Student Spotlight: 9 Tips for Success in School

Hello friends! Hope your weekend was fabulous. We enjoyed some snow and lots of fog up in Alaska. Our days are getting longer by 5 minutes every day, so each day really does seem a little brighter than the day before.

Today we’re chatting success tips for school. I recently completed my second round of graduate school and found these tips to be the most helpful when it came to studying and working. I’ve learned all of these lessons on my own and the hard way (hello days where I thought Red Bull helped me study…). I’m hoping they offer someone else a better plan for success in whichever path you may take to midwifery. The posts I’ve done in the past for students have been wildly popular, so I hope this helps everyone on a path to school or in school!

Here are the tips!

Schedule work when you work BEST.

This seems simple but it is often hard to execute. The first reason it’s hard to execute is that some people don’t know when they work best. You only figure it out by trying. I get my best work done in the early morning or before lunch. I can do some work in the evening but afternoons are the worst for me! Through trial and error, you’ll figure out when you work best. The second reason it’s hard to execute is because people like to work in “opportunity windows.” These pop up periods of time are great, but it’s hard to work well and get a lot of work accomplished when you don’t know when or if the opportunity will schedule itself. Therefore, you have to schedule the work. For example, you know that mornings are best for you and you schedule time to work from 5am to 6am before your babes wake up. Lastly, once you schedule the time to work, show up. If you made the decision to pursue an educational path, own that decision. Show up and do the work.

Learn how to work DEEPLY.

Deep Work by Cal Newport is one of my favorite books on how humans work well. He’s fascinating to follow on his blog too. Cal talks about the importance of shutting all distraction out when you work, so that your brain can fully devout its attention to the work at hand. This habit was amazing for me in graduate school. I would schedule blocks of time to write in the morning, put myself in a corner of the house while the husband watched the kids with a strong cup of coffee, and do nothing else but write or read until my block of time was completed. Deep work can consist of intense critical thinking and writing, or it could be a lengthy to-do list that you just need focus on to accomplish. Regardless, once you learn how to work deeply, you will discover a new level of efficiency in how you study for school. (I also found it was helpful to put on white noise in the background during deep work blocks!).

PRIORITIZE and CATEGORIZE the work your need to do.

This was another tip that made my graduate school curriculum feasible while working full time with two littles. When you look at the work you need to do, prioritize what needs to be done right now/today, tomorrow, and this week. Use a to do list and only work on one thing at a time. The second tip is in how you categorize the work. There are things you can do while sitting on the couch with your spouse and things that you will need to facilitate the deep work environment we discussed above. By taking time to prioritize which tasks need to be done, then sorting them into what has to be done with your undivided attention (thinking writing and critical thinking) and things that don’t require much focus but still need to be done, you’ll maximize the time of your deep work. An example of this is you have some articles to read but don’t need to read them during a deep work block. You can read them over your lunch at work or while on a break at work! When I worked through midwifery school, I did so much homework during the hours of 2am and 5am on night shift. I didn’t do any deep work but always had something to read or review during those slower hours on shift.

Set BOUNDARIES for school.

Ya’ll, I fell off the face of the earth this past year. That’s what had to happen for me to get through my DNP program. I declined birthday parties, baby showers, work gatherings, etc…you name it. School was my decision and I had to make it a priority. I also had to make it a priority within my marriage. After the kids went to bed, I couldn’t sit on the couch and watch movies with my husband, I had homework to do. Take a look at your friends, families, spouse, kids and work and analyze where boundaries will help you accomplish what school is asking of you. It’s only for a short time period – you can do it!

Be disciplined. Study like you are TRAINING, not TRYING.

I love this tip. I heard it from a paster in Oklahoma a while back. He recommended that in anything you are trying to do, approach that skill like you are training – not trying. The difference in those two words is powerful whether you are in school, marathon training, or parenting. It’s a change in your mindset and it’s powerful.


Accountability looks different for everyone. But for me, this was friends in my school cohorts taking the same courses I was, friends in other programs across the nation, and a large group of friends in healthcare across different disciplines and practices nationwide. It’s helpful to let people know what you are trying to accomplish because they will check in on you and how you are doing. It’s helpful to know others are sweating through the same difficult tasks, skills or assignments that you are. The other unexpected thing that you’ll find in accountability is support. When people reach out to see how you are doing or you give them updates, you’ll find there is a lot of support for your effort that help keeps you on your path.

Plan for HELP.

Just about everyone I knew in school needed help in some form or another. If you have kids, plan for sitters every week (or as often as you need). Have play dates so that your kids have a place to burn energy and you get a window to study. Better yet, if you are married with kids, have your spouse take your kids out to play every Saturday morning so you can do the work you need to do. Bring grandparents, aunts and uncles in to help out. Hire a maid. Hire a nanny. You know what you need in your life but find something that helps out your need – you won’t regret it.

Let some things GO!

This will look different for everyone. I already told you guys what dropped for me was almost all socializing outside of work. But look at your week and where your time is spent. It might be massages, getting nails done, shopping excursions outside of grocery shopping, happy hours, gym time, less time with friends…you know best where the minutes go in your week. Those minutes add up to a lot of time. Remember, your school or training isn’t forever, but you made the commitment to learn the skill. Make a commitment to let some things go to make time for others. You won’t regret it.

CAPITALIZE on time opportunities.

Like all things in our schedules, stuff falls through, gets cancelled last minute, or my favorite, the baby sleeps an extra amount of time that was unexpected (praise hands!). If you have your tasks categorized into those things that can be accomplished without deep work or a stack of things you need to read, you can go straight to those tasks in the glorious pockets of time that show up on your schedule. For my midwifery program, I worked night shifts and was able to utilize the hours postpartum couplets were sleeping (unless I was on the labor side and helping laboring mamas!). For my DNP, I woke up early most mornings and read articles at lunch time and nap time.

I hope these help everyone working through school. Remember, it’s a short amount of time, not forever, and you can do anything you set your mind to.

If you’re interested in reading about how to maximize your time management, these are the books I recommend! I’ve read them all and love their lessons on time management.

Love tips for students? Check out these other posts for students:

Happy Monday!


1 year ago on the blog…Friday Five (#10)

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