4 Months of MCAT Prep, 3 Classes, 2 Internships, and 1 Blog: How I Still Get 8 Hours of Sleep Every Night
Blog Post by ELP Student Krupa Patel (Neuroscience | Class of 2022 )
Burnout. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it simply alludes to the feeling of physical and mental exhaustion often associated with being overworked, stressed, and unable to meet constant demands. In fact, there’s a good chance most of you have experienced some form of burnout in your life, with entrepreneurs being more at risk than the average person.
So, why is that the case? Entrepreneurs tend to be extremely passionate about work, exhilarated by the freedom of opportunity to take what merely started as an idea to a commercialized product. However, this can lead to more social isolation and thus, limited safety nets. Entrepreneurs operate in high uncertainty, and over time, that can accumulate into prolonged stress over risks taken.
I was first introduced to burnout at the beginning of this, well, unconventional summer of 2020. Quarantined with an overwhelming to-do list that reached higher than my motivation, I knew something had to change. Little did I realize that engaging in healthy time management habits now would serve a greater purpose in the pursuit of my future professional goals. I hadn’t taken on more than I could handle this summer; it was simply about my approach:
1. Prioritize First
While this one might seem obvious, it’s often overlooked by students, interns, and yes, even entrepreneurs. There’s a lot going on and it can be easy and desirable to cross off multiple list items at once. However, completing multiple tasks in an unorganized fashion can be more detrimental than completing a few based on priority.
4 Months of MCAT Prep: There is no doubt that the MCAT requires determination, focus, and lots of hard work. While 4 months seem like plenty of time to tackle rigorous preparation, I needed to make each day count by ensuring I was prioritizing the topics I struggled with first. This meant distributing my time accordingly, paying extra days and attention to some topics more than others. While it felt like a painstakingly slow process initially, the studying was done more efficiently and I found myself less stressed with a keen focus on exactly what I needed to work on.
2. Accountability Matters
With your priority tasks determined, setting daily or even hourly goals can help keep you on track. Whether this may mean checking in with your boss or setting personal reminders and timers, it’s important to find a way to hold yourself accountable for completing your goals. Not only will this create a sense of personal accomplishment, but also boost your productivity and ensure efficiency.
3 Classes: Fortunately, I had the advantage of summer classes that enforced a strict timeline of projects, assignments, and live stream participation. Having these deadlines not only held me accountable for my daily tasks, but also created a sense of routine in which I could establish set times of work. I scheduled office hours with my professors and check-ins with my internship mentors to discuss my weekly progress and hear their feedback.
3. Anticipate Changes
Sticking to a schedule can be important, but having a forgiving and accommodating schedule is just as valuable. Sometimes deadlines get pushed forward, meetings get cancelled, or a new problem of urgent attention arises. While it can be frustrating and stressful having to change plans, maintaining a positive outlook on adjustment is crucial.
2 Internships: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from juggling two internships in start-ups, it’s that things don’t often go as planned and you have to be open-minded. I’ve encountered unscheduled calls with investors, a hold on a current project, last-minute research, and timeline changes from missing paperwork. It happens and it was frustrating, but even those deviances taught me something. It taught me the importance of having a solid dependable business pitch, filtering through data quickly to find what’s needed, and delegating tasks to improve efficiency. There was real value to having to adjust to a setback.
4. Stay Inspired.
Sometimes, it’s really easy to lose sight of the passion when encapsulated in a repetitive, boring routine. It’s common to find yourself questioning the point of what you’re doing: Is all of this really even worth it? As cliché as it may sound, being reminded of what inspired you in the first place can monumentally help fuel motivation and maintain positivity. To avoid the emotional drain that comes with burnout, it’s crucial to stay engaged and informed about what drives your passion.
1 Blog: Two months into my MCAT prep, classes, and internships, I could feel the mental exhaustion coming on. It was difficult for me to see the long-term goal in the midst of feeling overwhelmed and overworked. I decided in early July to launch my own blog, MedMap, detailing my pre-med entrepreneurial journey. It gives me an opportunity to document my passions, my experiences, and thoughts about my field of interest. Keeping myself engaged with medical topics and the biotechnology industry helps me align my routine with my aspiring goals.
5. Take Breaks.
Work never seems to stop for a student and especially an entrepreneur, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should never stop. Routine needs to be kept interesting by allowing space to take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and giving yourself a break often can help you recharge and tackle the next things to do with more alertness and efficiency.
8 Hours of Sleep Every Night: It can be easy to find myself glued to the computer, not feeling the exhaustion until it builds up over days. That’s why it was so important for me to develop a schedule that included breaks before anything else. While it can be difficult setting the books and laptop down, I remind myself that recharging for even just a few minutes can help me tackle the rest of my day. It’s of utmost importance to me to get a full 8 hours of sleep—something that might seem insignificant, but allows me to practice self-care and incorporate time for myself in a busy, demanding schedule.
So, while the title alone of this blog post may have stressed you out initially, I hope the rest brought you clarity about how I personally combat burnout. The demands of entrepreneurship along with a grueling schedule can make you feel like you can never stop working and there’s always too much to be done. Speaking from experience, time management is crucial to success as a future entrepreneur in order to have a healthy work-life balance.
If you’d like to hear more, please feel free to connect with me and visit my website!