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  • Gazala Hitawala

5 minimalistic and essential stationery supplies for students

As a child, stationery shopping was one of the most exciting aspects of school life. Even at gift shops, the fancy pencil cases were the major attraction for me. I remember buying the Shaka-Laka-Boom-Boom pencil as a kid, and every day dreaming if something I draw will turn out to be real (Didn’t you do that?). I am assuming, you must have gifted some form of stationery to your friend or as a return gift at your own birthday party, no? Stationery fascinates me, and I still fall for the beautiful notebook covers. However, as I grew up, I had a shift in my mindset. I only get things which are essential and which solve the purpose for me. The delightful art and colours are fascinating, but I did not want to have a collection of articles that might be unnecessary. I only use minimal things which gets my work done. With that, let me take you through my stationery articles that are always around my desk and very handily available at stores.

1. Pens –

Of course! The list has to start with pens. A smoothly functioning pen is a must for efficiency. For a long time, I was in a search for the perfect ball pen, and now I feel I found it. The pentonic blue ball pen is fire. It has a thin point, with perfect blue colour and a comfortable grip, in just 10 Rs. Most importantly, I don’t get those obnoxious blot marks of the ball pens. This is a smoothly functioning ball pen, which you must try.

The other most like-able pen is the Rorito FiberPoint Black pen. I use this every day in my bullet journal. I wanted a thin point black pen which would fit both for writing, doodling and hand lettering. This one is the perfect fit for me. I am not an artist and neither highly indulged in sketches and doodles so, a single pen works for me. However, if you are someone with artistic interests, you can check their other range as well.

Apart from these, I have 1 blue gel pen and 1 red gel pen from Linc. I use gel pens for letters/ applications and anything that has to be presented formally. Lastly, who would believe I am a medical student if I don’t have a set of coloured pens? I have a set of 10 to 5 coloured pens depending on the availability, which I use for annotations and diagrams. In my opinion colourful annotating not only makes things interesting but it is also much efficient than simply highlighting text. When you are adding any extra text, you have taken active efforts to retrieve information from other sources which will last longer in your memory.

As most of the above mentioned pens are around 10 Rs., I often order it in bulk which helps to save few bucks.

2. Highlighters –

I have a love-hate kind of a relationship with highlighters. I believe that highlighting is an art, and it takes time to master it. Earlier, I use to sit with a highlighter whenever I was reading a new topic. Then as I read through, I highlighted the points that I found substantial. But, how do I even know what is relevant if I am reading for the first time? That was the mistake!

The purpose of highlighting is to reiterate something you want to take away from the topic, something that you want to catch your attention the moment you open that page. If for instance, you have a pocketbook on the high yield content of internal medicine, what will you highlight in this? I would prefer to highlight the least in this book because it is a concise high yield book, which means all the content is substantial. So, I would not want to take my attention to one noteworthy thing at the cost of undermining the other significant points. Makes sense?

Ok! I just got too involved talking about the use of highlighters, let me redirect the attention to the highlighters that I use. drum rolls

It is the Faber castle highlighter. I use 3 shades – the original, orange, and pink. I just randomly pick the colour of the day according to my mood, I do not have a corresponding agenda behind using a specific colour.

3. Post-it notes

This is something very crucial for my smooth functioning. I put post-its on my laptop as reminders; for important dates or appointments, I put post-its in front of my desk; and I also use it for annotation in my books/notes.

There are 3 types of post its that I use:

Put it note – 3″ x 3″ – I use this to highlight important events that I can see all day. Since this post-it is of decent dimensions, I use this to annotate some flowcharts and bullet points in my notes.

Sticky neon prompt – 1″ x 3″ – This is a slim post-it that I use to highlight some mnemonics in books and for the reminders that I stick on my laptop.

Transparent instruction sticker 12mm x 44mm – This one is a recent discovery by me. I use it as a book tab or page flags, mostly. I love that these are transparent so that I can see through the text beneath it as well.

4. Pencils

I do not generally use a pencil that often but recently while preparing for the OET exam, I realised the importance of a good pencil. The best pick for me is the HB and 2B pencil by Faber castle. The darkness and grip both are amazing. I just don’t like those new triangle pencils, it hurts my fingers a lot. (To get a cheap deal, it is best to buy these from the local stores near you.)

5. Notebooks and Journals

The most favourite thing in stationery to me are the notebooks and journals. Without getting dreamy and expressing my endless love for them, let me introduce you to my favourites.

I use the following for most of my studies and work:

The purpose to use spiral-bound notebooks are two:

(a) it is easy to fold which makes it compact and manageable while writing.

(b) It is easy to tear pages. A lot of time, I take out pages from my notebooks to stick it into a book or to attach it with any other notes.

This is also the reason why I use A4 sheets. I maintain most of my notes in folders instead of notebooks because it is easy to add any extra page in between when you are dealing with lose pages. Trust me, it will save you from a lot of hassle, you should try that out.

Talking about my journals, I maintain 3 journals at the moment which are –

  1. a bullet journal – with dot grid

  2. a gratitude journal – with handmade paper sheets

  3. a morning pages journal – a spiral bound medium size notebook

My bullet journal is part of my everyday routine, everything I think and plan goes into that. It is the foundation of everything I do. However, when it comes to my gratitude journal and morning pages, I am not that consistent. I get into the habit of doing it every day and then slip out of it. Although I am not steady, I have my best days when I do it. It just makes me so light and ready to win the world. I prefer that you should implement these 2 habits in your routine, it is really a game-changer for internal peace.

If you wish to know more about morning pages, you can check my post about it – Morning Pages


Lastly, a bonus for you – to make my bullet journal engaging, I use decorative tapes every now and then. This is definitely not the most essential thing on your desk, but if it delights you, then you can try out.

I survived medical school and graduated with the minimum stationery items on my desk and the minimal decoration in my notes. I come from the same place as you, I have made decorative notes too. Although I never invested all my energy in giving it the ‘perfect’ look. If you enjoy formulating beautiful jottings and use different kinds of stationery products for that purpose, I totally get it. The most important thing is coming back to the notes, to use active recall and to retain the information. I just want to convey that you can excel in school with the minimum stationery items in your backpack, you do not require anything fancy to score a 10/10. But never give the excuse that your friend scored better because she used the text-liners. (I wrote ‘she’ to address another bias – Can you guess what?)

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