Getting better at studying – Lesson 1

Why getting better at studying? To have more free time to do what you love outside of studying. So you can retain information for longer periods of time without forgetting everything you have learned. And to get the grades you want, whatever they are.

Good news! We can all get better at studying! There are books you can buy on the subject. You can ask your friends how they do it. I decided to share with you in a few “lessons” posts on how I got better at it through the years. This year marks my 6th year in medical school, and I think that I am in a good place to tell you what I have learned on my journey so far.

One of my biggest lesson I learned in this past year is resilience. Letting go is something easier said than done but fortunately it’s something that we can all develop and get better at doing. Again they are many books or websites on this subject, but today I want to talk to you about one single thing you have to accept.

So why am I talking about resilience in a post about how to get better at studying? Because it’s the first thing, you have to do.

Most students and professionals in the healthcare field are overachievers. It is one of the main reason we were chosen. There’s a lot of pro’s that come with this trait of personality: perfectionism, we overlook all the details, and we don’t give up until the problem is solved. They are all great qualities when it comes to the care of our patients. It also comes with con’s: not being able to set limits, guilt, and sometimes feeling inadequate. Those can all affect how you approach your studying and how much free time you end up having.

First lesson!

So the first lesson is acceptation! You have to accept that you cannot know it all. I know that your overachieving personality will want to go over every single detail of every single lecture, textbook, and notes you will get from your school. You can do that and end up spending 15-hours a day in front of your study material. Will you know it all? Most probably not. Today, there’s a quantity of information like never before, and the amount will just keep growing and changing.

Let’s go back in history so you can understand the concept. Some of you may have heard of the “knowledge doubling curve” by R. Buckminster Fuller.  In his book the Critical Path, he estimated that if we took all the knowledge that humankind had accumulated and transmitted by the year One CE as equal to one unit of information, it probably took about 1500 years or until the sixteenth century for that amount of knowledge to double. The next doubling of knowledge from two to four ‘knowledge units’ took only 250 years, till about 1750 CE. By 1900, one hundred and fifty years later, knowledge had doubled again to 8 units. The speed at which information doubled was getting faster and faster. The doubling rate is now between one and two years.


What this means: you cannot know all the information that is available out there. And let’s say you could learn it all, well in a year or two you will have to learn the same amount of information again. Also by the time you get to residency most probably a lot of the information would have changed.

After you have completed the first “lesson,” you will have to screen which information is relevant to you and how you want to learn it. On one of the next posts, I will tell you how to pick your study material. Until then you have one thing to do: ACCEPT! You are on the path of getting better at studying!

In the meantime, you can check a few of my tips on How to manage your study time .


Buckminster Fuller, R. Critical Path (1981) New York: St Martin’s Press

Knowledge doubling:

2 thoughts on “Getting better at studying – Lesson 1

  1. Excellent tip! I’m from Brazil and here they believe in this crazy thing that students must know everything. Students spend so much time trying memorize things and they don’t learn for real those things. Most of them get a good grade on school but practicing they’re just terrible. I see this everyday on my nursing school.

    Good post!

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