, “It doesn’t matter where you go since you’re only going to be seeing the inside of a building for four years.” I remember thinking, “How could you possibly just be stuck inside a building studying for four years straight without doing any extracurricular activities?”
I absolutely love being outdoors so hearing that statement was very disheartening. I spoke with a few other veterinarians who also agreed a majority of the time is spent studying, after all this is a medical graduate program. Sadly, many other pre-veterinary students have also been told similar statements, leading to discouragement. Well, I’m here to tell you, they are wrong!
If you enjoy horseback riding, hiking, or playing video games, I can guarantee you will be able to continue doing these things in vet school. Granted, you may have to scale it down a bit, but there is definitely still time to do non-veterinary related activities that bring you joy. I personally try to workout at least five days a week, go hiking on the weekends, and still maintain good grades. I’m a firm believer that physical health promotes mental health and continuing to do things you love outside of your career is essential to academic success.
If you’re struggling to find time to do what you love, try some of these tips that have helped me throughout school and work.
1. Set up your goals for the day.
At the beginning of each day, I like to look at my calendar to see what “mandatory” activities I have scheduled (like lectures and work) and what free time I have to work with. I give myself a designated time frame to do homework or school-related things, and then make sure I allow time for my enjoyable activity (usually the gym, a hike, or some Netflix). Even if you had planned to finish “X” amount of reading before your activity, it’s okay to not be quite on track. As vet students we’re all a bit OCD about scheduling, but give yourself some slack. When it’s time for your fun activity, don’t tell yourself, “No I should skip it since I didn’t finish this.” Instead, go do your fun activity and continue afterwards. I promise you, your body and mind will feel much better afterwards, and then try to make your goals a bit more reasonable for next time.
2. Stay motivated.
Self-motivation is critical in order to have good time management. At times it may seem hard to keep going, but you have to find the motivation to finish your work so you can reward yourself after. If you can’t find the motivation within yourself, seek out some coffee or delicious food to keep you going. In addition to staying motivated you have to limit distractions. I prefer studying at home since it’s quieter and I’m less distracted by others around me. Coffee shops work too, just make sure to bring some noise cancelling headphones and don’t get distracted people-watching! Wherever you decide to study, try turning your phone over so you’re not inclined to check it as often. It’s easy to lose focus and just want to scroll on your phone, however it is valuable time that would be better enjoyed doing your extracurricular activity.
3. Limit your breaks.
This one is super important. We all know how difficult self-control can be when you start a new season of a show on Netflix and can’t seem to just stop after only one episode. However, self-control is essential to good time management so you don’t go overboard with your breaks. Make sure you set a reasonable time limit (and number of breaks limit) whenever you have to take a breath from studying. If you have to, set a timer so you stay on track. This applies to the enjoyable extracurricular activities too. If you know you have a lot of work to get done that day, don’t go for a 10 hour hike. Maybe settle for a two to three hour hike and relieve that outdoor craving without going overboard.
4. Plan ahead.
If you know you’re planning to be out of town this upcoming weekend, spend some extra time during the week to get your work done so you have nothing to worry about over the weekend. Sometimes this might mean losing an extra hour of sleep to finish an assignment or just spending a little less time on social media in order to get your work done more quickly. It’s easy to say, “Oh I’ll find some time to work on homework while I’m away for the weekend,” but we all know that’s not going to happen. You want to be able to fully enjoy your weekend getaway, so just make sure to grind hard that week before to keep you on track. This can be achieved with my last tip.
5. Master multi-tasking.
As millennials, we are the epitome of multi-tasking. Whether it’s eating breakfast while driving, getting dressed while brushing your teeth, or doing homework during lectures, our generation seems to make everything as efficient as possible. Multi-tasking allows you to not waste a single moment of your day and allows room for other activities. For example, I have to take my dog to the dog park or on a run every day. Instead of just sitting at the dog park watching my dog wrestle with the other dogs, I like to bring my notebook along so I can study while my dog gets his energy out. If we’re running, I’ll listen to a podcast. If I have 30 minutes to kill before lecture, instead of hanging around chatting I might go finish up some homework that’s due the upcoming week. Now if chatting with friends is the kind of break you need, that’s alright too. Just don’t forget about tip number three.
This advice might seem basic, but each tip really can make a world of difference if you stay consistent and are truly motivated to continue having fun outside of vet school.