Students at Rutgers share morning routines to achieve, succeed
Rise and shine: students at Rutgers share how they start their days during the semester.
For Daniel Katz, a second-year medical student at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) and alumnus of Rutgers' seven-year BA/MD program, mornings start by waking up at 6:30 a.m., going to the gym, showering, getting ready, eating breakfast and studying. With RWJMS lectures uploaded online, Katz said he needs discipline and a set routine to get through the material.
As an undergraduate at Rutgers, his mornings were slightly different. Instead of going to the gym every day, he would go 3 to 4 times a week while varying his morning routine according to classes.
“That’s the beauty of being an undergraduate. You can create a life around your classes. It’s not like you have a 9-to-5 job where you can’t do anything but work. You’re able to figure out what works for you," he said.
That is exactly what Phillip Iglesias, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and the lead guitarist of indie rock band Old Joy, is doing.
Iglesias said he goes through mornings at his own pace, waking up naturally between 3 to 5 a.m., relaxing and getting up between 7 and 8 a.m. He then packs for the day, showers, eats breakfast and drives to the College Avenue campus. Iglesias said that he could be more efficient, but this morning routine is what feels right for him.
“I’d definitely have a better morning if I was more reactive to my surroundings, but I’m comfortable as is and I couldn’t imagine it any other way,” he said.
Anurag Modak, a School of Arts and Sciences junior whose team won seventh place in the international Hult Prize competition and one of the students nominated for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, also prefers to keep his mornings simple.
The Hult Prize is an international year-long competition that challenges students to solve social issues such as food security and water access. The Barry Goldwater Scholarship is a prestigious undergraduate merit scholarship granted to students who have made achievements in the fields of science, engineering or mathematics.
His mornings start an hour before his first class and consist of having tea and cereal, getting ready and heading out within 30 to 40 minutes. Modak, who would never skip breakfast, said he will sometimes multitask and go over notes while eating.
“The 10 minutes it takes to make breakfast is a chance to be quiet and collect my thoughts so that I’m ready for the day,” he said.
For all three, though, morning routines actually start the night before. Modak, before going to bed at approximately 11 p.m., sometimes leaves study materials ready on his desk as a reminder to review in the morning. He also makes time for two specific people.
“One thing I do every day is call or FaceTime or text my parents about my day. They’re my support network and biggest fans,” he said.
Iglesias thinks about his tasks for the next day but has faith in his early rising.
“I always end up thinking that I can easily do whatever it is the next morning because I wake up so early, so I leave it at that – I do those things the next morning,” he said.
Katz plans out the next day and uses Google Calendar to write down classes and tasks he has to get done. He also prioritizes his sleep, he said. As an undergraduate, he tried to get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night and adjusted his socializing and studying around that. In medical school, he still tries for at least 8 hours, but there are days where he will only get 5 hours.
“If I need to sleep more, I plan for it. Sleep is a priority for me because if I’m tired, the next day is wasted,” he said.
For Iglesias, lack of sleep is not necessarily what slows him down — it is his phone.
“I have a much faster morning if I don’t have my phone on me,” he said.
Katz, known as @futuremdlife on Instagram, has a similar take on screen time despite having more than 41,000 followers.
“If I'm studying upstairs, I'll keep my phone in a drawer downstairs. By not being around my phone for an hour or two at a time, I'm more productive in that period and then I check my phone as a study break,” he said.
For those who want a better morning routine, Modak and Katz both suggest some introspective reflection.
“I would say write down all of the things you do in a week and how much time it takes. Add it all up and you’ll see how much free time you actually have and where you can improve. Then, you can build a routine that works for you,” Katz said, referencing an activity he did in a First-year Interest Group Seminar as an undergraduate.
All three students attribute their success not to their mornings, but to their persistence and determination.
“No way is it my morning routine that helps me get through the day. My desire to do well in academics and go out to do things is much stronger than my exhaustion,” Iglesias said.