I was stoked to click “publish” for last Sunday’s post, where I explain five study strategies I learned while preparing for the MCAT. I was stoked because I have gone through three or four drafts of that post for more than a year, ever since I took exam in January 2016. Since then, I feel like I’ve lost my productivity mojo. Now, I want to rebuild strong habits so that I can hit the ground running when I start med school this summer.
One habit sticks out to me: writing. I have wanted to write regularly for the past three or four years because I know all of the value that it can give. But I’ve never succeeded. I’ve had a lot of false starts along the way. Those have mostly been because I fret and fuss and fail to do. I get caught up in the weeds, let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and make up excuses to spend my time doing other things. Instead of doing, I try. Which means I do not.
Among all of the things that I practice/ hope to practice, writing is the activity that is most creative. Instead of consuming information/resources or even just working to improve myself, I am offering something more tangible, something that helps me to connect with and (hopefully) help others. Writing gives me clarity. So here are the actions that I will take to build a daily writing habit.
1. Write every day to build the habit.
In order to be successful as a med student–or a student preparing for the MCAT, or any busy person working on a big project–you gotta hustle every day. It helps to make a habit out of the thing you want to do, so that you practice that thing without even thinking about it. You have to make tough choices now in order to have easier choices in the future.
One way to help build habits is to practice the thing at the same time every day. Another tactic is to make sure that you have your tools (your writing apps, your study material, your workout clothes, etc.) ready to go. And don’t get fancy with your tools; find what works well and stick with it.
2. Provide helpful content (do not write to check a box or “to discover yourself”).
I like how Chris Lema frames this:
One of the reasons people don’t dig daily bloggers is because they feel like the writing is washed out. It’s empty. It doesn’t say much. And it’s written just so you can check a box… But writing regularly helps you find the voice in you that channels your inside helper.
I hate the idea of checking a box. I am afraid of going through the motions without finding meaning. So although I do want to blog and post daily, I also want to make sure that I am providing helpful, provoking content that improves the lives of my readers. There are two pieces to the purpose of this blog/my writing: Provide helpful content daily. This content is oriented towards pre-med and med students interested in personal and professional development.
3. Provide varied content.
Another thing that Chris has helped me out with is the idea of writing to multiple specific readers, all connected by a common theme (Chris’s theme is WordPress). My theme is medical education/training/career. From where I stand, this seems like an essential strategy a writer to stay engaged with the material that he hopes to put out, and to avoid boredom.
We’ll see how long I can keep this up. The mission is to write and post every day during the month of April. I am getting a head-start now.