One of the most important steps in setting aside time to study is to actually set aside the time to study.
It can be challenging to separate regular (aka more enjoyable comfort zone time) from the time you must set aside to study for whichever board exam you are preparing for.
We suggest studying in a specific place or even engaging in a certain action that puts you in the mindset that this is the time I will be reviewing for the pediatrics, neurology or neonatology boards. This was probably the origin of the “thinking cap” where one put on a special cap when one had to do serious thinking. I know of someone that does not need to wear glasses but puts on plain glass frames when they sit down to study (sounds crazy, but works for him!)
Consider this a reset button, which puts the brain and body on notice that this is time to get down to business and do some serious board review studying. Call it “board review conditioning”.
Well, once you have put your brain on notice, where will you do the studying? We suggest picking a place that is specifically designated as “the” board review location. This can be a room in your home, a conference room in your office, or perhaps a conference room in the public library. This should be a place that has as few physical distractions as possible.
Now that you have separated the time and space, how do you filter out the distraction of sound and in some cases the distraction of silence?
Everyone is different. Some people study better with total silence, some like white noise, and some even like a lot of noise. Any of these sounds is difficult to reproduce in the setting you have selected as the ideal location to focus on pediatrics board review questions, for example:
While we usually recommend resisting temptation to be distracted by the Internet in general when blocking out time to study, one important exception could be logging into one of the many websites that provides ambient sound.
One of the websites we have found most useful is nature sounds for me which is a free online tool to play nature sounds on your headphones to help provide the ambient sounds you work best with. There are 4 channels that allow for 4 separate sounds to be played at once (i.e. birds, river etc.)
We have found this to be an excellent tool to filter out or even filter IN noise. For example, let’s say you study best with ambient background conversations, the kind you would get at a local café. However, you prefer a location where you won’t meet anyone who might start talking to you and pull you away from the important pediatrics board review material you wish to focus on? This tool will provide you with “ambient conversations“ so you can have your café cake and eat board review questions in an environment without actual people.
The sounds range from ambient ocean waves to kitchen sounds, seagulls, owls, and even wolves. If you find sustained sounds distracting you can even vary the sounds so the conversations come and go, the same for the seagulls and rain.
We suggest you try this wonderful and free tool, and consider the headphone to be the noise cancelling thinking cap you need to put on when you have set aside time to do serious board review thinking.