Weekends in med school – finding the perfect balance

People often ask if there is time to do anything other than studying in medical school. I agree that sometimes it feels like there is no time at all, but it is actually very important to take a break every now and then and enjoy some stress-free weekend time.
I really look forward to my weekends, especially when there are no exams coming up, because I like being able to organise those 48 hours as I want. I always try to do as many things as possible over the weekend, but here are some of my usual activities.

Catch up on sleep (but not too much)

Medical school often means very early starts to your days during the week, as you need to be in hospital first thing in the morning. Unless you are a natural morning person (I think this is very rare, most people train themselves to be more of a morning person, me included), it will take some effort to wake up early every day, some time even before the sun is out. Therefore, weekends are good for catching up on some well-deserved sleep and recharge your batteries. I like to sleep maybe 1-1.5 hours more than I would normally do during the week, but I never want to oversleep for more than 9 hours or until too late in the day. I know that many people will probably disagree with this (and that’s completely fine!), but for me sleeping for too long means I am actually more tired during the day! At the weekend I like to wake up around 8am, so I can have a slow start to my day, enjoy some breakfast without rushing, and then be ready for the rest of the day. Unless it’s a special occasion, I always make sure I wake up before 9am – this way I feel like I haven’t wasted half of my day off, but I am well rested nevertheless!

Get some work done

To do this I usually go to the library because I’m much more productive there. Obviously if exams are coming up the routine will be different, and I will spend pretty much all day studying in the library. However, on a ‘normal’ weekend with no upcoming exams, I still like to spend a few hours catching up on some work and reading up on any interesting topics addressed during my week in hospital. I like doing this for a number of reasons; firstly, I don’t like going to placement and feeling completely out of my depth, so doing some preparation at the weekend helps me feel more confident about answering questions that the doctors will ask me. Secondly, at the end of each hospital placement I need to take an exam focussing on what we learnt during the rotation; getting some studying done on a regular basis is much better than cramming it all in the few days before the test. Thirdly, even if is still 10 months away, everything I learn now will be tested in my final medical school exams next January. My schedule from now until then is pretty busy, so I’m trying to stay on top of the new material as much as possible so that I’ll have an easier time revising it all again for finals.

Exercise

One of my post-exams resolution is to exercise at least 3 times a week. This may seem very easy, however when you take into account long says in hospital, extracurricular activities and evening events, this becomes much trickier than one might anticipate! Because of this I like to get one of my workout sessions done over the weekend when my time is more flexible, so after that I only need to schedule 2 workouts between Monday and Friday – much easier!

See friends and eat some good food

Making time for catching up with friends is very important, but at the same time it is one of the first things to go when you feel a little overwhelmed with the amount of things you need to do. I always try to make sure that I do slot in some time to meet friends and spend some quality time together. I’m also a big foodie and love eating out; breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee, dinner, any other meal time. So I often find that meeting friends for a meal out is a great way to enjoy good company and good food at the same time. Also, everyone needs to eat, so if I’m a bit stressed about work this is a vey good compromise so I can have a nice break and not feel to bad about the fact I’m not studying!
Sometimes, if I have enough time and the weather is nice, I love leaving the city and going for a walk to the countryside. Again, this is a very good way of spending time with friends and also having a change of scene.

Catch up on admin (and anything else that I couldn’t fit in during the week)

For me the weekend is also a great buffer time to catch up on any outstanding tasks that I didn’t manage to complete during the week. I enjoy research and I’m involved in some student groups, so there are often bits of reading, data analysis, emails to read and reply to that are on my to do list, and they tend to accumulate during the week. There is nothing better than working your way through all of these items and ticking all of them off my list before the weekend is over! I always dedicate at least a couple of hours each weekend to this admin work; I would definitely recommend this as a way to keep on top of all your commitments and make sure you stay organised!

How do you spend your weekends? Do you have any tips or things you like doing? I’d love to hear your comments!

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