How to take 2 labs at the same time
Step 1: don’t do it!
I’m just kidding. If your plans for the future require you to take a challenging course load, accept the challenge. Your friends will think you’re crazy, but once your figure out a good time management strategy, I promise it will not be crazy hard all the time.
As a pre-med, or even just a STEM major, there will be a semester or two when your course load is quite heavy even if you might not be in a lot of credit hours. For example, I am in 14 credit hours, but I am in class closer to 20 hours a week when counting time spent in labs and recitation. This year for pre-med prerequisites I am taking Intro Biology with a 3-hour lab and Organic Chemistry with a 4-hour lab and 1 hour recitation. My other two classes are French Literature and Food in the Ancient World, which provide a nice balance to and mental break from the hard sciences. Here are some strategies I’ve picked up so far for balancing this amount of work and studying:
- Don’t cram for tests // Don’t overstudy: I learned this the hard way after taking my first midterms this semester, which were on consecutive days. I tried to fit too much studying into the week before my exams, and as a result the information did not stick well and I did quite poorly. Going along with the consistent studying, give yourself breaks when you study so your brain does not get fried. Studying too much is just as unhelpful as barely studying.
- Review lecture material as part of a routine, consistently throughout the course: Once I started going to bio lecture slides and transferring them to a paper notebook, the information stuck a lot better, and I also got better at asking questions to professors about the material. For organic, the week that we did a chapter in class, I worked on all the practice problems in the textbook for that chapter. This way, by the time exams were near, I had already been reviewing for the last few weeks so I did not need to spend as much time going over everything.
- Take mental breaks // Active Procrastination: Not sure if this is a thing, but I made it up. Whenever you don’t feel motivated to do an assignment, do something else that is productive, such as a different subject’s assignment. Or if you don’t feel like doing anything academic, talk to some friends, go work out, or really anything that will let you escape from the boring task for a bit so that you’ll want to work on it again. (me rn writing this post avoiding my chem lab report)
- Keep your long-term motivation: Although it is far away, keep your goals in mind. It’s fine to look forward to the weekend, or to summer, but it is more valuable to keep in the corner of your mind where you want to end up. Cliche but true, life is a journey. When the ride is long, don’t forget where you’re going.
- Create a routine // Sleep well: Some people work better in groups, some independently. Some are night owls while some are early risers. Whatever you feel works best for you, stick to that. I found that I prefer waking up an hour or so before my morning class to review material while drinking coffee and eating breakfast, not in a rush. Then I get work done as much as I can during the day or evening and aim to get to bed before midnight. Sleep deprivation is neither fun nor productive.
- Find a way to have fun with it!: It sounds pretty nerdy, but if you’re legit interested in the course material, studying becomes much more bearable. Seeing how bio actually connects to real life makes it more interesting to learn. Additionally, thinking of studying as a way to put together a story or a puzzle makes it kinda fun!