Update: Med School

-Posters are useful to plan ahead
-And are fun to look back on with #gratitude
These types of posts are usually done in January to mark the passing of the previous year and to welcome the entrance of the new. I chose to get reflective in April 2017 instead – here is a poster plan I made.
Dear diary…
I was gearing up for a 12 month period, of which 9 months would be uncertain but definitely intense (Exams, revision, more exams and then some) and 3 months being uncertain AND of unknown intensity (Planning an elective placement in the US).
Faced with an accumulation of daunting tasks, the only way I felt I would be able to comprehend what was asked of me was to lay out a timeline.
I felt vulnerable. I felt an intense acute stress provided by my upcoming BSc. finals. This was layered on a chronic gnawing stress of the pressure of returning to my medical finals – In my head, I had the normal flurry of questions of doubt. Why did I choose to reduce my exposure to and momentum within clinical medicine immediately before my biggest medical exams?!
This looming challenge made me anxious – was I gambling my shot at medical finals in return for a BSc.?
Would I be able to catch up with my peers who were moving smoothly from 4th year into final year?
What are the options for me if I failed?
My mind could not comprehend these individual stresses by projecting them as separate challenges to be met one after the other – although each of the challenges posed by my BSc. and MBBS were months apart, they were presented to my mind as immediate and equal – a good way to feel overwhelmed!
The secret for me was that by laying my challenges onto a piece of paper I was able to regain a sense of control. It gave me a game plan – when I needed to work, when I could rest. It laid out what I needed to know and do, and when to know and do it. Prepare well to pass your exams. By writing my challenges down, I left no space on the sheet for failure.
Big sharpie markers show overall blocks – BSc revision, exams, a return to MBBS, ‘Summer’, straight into MBBS revision and finals. This is punctuated by key events – exams, deadlines, ‘peripheral’ placements in remote locations, but also importantly including fun and happy events; birthdays, family meet-ups, a wedding. The elective was written up because I had to remember to organise it. Flights and VISAs are surprisingly important and crucial – who knew?

MTMOT – ‘Make The Most of Time’

Know your time
Make time for fun and fulfilment.
Sticking the poster up onto my wall above my standing desk kept my timeline always present. Nothing works better for motivation than a constant reminder of do or die (or something else unpleasant). Ticking off the ugly, bad and good kept me involved and in control. There is something cathartic about laying down a plan and executing each step.
This is the first time I have been able to/have had to lay down a 12 month period. It was also a period with so many big changes and the list kept me on top of them. For this reason, when a life is full of hurdles to jump through and needs structure, I recommend writing them all down and presenting them in a place where you are always reminded of them.

After everything has been achieved, the poster gains another level of value. It allows me to look back and see where I have come from. It also allows me to look back and see what was really enjoyable – and programme them into my future calendars a la Tim Ferriss.

I am in Cornwall on holiday with my family right now, so perhaps the time for reflection and gratitude is right. This poster gives a perfect opportunity to feel grateful and to say THANKS for the events and opportunities that have presented to me, that they came together well, that the wheel keeps turning and more opportunities will present.
Project in 2017 and reflect in 2018.
  • An incredible introduction to Extreme Physiology modules during my BSc. at King’s College London.
  • Building my knowledge of cancer biology (Thanks Sophie) – which gives super insights into how to live for a long time.
  • Seeing the beauty of Sweden
  • Making opportunities to see those friends living far away and harder still, those living close.
  • Slow living in Cornwall.
  • Sloper on his stag-do!
  • The Icelandic Health Symposium (Thanks Tommy!)
  • Orthopaedics at KCH, Medicine in Ashford and meeting a fantastic GP, Dr Rattan.
  • An actual holiday over the Christmas break (Thanks KCL Progress-Tests)
  • Passing OSCEs and writtens
  • Diving into human health, performance and resilience at the IHMC for four weeks.
  • Attending Low Carb Breckenridge and meeting more heroes.
  • Learning about patience and medicine with humanity in WV.
  • A 10K, a fell race, a 5K PB, total distance running distance and altitude PB and my first Spartan weekend. My back pain is better and I’m hitting better numbers in the gym.

Entering the final stages of MBBS in preparation for foundation school, I feel like this piece of paper may be the height of my life-organisation for the foreseeable future. Even though a calendar was so useful, I do not, weirdly, feel the need to write up a plan. This approach does not serve me so well right now. Transitioning into the foundation programme (junior doctor-dom) means that uncertainties abound; which hospital, which jobs, which town, which house, which car? What projects can I continue? What sport to do? What long term goals fit my changing lifestyle?

These uncertainties are exciting and I am happy with million possible combinations of variables. My peers and I will have all passed our medical finals, will get given a set of doctor jobs. We will be on an equal footing, all newbies to the game of doctor.
Perhaps this relaxed approach to the future is a case of affirmation replacing doubt and uncertainty.
Perhaps it is just that I am now on ‘holiday’, have jumped the pressing hurdles and can put some slack in my strings.
Perhaps it is due to the gratitude I feel for the opportunities, challenges, failures and successes that I have experienced this far. Cheers!

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