To continue the series of articles revealing the twenty secrets of successful nursing students, we’re tackling two secrets today. A few weeks ago I wrote about the #1 secret of successful nursing students and more recently we talked about #2: successful nursing students make time for time management.

  • Secret #3: Successful nursing students avoid wasting time
  • Secret #4: Successful nursing students know what to memorize vs conceptualize…because, let’s face it, trying to memorize the wrong material is a huge waste of time (see Secret #3).

Tune in to episode 185 of the Straight A Nursing podcast to listen to this information on the go.

Secret #3: Avoiding distractions and time-wasting activities

Let’s start with Secret #3 which is all about avoiding distractions and time-wasting activities. The thing with time-wasters is they are often very sneaky. They siphon away our time before we even realize it. So in today’s exercise, we’re going to identify what those might be for you and think about some ways we can lessen their impact.

If you’re already in nursing school then you know you do not have one moment to spare. When I was a student, I was deeply opposed to staying up half the night. In order to always meet my goal of lights out by 11 pm, I knew I couldn’t waste time during the day. Every activity or potential time-waster came down to translating that into what it meant for my beauty sleep. For example, driving onto campus at 8 am on a Monday, I might notice how packed the parking lots are and say, “If I spend thirty minutes hunting for a parking space, I won’t get to bed until thirty minutes past my bedtime. That is not worth it to me. Instead of wasting time, I’ll take the first spot I see and walk the five minutes to class.”

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The point is, time wasters are all around us, constantly threatening to steal away our day and keep us from our goals. So here’s what we’re going to do.

Step 1: Brainstorm some things that regularly or have the potential to waste your time. Be honest with yourself. As much as you LOVE watching cat videos on TikTok, is it really the best use of your time right now? Some ideas for potential time wasters are:

  • Social media – Sure, I love cat videos as much as anyone, but don’t watch them when I’ve got work to do!
  • Video games – These can be a great escape from the stresses of school but they have the potential to quickly absorb your precious free time.
  • Television or streaming services like Netflix – Many students don’t want to miss their favorite shows so they watch “while they do schoolwork.” Not only is this a highly inefficient way to work, it actually makes the task take longer because of your lack of focus. And, it’s oh-so-easy to say ‘just one more” when you’re on a binge-worthy show (speaking from experience, here!).
  • Unproductive study groups – If you’re in a study group, I want you to take a good look at how productive that time is. If you’re following the ground rules I set for study groups (link to study groups post), then chances are your group is efficient and goal-oriented. But, if you spend half the time trying to determine what to study, how to study, or discussing the latest nursing school gossip, this group is wasting your time..and you deserve better than that.
  • Not knowing how or what to study – This is a huge barrier for a lot of students who are trying to get more efficient with their time. Students will waste time studying the wrong material, studying in ways that don’t work well for them, or even over-studying. If you’re not having regular ‘ah-ha moments when you’re studying, then you are reviewing material you already know (and wasting time).  If you’re studying and things aren’t sticking, you’re not using the most effective study methods for YOU or for the material. And if you take the exam and it’s nothing that you studied, then you’re studying the wrong content. All of these things are a huge waste of time.
  • Taking multiple attempts with skills check-offs. If your school uses official check-offs to test your ability to perform certain skills, you probably get two to three attempts. If you don’t prepare for that first attempt as though it’s your only attempt, then you have a pretty good chance of failing it and having to do it again in a few days or a week. This is a huge waste of time. Your goal with all of these check-offs should be “one and done.” Use that second or third attempt only if you legitimately need it.
  • Reading the textbook word for word is also a significant waste of time for most people. Unless your preferred learning style is heavily, heavily skewed toward reading and nothing else, this tactic is going to rob you of so much time. The truth is, there’s a massive amount of reading assigned in nursing school. Successful students develop strategies for reading that maximize both their learning AND their time. We’ll actually be diving into this more when we talk about Secret #5. (make an asana task for after the podcast goes up so we can come back and link this please)
  • Household chores are another area we often don’t think of as time-wasting because it seems so necessary. But some chores can wait until the end of the week or even the end of the semester. For example, is it critical that the laundry gets put away? And do YOU always have to be the one who does it? Delegating and deferring are the two keys to household chore management when you’re looking to maximize your time. We talked about this a bit in Secret #2 (link to post) when we looked at planning out your schedule, so check that out if you’d like some inspiration in this area.

Step 2: So now that you’ve seen some common examples of time wasters, and taken a few minutes to write out your own list, it’s time to come up with a plan. What can you do to limit the impact of these time-wasters? Use these examples as inspiration!

Secrets of Successful Nursing Students - Avoid time wasters

Secret #4: Know what to memorize vs conceptualize

I’ve talked about this in detail, so we won’t go too deep here. I simply want to introduce this concept because once you understand the difference between memorizing and conceptualizing, you’ll save yourself so much frustration (and time) in nursing school.

Successful students know that some material is better suited for memorization while other material should actually be understood on a conceptual basis. For example, trying to memorize the signs and symptoms of right-sided and left-sided heart failure is highly inefficient. But, if you memorize the blood flow pathway through the heart, you can easily conceptualize much of what you need to know about heart failure.

Knowing the cranial nerve numbers and names is not something you can conceptualize…you have to memorize that along with the functions of these nerves. But once you do that, then everything else you need to know  (namely how to assess their function) is easier to conceptualize and understand on a deeper level.

Successful students also know that when they understand foundation concepts, these can be applied to broader concepts. And this makes learning so much more efficient. For example, understanding the foundation concept of beta-blockers makes it incredibly easy to learn about the medication metoprolol. When you understand the foundation concept of the RAAS pathway (which you should probably memorize by the way), you can easily learn about the medication lisinopril, for example.

To dive deeper into memorizing vs conceptualizing, listen to episode #159 or read about it here.

And, if you’d like more tips on thriving in nursing school, download my free guide, The 20 Secrets of Successful Nursing Students.


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