14 Oct 2020

my august 2019 - august 2020 work notebook by katie leamon

In the UK, junior doctors rotate every August. From August 2019 - August 2020, I decided not to do, what we call, a 'training job'. This meant that the year did not count towards my future training in whatever specialty I choose (which happens to be urology). This was fine with me and this 'year out' was intentional. I applied for a clinical fellow role which had a large educational chunk to it and it was an amazing year. The highlights were the people I met during the year, the projects I got involved in and started personally and just seeing the difference I had made with the things I had done.

The educational element was something I had never encountered before; being a junior doctor here in the UK is very much 100% clinical time. This role gave me 60% educational time. To try and stay organised, I cracked out this Katie Leamon notebook. With its 300 pages, I was confident it would be enough for this year. Famous last words, eh? It was just enough for the year. You can see how battered it was after constant use... Just look at that spine!


I used post-it notes and Avery note tabs to separate out the different sections that were often referenced. By the end, this is what the top of the notebook looked like.


Every week, I would write at least two to-do lists. The one thing with education was I realised how much slower things can be. As someone who likes to see instant results (hence my choice to go into surgical training), I struggled with this a bit initially. However, over time, I began to sit back a bit and let things run their course.

My to-do lists were often long (usually longer than the one below but this was the one which had the fewest points with identifiable/confidential information on it). You can see that I almost used a bullet journal-esque key to denote a completed or cancelled task.


Below, I've taken a picture of a project I did outside of this role. I did some reading about renal and ureteric stones and these were the notes I took. Unfortunately, I can't show you something from the educational side as some of it is still a work in progress or is in the process of (hopefully) being published.


So this was the notebook which got me through a year of many projects and a lot of educational work. What I really loved about the year was how concentrating on things outside of clinical work made me want to go back into training; and how my clinical days made me miss my educational work!

I think it'll mean that I will always have an element of educational-related activities to my career at every stage and I'm curious to see what the future holds for me in this regard.

23 Sep 2020

archer and olive 160gsm a5 dot grid fabric cover notebooks

As I've decided to give bullet journaling a go at some point in the near future (this might be a case of just 'shut up and get on with it' as I've been putting it off for a few months now), I need the right materials for it. And by materials, I mean notebook. I can't imagine not using my fountain pens or pigmented fineliners in it so I knew it had to have good quality paper and be of a size that would be portable enough for daily use.

A5 is a sure bet for me - it's a size I'm very much used to and having toted an A5 notebook to work everyday for a whole year, I know it works.

In terms of paper, 90gsm is standard for the Leuchtturm 1917 and Rhodia notebooks. I know I like it but I do wonder if there would be too much showthrough for me to be comfortable with. Enter some research I did which led me down a rabbit-hole... which then led me to Archer and Olive. This is not a sponsored post - I'm just a happy customer.

Archer and Oliver is run by Bonnie Kuhl from across the Atlantic.What really enticed me was that Archer and Olive are named after Bonnie's two cats. If that isn't adorable, I don't know what is.

When this notebook arrived, I was impressed by the packaging. It comes in a beautiful thick cardboard box which I will definitely be using in the future to store little trinkets in.


The notebook is wrapped in a single sheet of card and there is a card sleeve displaying the notebook's qualities too. It's great that all of the packaging shown here is readily recyclable. Unfortunately, what you can't see is that it actually came wrapped in plastic which I put in my recycling bin anyway but am still dubious about its capacity for re-use.


I opted for the 'morning sun' design for a few personal reasons and I really do like it's bright, happy, yellow hue. The fabric cover feels very hardy and the elastic closure looks like it is sturdy enough to put up with me potentially overstuffing this notebook.

Although this notebook is only 160 pages, it is as thick as my notebooks that are 192 pages. This is because of the epic 160gsm paper.


This notebook comes with two ribbon page markers which is ideal for what I intend to use it for: bullet journaling. One ribbon can be for 'today' and the other can be at a page of importance (i.e. goals for the year).


It also comes with a pen holder which is stretchy enough for my fountain pen of choice: my Pilot Kakuno. It's surprising how such a cheap fountain pen (it only cost me about £8 at the time) is one of the ones I reach for time and time again.


The interior is as you would expect: a page at the front for your details and then the dot grid pages, ready for use as whatever your heart desires.

I'm not going to lie: I'm very excited about using this. I also have a dot-grid Papier notebook which needs using and it'll be a tough choice to see which one gets used first. There is a part of me that thinks I should use the Papier first because if I use this 160gsm paper first, nothing else will compare. As a self-confessed paper snob, this notebook will do nothing to change that part of my personality!

2 Sep 2020

ink: organics studio fountain pen ink - aldous huxley old world blue

I'm a sucker for sheen and Organics Studio is known for the infamous Walden Pond ink which sheens like mad. I'd never tried an Organics Studio ink before so thought I'd give it a go when I saw this one: Aldous Huxley Old World Blue. To me, it's more of a turquoise ink than a true blue but that may a result of extra fine nibs. I like how the box also has a brief biography for the person the ink is named after too. At £8.75 for a 55mL bottle, I do feel that this is a reasonable price for an ink with plenty of character.

12 Aug 2020

re-reading old journals and preparing for future thoughts

Disclosure: there are emotional parts to this blog post. I also toyed with the idea of posting this or not for a long time but in the end, decided to share it.


As a confessed nerd, I am a huge fan of journaling. Having kept one on and off during my teens, I started decompressing mentally much more in my early twenties. I now journal almost daily and it really is a great thing to do before bed. On the days that have been stressful and I don't write anything down, I do notice that my sleep is more disturbed and I wake up feeling less refreshed the next day.

Mental health has had a spotlight on it for a while now which I think is justified. Conditions that aren't 'visible' have had some unjustified stigma attached to them and I do believe that everyone will have gone through some mental health difficulties at some point in their lives. 

For me, writing is very therapeutic. After my father died (maybe one day, I'll write about the experience of this as a 'good death' is something I am passionate about), what I found most difficult was never being able to talk to him again. In Hong Kong culture, we believe that things you cremate with the body are taken with them to the 'afterworld'. So for his cremation, I wrote him a letter using the best paper I could buy, using my 'Flower of Scotland' ink (as our happiest days were my childhood in Scotland) and written in my best handwriting. This helped me a lot. 

Sometimes, I also like to read parts of old journals to see what I was up to at that particular moment in time. As cheesy as this sounds; by doing this, I could really see how much I'd grown as a person and how much mentally stronger I am too. That said, I still have a long way to go in this journey and the blank journals below are just waiting to be filled with future ramblings that will hopefully allow me to develop more as a person. 

Do you find writing things down helpful? Did journaling get you through any particularly difficult periods of your life?