The Best Daily Workflow for Medical School – What Works3 min read

Published by Zach on

I went from being a bad medical student to being a good medical student after fixing my daily workflow. My daily workflow in medical school is how I study, what I study, and in what order I study.

Active recall and practice testing work. Highlighting, rereading, and underlining, don’t work.

With that in mind, I developed a daily plan for learning in medical school. This strategy prepares me for step, eliminates the unnecessary, and follows my school’s lectures.

As a disclaimer this may not work for you, this is just what works for me. Don’t listen to anyone on the internet who tells you there is a perfect way to study. There isn’t. Everyone is different, there is not a perfect person, there is not a perfect study strategy. I chose this strategy because it works for me and is supported by the evidence.

Also this is not my exam review strategy, if you want to see that go here.

1. Do Anki ‘Reviews’

I am most productive in the morning. I wake up and do my Anki review cards. This takes me 3-5 hours, every day. I do this first because this is the most important thing I will do that day.

Spaced repetition is proven to improve retention over time.

As I go through the cards, using the Anking, I make sure I understand the cards rather than memorize them. This is why it takes me 3-5 hours, but, this is also why I retain the information so well.

2. Watch Third-Party Video

Next, as I have already correlated my school’s lectures to third-party content, I watch the videos related to tomorrow’s lectures.

Yes, tomorrow’s lecture.

Third-party resources are more basic than lecture material. Lecture material is from a professor who’s life is this topic. The professor has more information and presents more information than we likely need to know.

Also, this information is more difficult to understand than the third-party ‘review’ materials. So I watch the third party content of tomorrow’s lecture the day before so I show up to the lecture primed and with a basic understanding of the material. This will help me understand the lecture content better.

3. Do Related New Anki Cards to That Third-Party Video

Anking tags flashcards for each third-party video. I just go to that subsection in Anki and learn those new cards.

Again, understanding beats memorizing every time.

4. Watch School’s Lectures

School lectures can be good, and they can be bad. This is why they are not my main learning source anymore.

With good lectures, I watch them at 2x speed and enjoy them. I don’t take notes, I don’t rewatch them, I just sit and listen. I have built an understanding through third-party materials, now I get to learn exciting things for the sake of learning: new research, procedures, and clinical vignettes. It is usually information that will help me be a better clinician, but not necessarily a top exam performer.

I find when I do this ‘relaxed’ strategy I retain much more information, and spend less time with the lectures, than when I was taking notes. I also enjoy the lectures. I can do this ‘relaxed strategy,’ only because I have built my knowledge base from third-party materials, however.

With bad lectures, I don’t watch them. My time is too important, there are too many good resources out there. I value my time above all other things.

5. Practice Questions

After I have solidified my content base I test myself. Practice testing is consistently shown to be one of the most, if not the most, effective methods for studying.

As I am just beginning my step 1 revision I do only ten questions a day. Five questions of old material and five questions from the new material. As I get closer to step I will ramp up these daily questions.


This strategy works for me. It eliminates the unnecessary and focuses on the important, time-efficient, and research-driven, studying techniques.

Did you notice? I don’t take any notes.

  1. Anki ‘Reviews’
  2. Watch Third-Party Video
  3. Third-Party Video ‘New’ Anki Cards
  4. Watch School’s Lectures
  5. Practice Questions


Ella · February 1, 2021 at 8:41 pm

Thanks for making these!Please continue to do so.

    Zach · February 1, 2021 at 11:09 pm

    Will do! Thank you for reading.

Amanda · February 3, 2021 at 3:05 pm

Hey Zach, how many hours do you study per day?

    Zach · February 4, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    Probably 8-10.

Nate · February 3, 2021 at 7:04 pm

Hey Zach! I’m a podiatry student at Des Moines University (sidenote: I almost went to Temple in Philly so kind of small world to reach out to ya haha). I have some awesome upperclassmen that have passed down a mega deck for Anki for all our classes for first year (we take all the same core coursework as the DO students). Anyhow, I made use of this deck for about 3-4 months, but I’ve decided that the card load is way too high for each day’s worth of material. I’m going to give your method a try, but I’m not sure that 100 new AnKing cards from B&B + pathoma + sketchy per day, total, will be enough to keep up with the content from all the lectures each day. Plus, I’m on a block schedule where we are tested in all our courses every 14 days. I watched your video on how to setup the Anking gold standard deck with all the settings you suggested. Just curious, was that 100 new card count just for Anki newbies, or is it something you’ve continued to do throughout your coursework so far? If so, I assume you must prioritize certain cards because there are so many things you could memorize from coursework so; how do you find the most high yield cards for your lecture coursework/exams? Just as an example, my lecture load today has left me with approximately 300-500 new cards. So tomorrow morning, instead of just having like 500ish reviews to do, i’ll have between 800-1000, then i’ll also have to learn the new cards from tomorrow’s lecture. Maybe i’m just a noob, but I think the idea of keeping up with this deck and the amount of detail involved in it is a bit overwhelming. Plus, i really like how the third party materials are super focused on preparing for board exams that aren’t too far off! I’m curious to see what your opinion is on all this. Thanks for making some grade A Anki videos! I dig the style. Very fresh and to the point compared to Anking’s vids, haha.

More info: I have B&B. I went through B&B’s cards associated with my lectures today in the AnKing, and it seems like the amount of new cards for intro to microbiology and for the pathology today is gonna be a LOT of cards as well. I’d love to get your advice on some or all of this. Again, thanks so much for making all this content! It made learning about Anki a lot more fun, haha.

    Zach · February 4, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    Hey, in the long term, 200-500 new cards a day is definitely not manageable. I would prioritize around 100 new cards a day if you can if necessary pushing that up to 150. Unless this is for short-term retention, so at the end of a month/two months you will not need those cards and can suspend them.

    My settings are for 1-2 years of constantly doing ~100 new cards a day.

Khaled Magdy · February 5, 2021 at 9:29 am

Sometimes when you hear a lecture, you have important notes and conclusions, or some notes that the doctor points to that are not in the book, and it come up in the exam, should I write these notes or not?
And please Specify which notes I should write and which I shouldn’t write, or when I should write notes,… Or are you saying you should never write notes in all situations?

Miranda · February 9, 2021 at 3:41 am

Hey, so if I’m starting from scratch, should I have all of Anking unsuspended and then start unsuspending the lectures I”m starting this block. I’m not too sure since I’m trying out Anki in the middle of my first year.
Thanks for these blog posts! ^^

    Zach · February 9, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    Yep! I would slowly start unsuspending the old stuff too if you get a chance as you will need to know that stuff for step.

Miranda Tsang · February 9, 2021 at 2:04 pm

Not sure if my last question sent, sooo sending it again.
I’m in the middle of my first medical year and am trying to incorporate Anki and your blog posts are very helpful. If I’m just starting, I’m assuming I wouldn’t have “Anki Reviews” until Day 2? I guess my question is: are your Anki Review questions the accumulated cards you unsuspended or are you doing all of AnKing randomly?
Thank you!

    Zach · February 9, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    Reviews only come from unsuspended cards (they will probably still be in the learning phase for day 2). If your cards are suspended you will never see them.

Alexa · May 26, 2021 at 3:46 pm

Hey Zach!
Where do you get your practice questions that you do after lectures?

    Zach · June 1, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    Teacher / Textbook / Google

    Med school specific: USMLE Rx, Boards and Beyond, UWORLD

Sasha · July 10, 2021 at 3:02 pm

Thank you so much for this! I’ve been learning so much and I’ve incorporated what I’ve learned from your channel while studying for my Dentistry Board Examinations. I will be taking it in 5 months. Please continue making these informative videos. Highly appreciated!

Jonathan · July 23, 2021 at 9:14 pm

Hi Zach! Where did you find practice problems to do? Do you have a few fav resources to draw them from? Thanks!

Jonathan · July 23, 2021 at 9:15 pm

Nevermind, just saw you already answered that, thanks!

Jon · July 23, 2021 at 9:15 pm

Nevermind, just saw you already answered that, thanks!

Amber · September 26, 2021 at 5:19 pm

HiZach!Thanks for sharing this information. I like the simplicity in routine and am wondering if this is a strategy I can incorporate for MCAT study. I am starting from scratch with my studies and assumed my first step would be to watch a third-party video to learn the info initially, then move forward with Anki, practice questions, etc.. Would you mind providing a bit of insight here? Again, thank you for sharing such great and practical information!

    Zach · October 11, 2021 at 3:26 pm

    Hey, I have a complete guide on studying for the MCAT I would use. You can check it out by clicking here.

    However, I think these guidelines would work for the MCAT as well.

Renee · August 14, 2022 at 1:40 am

Hi Zach!

I love your study techniques/ productivity articles. Please keep on the good work because I am subscribed to both your Youtube AND your newsletter! I believe these techniques can be incorporated for Korean university students like me too. Thanks a lot for your information 🙂

    Zach · August 17, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks for the subscribe and the nice words!

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