It is an excellent feeling when you know you are planning out your day, week or even month, before executing your plan to move closer toward your ultimate goal. For me, personally, the month of November was such a time. At UBC they’ve introduced a novel, and excellent program (in my somewhat biased opinion) known as Flexible Learning (Flex). It is protected time for us to pursue a particular medically-related passion while developing our scholarly skills.
Given that December is the month dedicated for Flex, our final exams got pushed up a bit earlier than usual. This was good and bad as it was nice to have all the exams completed early, but it required me to be extra vigilant in keep up with my school work, as well as my clinical skills and family practice sessions.
I have been using Cal Newport’s freestyle productivity tool ever since undergrad and it did not fail me this time. This is a tool in which you keep a master list of all the tasks that need to be completed during the upcoming week. This capturing of tasks is very important and should be individualized. I personally use Google docs to capture all the tasks that I need to complete, but other planners and tools are likely to be just as effective. Every Sunday, I plan out my entire week and divvy up the list of tasks throughout the week. It’s a simple, yet surprisingly effective way of organizing all the tasks that need to be done per week. Further, it reduces a vast amount of the anxiety I’ve found that accompanies medical school because you have a plan of how you are going to fit everything in. This has been absolutely essential to me during medical school because there are so much you are balancing. It is all too easy to forget to do important small tasks that are vital to ensure things go smoothly in school. At the end of November, my hard work and diligence payed off and thus, I felt as if I put my best effort forward on my examinations.
After my exams, I was ecstatic to be finished and 3/8 of the way toward my MD degree, but I was still stuck in my to-do mode. I was like the Energizer Bunny. Immediately after exams, I played an intense basketball scrimmage and had dinner to reconnect with some close friends. The next morning, I woke up and felt like I was floundering. It felt so foreign to not have to wake up at 5:30 am and get ready for a Case-Based Learning session or clinical/family practice session.
I went back to my productivity tool and began creating more tasks and more ambitious goals to complete during the Flex period and winter break. I was adamant I would keep on chugging along. Yet the motivation that had easily fueled my studying for the last three and half months was nowhere to be found. Why was it that I felt so lackadaisical?
I had become so engrossed with doing and accomplishing tasks that I forgot to check in with myself. We are called human beings and not human doings, after all. Do not get me wrong, there are absolutely going to be periods where you need to be highly productive and efficient with your time. But just like every cycle in life and nature, you will experience the opposite cycles where you are going to be more focused on renewal, relaxation, and just being. It is okay to not be 100% productive all the time.
To help me renew, relax, and be, I made sure that I no longer had my alarm waking me up but instead slept in and allowed my body to tell me when it was ready to get up. I also made sure to immerse myself in nature and spend time alone. Lastly, I cultivated and refocused my efforts on passions of mine. I spent a lot of time practicing acro-yoga, tai chi, squash, and basketball because they bring me joy. It was not until I gave myself the permission to fully relax, that I was able to bounce back and approach my Flex project with the same vigor I had during my studies. If you are reading this, I know you are working incredibly hard toward achieving your goals, but it is just as important to have compassion for yourself and give yourself permission to relax and enjoy being on this wonderful journey called life.
About Pavan Mehat
Pavan Mehat is currently a medical student at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and will be graduating as part of the class of 2020. Before starting medical school at UBC, he completed a BSc in Bio-Medical Engineering at Boston University, where he also ran Track and Field. Afterwards, he returned home to Vancouver, and completed an MSc in pharmaceutical sciences at UBC. When Pavan is not busy studying medicine, he is enamored with mastering movement and understanding what makes humans thrive. If you would like to learn more about Pavan Mehat you can connect with him on Youtube or follow him on Twitter @pavanmehat.