Staying Organized

I recently posted on Twitter about setting up for 2018 and was asked about staying organized.  As mentioned previously in my Medical School Tips staying organized is essential, especially with multiple projects on the go, deadlines, and other responsibilities.  I’ve used to-do lists all through graduate school and my medical training.  For a while it was simply scraps of paper and a calendar on my phone.  Over the last few years I’ve tried different planners/pocketbooks and incorporated elements of bullet journaling. Thought it might be time to talk about to-do lists and staying on top of things.

With so much going on at times having a system to keep things organized is needed.  Over time I’ve come to prefer the analog systems.  There is something satisfying about checking a box or crossing off a goal.  They are also nice to look back on and see progress or many little accomplishments.  I use a dash for events, a dot for to-do lists. Items range from gymnastics for our oldest to dental appointments and keeping up with my N95 fit tests and ACLS certification. I enter major events on the monthly calendars and use each Sunday to jot down a weekly list of important items. In the dotted section at the back of the Hobonichi I keep a list of books read, movies watched, publications, etc.

I tried using a Hobonichi in 2016 and enjoyed the set up, the quotes, and compact nature of the planner.  It was thin and didn’t bleed with fountain pens, so it was fun to use.  The positives were having a page a day, a yearly calendar, monthly spreads, and some fun facts in the back.  For 2017 I used an A6 Midori MD lined planner.  It gave a lot of freedom and I used it as a bullet journal.  For 2018 I planned to use a couple grid Midori A6 notebooks, but they got lost in transit, so I ordered a 2018 Hobonichi Techo to use for the new year (the grid notebooks did arrive after ~2 months).

The Hobonichi has a lot of great features, but there as some shortcomings:

  • Despite using Tomoe River paper like the Seven Seas journal I’ve used previously, it seems to dry even slower. This makes it harder to quickly jot down entries if carrying it with you all day or having to use some blotting paper to sop up ink.
  • Some days only need a few lines for events or to-do items.  With a page per day space feels wasted.
  • There is no weekly to-do section

Along with the Hobonichi my set up includes an A6 pocketbook for notes on the wards.  At the end of a block I transfer notes from the pocketbook to a simple notebook of tips/tricks, clinical teaching, and step-by-step instructions for procedures.  A set of practical notes to complement the textbooks/lectures.

I’ve mentioned journaling before and for 2018 I wanted to do something different.  Instead of a lined A5 journal as I’ve used before I decided to use a larger A4 blank journal.  I hope to do more doodling and enjoy the greater flexibility in my entries.  I have 4 pens chosen for journaling and will alternate between them.

Trying my best to stay organized in 2018 balancing home life with my training.  Going to be a busy one as I transition to my final year of Family Medicine, write 2 large exams, and need to make many decisions about my future.

Hobonichi Techo in Midori MD paper cover


Midori MD A4 blank, Hobonichi Techo, and Leuchtturm1917 A6 softcover.


Interview Tour

With interviews on the horizon I thought back on my experience last year.  I found this post useful (link), it collects some tips and was put together by another Western grad.  To those I will add a few of my own:

  1. If you don’t know how to yet, go watch a few YouTube videos on how to iron. No matter how you pack your clothes will get wrinkled.
  2. Clerkship likely had you drinking a good deal of coffee. A smile makes a difference for first impressions, there is lots of time to get that smile shining again.
  3. Comfortable dress shoes.
  4. Don’t forget your charger(s).
  5. Be patient. You are traveling Canada in the winter, your flight/train/ride may be delayed.
  6. Drive safely.


  • Review your CV, especially any items highlighted in your personal statements.
  • Be able to discuss any published research or other works.
  • Re-read your personal statements and details about each school before the interview.
  • Do a mini-autobiography to identify anecdotes, motivations, major life events/influences, etc. Who, what, when, where, how did it shape you?
  • Participate in interview prep with friends, peers, residents, etc.
  • Think of a few patients that moved you, that you connected with, a good outcome, a bad outcome. How did you react? What would you change?
  • Think of a conflict with peers or others, how did you handle it?
  • Review standard interview questions too and have examples for strengths, weaknesses, a time you failed, an accomplishment you are most proud of, etc.

Best of luck

Trauma Team Pearls

A few  practical tips from a trauma team elective:

  • Just walking down the street ‘minding my own business’ seems to be an independent risk factor for being assaulted, stabbed and/or shot.
  • If you are cleaning your shotgun, for your own safety and those around you, please make sure it is unloaded.
  • If you like to run or bike alone please have some form of identification on you or information to contact a partner or family member.
  • If you are working at heights, wear and use your gear.  Hook in and be safe.
  • Buckle up when you are driving.  A bruise from the seat belt is much better than being ejected from your car.
  • If you have a trauma in the winter your Canada Goose jacket will be destroyed  during the primary survey, sorry.
  • CT-A is very useful, but isn’t perfect.  There can be surprises, a patient’s retained clothing or the collar can compress vascular injuries.