My 5 low-tech study/work essentials

Today’s inane images of the day will be scattered within the post.

I absolutely love my laptop and iPhone but when it comes down to crunch time [e.g. exam-time, research-time, AMWA-time…] they prove to be more of a distraction than anything else. I mean, why would I want to review the Krebs cycle when I could be stalking people on Facebook or “Liking” everything on Instagram? Or, I’ll find that a great blog post idea strikes me and I just have to write it right now otherwise it will fall out of my head. Yeah. Right. [Excuses.]

Anyway, when I finally muster the courage to turn the ringer off on my phone and close my laptop lid, here are the things I need:

G2 pens - a medical professional *essential*
G2 pens – a medical professional *essential*

1. PENS.

While I can type at some ridiculous speed when the juices are really flowing, text on Microsoft Word or WordPress editor just do not contain the same beauty as their written counterparts. And of course, you have to have COLORS – how else do you think I focused on reviewing all of the questions I got wrong on UWorld?

Clearly, my personal favorite is this 8-pack of colorful G2 0.7 mm pens. I know some very serious people who swear by the 0.38 mm pens… but I just found that perhaps I apply too much pressure on my pens when I write because the ink tends not to come out clearly for me. If I had to annotate First Aid again, I would probably pick up the 0.38 mm to try to avoid smudging and be able to write microscopically [yeah, because I’m totally going to re-read my microscopic print again in the future…].

So at some point, Mike found these Pentel Vicuña pens and decided to send me a special order of a single pen. Needless to say, I’m kind of a nerd and totally love this single pen to death now. Unfortunately, they are super expensive and need to be imported from Japan – but hey, that’s a sign of quality, right?

The best water bottle ever.
The best water bottle ever [in Magenta].

So there was a time back in my preclinical years where I only took my Starbucks thermos with me to class and I drank a ton of coffee and thus ended up drying myself over the course of the morning. By lunchtime, I’d have all the signs of dehydration – dry lips, yellow urine [hey, we’re all going to be doctors, right?] – and decided that this was probably not a good idea. I complained to Mike and magically, this Thermos water bottle appeared at my doorstep courtesy of Mike and Amazon Prime [every single person with a .edu account should use the Amazon Student trial before needing to buy a lot of books *cough* right before M1 year or USMLE Step 1 *cough*]. So now, I stay hydrated everywhere I go!

Pro tip: Take an empty water bottle with you on interviews and go to the hotel gym to fill it up with filtered water so that you aren’t completely dry the next morning when you’re supposed to be peppy and ready to show a residency program just how awesome you are. I promise, drinking water while traveling will change your life [well, maybe not, but I tend to find that I have fewer… issues… when I drink enough fluid].

My Starbucks favorite - Blonde roast coffee.
My Starbucks favorite – Blonde roast coffee.


I had to balance out my water with my caffeine-addiction, right? A couple months back I decided to start using one of those refillable K-cups for my Keurig and boy has it made a difference! I’ve found that the ground coffee in the refillable cup produces a much stronger cup of coffee than the regular Starbucks pre-made K-cups. This is important to me because the Starbucks coffee you get in the store is definitely 5-times stronger than the stuff that brews from the pre-packaged K-cups… so this discovery that I could make store-strength coffee totally blew my mind. And I save monies. Win-win.

High-quality ear plugs to drown out everything around you.
High-quality ear plugs to drown out everything around you.


I discovered the magic of Mack’s ear plugs when I started USMLE Step 1 studying. Even when I went to the library where it’s supposed to be quiet, there were always high schoolers gossiping or little children getting excited about books [ok, that last part is a good thing] – both of which are very distracting. I wanted to simulate real testing conditions [semi-silent] AND study efficiently, so I gave in and bought a 50-pack of these ear plugs. Now… I literally can study anywhere because they seal my eardrums so well from the world around me. Starbucks with little children screaming? No problem. Medical student lounge with medical students panicking? What? Panic? These work wonders, so now I always have a couple pairs with me whenever I’m serious about getting work done. I also used them for all of my Shelf exams and plan on using them for my USMLE Step 3 prep and exam.

The downside? You might accidentally ignore the people around you because you really can’t hear them. And sometimes they don’t understand why you’re ignoring them because the earplugs are skin-tone-colored and can really blend well with your ear. I warned you.

Studying from real books is important.
Studying from real books is important.


See that picture above this sentence? You’ll be seeing it again when I talk about what I used to study for Step 2 [so consider this your sneak peek]. I promise I have real textbooks [like Robbins – yes I have the real, hardcover book; and yes, I have cracked it open before], but these books were conveniently on my desk so they looked pretty for Instagram.

Anyway, what are your low-tech study/work essentials?

2 thoughts on “My 5 low-tech study/work essentials

  • March 11, 2015 at 12:05 am

    I swear by the 0.38 G2. The precision!

  • March 11, 2015 at 12:14 am

    I’ll have to try them again and adjust the pressure I apply as I write – I swear by the 0.5 G2 for a while, but then gave up because they didn’t come in fun colors. Now… I just type everything. Oh, technology.

    Hope you’ve been well, Mauriat!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.