Studying for specialty boards after work is a challenge for everyone. With schedules stretching beyond their normal limit and exhaustion always near, losing study momentum is easy. After a long day at the hospital (or clinic), the last thing you want to do is to come home and study. But to be prepared for boards, you must study in the evenings (and probably in the early mornings, too).

The solution is to have a specific study plan when opening your front door. Otherwise, you may make a BIG MISTAKE, like starting to relax, and suddenly your good study intentions evaporate.

Chloe Burroughs offers five suggestions for how to find the TIME, ENERGY, and MOTIVATION to Study After Work:

1. Renew your energy during the TRANSITIONS between your daily activities.

Think about your commute home from work. In his book High-Performance Habits, Brendon Burchard explains that we should ‘release tension’ and ‘set intention’ to generate the energy we need to study after work.

As you commute home, spend a few minutes releasing the tension in your body and mind–close your eyes (when you’re not driving), take slow, deep breaths, and once you feel the tension lift, choose a clear intention for your evening. Say it out loud to yourself in the third person. Once you’ve set your intention, open your eyes, and get to work.

2. Identify when you’re going to study.

Look for large and tiny snippets of time that can be used for studying. Even 15 minutes can be helpful. Have flashcards always with you so that when you are waiting for service, you can make good use of your time. Try studying at different times, such as … as soon as you get home before dinner, right after dinner, as soon as your children are in bed, just before you go to bed. If you are an early riser, try studying for 30-45 minutes first thing in the morning.

3. Always know what you need to study.

Start studying with a specific plan in mind.  Figure out what you need to study by checking your study calendar and your exam content blueprint. You might start by retesting a few critical questions from the previous day or reviewing recently made flashcards to rev your cognitive engine.

4. Don’t give yourself a chance to procrastinate.

Create a daily routine when you come home. First, put on comfy clothes, turn on your computer, and prepare your study materials. Make a cup of tea or a delicious smoothie. If you eat a regular meal, keep it light so you won’t get sleepy. Don’t check your digital devices; start studying.

The secret to making this work is not to interrupt the momentum of coming home. Burchard’s system works because you use this revitalized energy to study now so you can relax later.

5. Make the rest of your evening run more smoothly.

Let’s face it–making study a high priority is vital but also difficult when everything else vies for your time and attention. Stay focused. You’ll feel better when you’ve put your study priorities front and center.

How else can you make your evening run more smoothly so you have some time to study after work?

 … Ask someone else to make dinner on certain nights of the week 

 … Batch cooking and meal prep during the weekend, so weeknight dinners take less time

 … Hire someone to clean your house.

The idea here is to be creative in prioritizing what you need to do to make evening study work. By integrating these tips into your daily regimen, you’re well on your way to accomplishing your goal of successful board passage.


Linda L. Carr, Ph.D., Founder/Principal at Coaching for Medical Specialty Boards, is a medical educator and learning specialist who coaches physicians preparing for specialty boards through virtual, one-on-one coaching. Visit to learn more about her program and download her FREE Study Guide.