My MCAT experience (or how I learned to be more productive)

By Ben W.

It was January 2019, and there was about a month left before my MCAT test date. I was exhausted by this point: the test prep was taking up the majority of my time outside of school. During a study break, I vividly recall looking at the data usage statistics on my cell phone and being shocked. These metrics indicated that I had been using my phone for numerous hours each day. Although part of this phone time was spent on important activities such as talking to loved ones, I saw that a staggering proportion was on social media applications that weren’t all that meaningful to me. This was quite the eye-opening moment: I had no idea how much of my time I was wasting!

From that point on, I vowed to make more efficient use of my time. I began to fight the impulse to pull my cell phone out when I had small breaks here and there. Instead, I tried to fill these small gaps of time with productive tasks. For example, when I had down time in between classes, I would watch a quick content review video rather than mindlessly browse the internet. With this new mindset, I rapidly noticed a difference. Particularly, these little bits of time added up: by getting my studying done during windows throughout the day, I gained more free time to engage in my hobbies and spend time with my family and friends. Having more time to do these activities that I enjoyed left me feeling recharged when it was time to start prepping again!

A few of my own strategies

Using my time productively like this was quite possibly the biggest lesson that I learned from my last month of MCAT studying, and one that I very much apply nowadays as a busy medical student. Here are a few practices that I currently utilize. These are all pretty simple, but incorporating them into my routine required a bit of conscious effort at first:

  • Listening to school-related podcasts while driving in the car, walking to class, or cooking on my own. There is a lot of great content out there in areas such as MCAT prep and almost any academic subject you can think of!
  • Taking 10 minutes between lunch and my next class to respond to a few emails rather than browse social media.
  • Dedicating subway rides to watching videos for class rather than clicking around on my phone.


Reflect and find practices that work for you

In order to find the productivity practices that are best for you, it’s important to take a few moments and think about your own schedule: what bits of time can you better utilize? Maybe you have a bus commute every day that could be used for flash cards, or a 30-minute gap in-between your classes that you could use to study with friends. It may also be helpful to look at your cell phone usage statistics like I did; this can give you a realistic idea of how you’re currently spending your time.

In conclusion

If you commit yourself to using your days a bit more productively, you’ll likely be pleased by how much time you ultimately end up gaining for activities in your life such as volunteering, performing research, or spending moments with loved ones. 

Ben majored in Biology and concentrated in Neuroscience at Williams College. After working in psychiatry research at Massachusetts General Hospital, he's now pursuing an MD at Harvard Medical School.


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