So, you just got accepted into law school. Congratulations! Who knew doing keg stands at the Beta House kegger would lead to this? Law school will bring new experiences and challenges. Law school is very stressful. Students often feel overwhelmed by the demands and deadlines of law school. There will be new stresses to deal with as well. There are ways to meet these challenges to make your time in law school go smoothly. We have some helpful time management tips to help you get through law school with as little stress as possible.
Review Your Study Habits
The first part of your time management game plan is to review. No, not your notes. We will get to those soon. As an undergrad, you probably picked up a few time management skills. You should go back and check what worked and did not work.
Moreover, law school deadlines are more demanding than undergrad deadlines, so you won’t be able to use the same strategy. You may think you are being productive and putting in the necessary hours for reading, studying, and working on assignments. However, we tend to forget that we are humans and we are easily distracted.
As much as we all wish we were David Kidney, I can’t promise this guide will help you get a Master’s and a PhD while you get a JD. However, if you follow my guides you will have time to de-worm orphans in Somalia. Take a few days to go over your study habits. You may dedicate five hours a week for studying. However, are you really spending the full five hours studying?
You have to plan study breaks (breaks are really important and mandatory). Also, you might take a moment to return a friend’s text. You also want to let people know you are studying so you will post on Twitter. There’s also a new alert on your news feed you might check out. Can you fully understand and absorb the readings the first time? Or do you read the same chapters multiple times to keep the information? Do you tend to daydream? Are you prone to getting lost in a Wiki wormhole when doing research?
Take note of how easily your study hours are whittled away. Even the links on this article drain your time. The first step is to recognize the distractions and find out how you learn best. Recognize how long it typically takes you to finish a task. This will help you create an efficient study schedule.
Remove the Distractions
Once you know what distracts you find a space away from those distractions. Your study space is comfortable, familiar, and quiet. You should enjoy being in your study space since you will spend a lot of time there. Once you are in that space, turn off your phone and step away from the world for a few hours. Let your friends and family know that you have blocked out a set amount of time for studying. This way you are not thinking about who might be texting you or what conversation you are missing out on.
Focus is key. Your study space is a distraction-free space so you can concentrate your full intellect and attention on your work. You need to put in all your effort into studying. At best, you ruin your concentration by occasionally texting friends, checking social media, or even daydreaming. At worst, you are wasting time as a deadline nears. The only way to effectively understand and keep information is to focus all of your energies on studying. It will be difficult at first. You have to train yourself to step away from distractions.
Create a Study Schedule
Now that you know how to focus and optimize your time plan a study schedule. You will schedule every hour of your week and fill it with both your school activities and personal activities. Everything from the meals you will cook to the exams you have to study for will be scheduled. This way, you cut the odds of procrastinating and use your time efficiently. I suggest you buy an old-fashioned paper planner. Keeping a digital planner on your phone or computer can open you up to distractions in your study space.
First, block out the class hours and sleep hours. Remember you need at least 8 hours for sleep. Then, take a look at your syllabus and map out short-term and long-term goals. Block out time for the readings and assignments you need to do within the next week or two. Next, mark down the due dates for assignments and exams that are weeks or months away. Then, block out the dates and times you will start these assignments and begin studying for exams. Afterward, add an hour-long break after every two hours of intense studying. Finally, block out the remaining hours for free time and hobbies.
The point is to get yourself used to a routine. I understand “routine” is confused with “rut”, something repetitive that is keeping you from being yourself. This is not the case. You probably already have several routines that have become commonplace to you. Ordering Bloaty’s Pizza Hog for dinner and watching Netflix on a Friday night is routine. Game Night on Wednesday with friends is a routine. Going to the gym is a routine. There is nothing wrong with routine as long as your routine is full of best practices for getting you through law school.
This way you can stay on top of due dates and you will not scramble to finish something last-minute. Your routine will also help you pace yourself. Rushing to finish a chapter a few minutes before class is not productive. Neither is reading half the textbook a week into the course. You will fill your study schedule with goals to carry out that day, that week, and that month. By sticking to those goals you will manage your time efficiently and cut your stress. You will find that you will have plenty of time to let your inner Elle Woods loose.
Even the most thorough study schedule will not help with time management if you do not stick to your goals. There are tasks on your schedule that you hate. It is easy to put it off. But this opens you to procrastination. Furthermore, you will have the task in the back of your mind all day causing you stress. You know you have to get to that difficult chapter eventually. You might end up working slower in an attempt to delay the inevitable. Instead of having it haunt you get it done first. You gain the satisfaction of getting a difficult task out of the way.
Also, the hours you blocked out for free time and hobbies are not part of your break time. The hour breaks are to rest your mind after deep concentration. This way you do not tax your mind and you can more easily get back to work. Do not pick up your phone or play a game. As long as you are in your study space, those distractions do not exist.
Listen to some music, take a walk, grab a coffee, or make yourself a snack. Your priority is to relax for a short time and get back to your work. Talking to a friend or scrolling through Instagram can open yourself to distractions. Suddenly, you’re making weekend plans or worrying about what someone posted on their feed. You reserve these activities for your free time.
Additionally, because you have reviewed your study habits you know how long certain tasks take you. Challenge yourself by setting a goal of finishing the task way ahead of the deadline. This will leave you time to check with a classmate or your professor the assignment. You also open time to add to your planned free time. Who doesn’t like an extra hour a week to play Super Smash Bros.?
Best of all, PracticePanther gives out their case management software to law students for free. You could use the software to help you keep track of goals and set reminders. It is also beneficial to familiarize yourself with technology that will be necessary to run your firm efficiently. You can continue the same helpful time management skills well after you finish law school.
Don’t Forget About Your Health
One thing to keep in mind is your mental and psychical health. You will spend long hours sitting in class, sitting in the library studying, sitting in a coffee shop reading, and so on. A successful time management plan cannot forget to include room for fun. Law school does not bring an end to your social life. Your success in law school will depend on your health. It does not matter how great your study schedule is if you are stressed. You must make time to keep yourself healthy and happy.
Schedule regular study breaks and a few hours each week of “off time”. A stressed mind and body simply do not function well. You won’t keep information or process it as effectively. Your study schedule should also leave room for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, a balanced diet, and exercise.
You know how hard the freshman 15 is. If you did not learn better dietary strategies as an undergrad you should start now. The old saying, “you are what you eat” still stands. Plan a diet built around brain foods. Consider incorporating more fish (specifically salmon & tuna), wholegrains, leafy vegetables, avocado, blueberries, nuts and seeds into your diet. These foods are healthy and packed with important nutrients. They will help increase your focus, memory, and energy.