Productivity 101: Start changing your study habits now
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Sometimes revision can seem like a never-ending ordeal. Back in 2018, I vividly remember having a pre-exam crisis with one of my friends in the library room because we couldn’t remember the classifications of 50+ drugs for our pharmacology module. The quantity of the content often felt overwhelming, and I found it hard to balance revision with other important commitments.

Before I had any clue about how to study efficiently, my ‘revision’ sessions would often start by queueing 30 minutes for a coffee and then scrolling my social media, before finally deciding to do some actual revision. Then, a long lunch break to Tesco for a meal deal before starting another half-hearted revision session. I would return home in the evening, trying to persuade myself that I had a productive day when the reality was that I hadn’t achieved much over the 8 hours. Thankfully, fast forward two years and I can confidently say that I am much wiser about my studying. Building smart and efficient study habits can be much more productive for you than spending the whole days at the library without direction.

So, here are my top tips for study success:
  • Get into a revision routine which limits your distractions.
    • It is so easy to get distracted by messages/notifications on your phone. You say you’ll just take a quick break to reply to a message, but then all of a sudden 35 minutes will have passed and you’ve just been mindlessly scrolling your Instagram feed. I will make sure that my phone is on do not disturb mode and that I have everything ready to start revising once I get to the library. Likewise, I’ll give myself ten minutes to reply to emails before turning off my notifications. Once you get into the mood of studying without breaking your concentration, your study session quality will definitely improve!

  • Use time-blocking to make sure you cover a wide range of topics.
    • Time-blocking is a really useful tool to make sure that you aren’t spending too much time on one task. It often helps focus your mind and concentration if you know that you only have the next two hours to revise a particular topic. Otherwise, it can be really easy to start revising and realise that you’ve spent five hours revising cell metabolism when you should’ve really started on your anatomy revision...

  • Plan your revision session and set goals for every time block.
    • Setting yourself goals for each study session is great to make sure your revision has direction. Reminding yourself about your goals for the session is a useful trick for refocusing your mind and monitoring your progress in a more tangible way. At the end of each of my revision sessions, I will check in with my goals and track my progress. This helps motivate me to stay focused and on task.

Habits will take a few attempts before being successful. Try implementing some of these tips slowly into your routine and you should soon start seeing improvements to your learning. Let me know what other successful study habits that you have tried!

Make sure to subscribe to my blogs below for more tips on productivity (and surviving medical school/exams/revision).

Originally published 22 June 2020 , updated 12/07/2020

About the Author

Medical student navigating lectures, Tesco meal deals, and 8am ward rounds. Follow me for productivity tips.

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Dr Deeban Ratneswaran


When I started medical school, "productivity" was downing a can of relentless and trying to stay awake as long as possible. Recognise now how inefficient I was - would be great to read about what apps you use to block out distractions.

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