10+ Year Member
May 17, 2009
Medical Student
So, I see a lot of sites dedicated to "focusing more when studying" etc. or finding good study habits. But, there is something that came to mind, from my own experiences and that of my classmates, which I feel really isn't addressed.

It's one thing if one just has trouble focusing because they're bored or just need a break, but say you have something on your mind, something bothering you? I've seen the full gamut, things like anxiety about a relationship, or maybe some troubles at home etc. During an exam block, the simple answer seems to be to, put your other worries aside and focus on studying until the exams are done (cause you have to pass), THEN deal with the other things going on in your life.

But, I feel like this is much easier said than done. It's one thing to watch Netflix to get my mind off of something that might be bothering me. BUT, if i'm studying in silence for hours on end, I feel like it's easier for my mind to drift and focus on whatever else is bothering me, and I just dwell on that more when studying , and it makes studying/focusing on the material difficult.

Anyone else have this happen to them? I imagine it's common. Staring at slides in silence isn't exactly the best way to divert your mind from things that might be bothering you. Yet, that is when we need to be the most focused and clear headed before an exam. Yet, I just can't seem to stop my mind from going other places.
If this has happened, what methods have you guys used to temporarily "pack away" other issues, and focus just on the work?

Honestly, I feel like this would be a very important skill to have in the future, but I just haven't developed it yet and would like to know how. If something is on my mind and bothering me, it interferes with my studying and I do bad on a test. But in the future, as a physician, I imagine it's very important to be able to separate your personal issues from your work, and focus on doing the job right so you don't compromise anyone's care.

Food for thought! Back to studying


10+ Year Member
Aug 9, 2009
Attending Physician
....the great thing about MS1s is that the older I get, they stay the same age.

i'll never go back


secretly an end artery
Account on Hold
May 11, 2013
Texas, Chicago
Medical Student
Actually, I find that when I am having trouble with an ex or a parent drops something very distracting - group study is really the best bet for your money. Even if you're not usually into group study. Good luck.
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Blood-and-thunder appearance
5+ Year Member
Oct 20, 2012
Up on the Hydra's back
Resident [Any Field]
group study is really the best bet for your money. Even if you're not usually into group study.
+1, though I'm terribly inefficient with group study so this only worked so well for me.

I had the same problem in MS1, and I guess in one word my solution was "chunking" things. In other words, study time was study time, and non-study time was non-study time; they were discrete blocks/chunks that were separated. Though I had the occasional friend/gf/family issue distract me, my biggest thing was tasks and finances. I'd constantly remind myself to pay certain bills, or make this appointment with someone, or reply to this e-mail. Biggest solution = writing all that down in a list. After a block of studying, I'd do a block of miscellaneous tasks - timing myself if I had to in order to maintain efficiency.

I know you're referring more to emotionally impactful things, but the same method worked well enough for me. "Call a**hole ex-bf" is a valid task on your list. If you can't stop thinking about something, that means you need a misc. task block or a break where you can simultaneously think and cook/clean or something.
Jun 15, 2013
Medical Student
If this has happened, what methods have you guys used to temporarily "pack away" other issues, and focus just on the work?
1. Talk to Faculty Members
I had a PhD Physiology Professor tell me that he used to turn off all of the electrical fuses in his apartment except for the one outlet that had his lamp. He also used to bury all of his financial bills under the mattress during exams. He was married, had a child, and was an older student in graduate school. He said he failed his first year and had to repeat everything. He is an amazing professor today and knows his stuff cold, lecturing while walking back and forth in front of teh auditorium and only referring to his power point slides in passing. Knowing that he had a terrible time in his first year concentrating made me feel totally normal. That was two years ago but today I am always thinking about how normal it is to be experiencing what you describe.

2. Use your computer calendar and schedule every hour of your day from when you wake until when you go to sleep. I use 45 minute time slots for studying and use a timer. When the timer sounds, I know I can stop whenever I want. Often I will go beyond 45 minutes, sometimes to 1.5 hours. Then my 15 minute timer is activated and that is my official loaf, do nothing time period. After I have logged several hours of studies for the day, I allow myself to ponder what else is on my mind: my sick relative, my girlfriend's problems, my ....whatever. So I balance my thinking to time slots: when I am supposed to be studying, I'm on a timer knowing my loaf time is around the corner.

these worked for me

I wish you the best.