Productivity Tips for the Upcoming Academic Year

office-work-1149087_1920 Although studying from home has its advantages, it also presents its challenges. The potential lack of structure, combined with the absence of social reinforcement and the presence of myriad distractions, can exacerbate the already-acute anxieties associated with law school’s heavy workload. Learning how to efficiently manage that workload should be part of any strategy to mitigate that stress. If harnessing the power of your smartphone to get organized sounds appealing, you may want to try productivity apps (all of the ones described here come in free and paid versions, and are available for iOS and Android.)

The first app to check off your list is a to-do list. The purpose is easy to understand for anyone who’s ever composed a grocery list: it helps you organize your most immediate tasks for action. As you complete action items, you virtually “check” them off, and they disappear from your list, giving you a nice little rush of positive reinforcement. My go-to to-do is Todoist. Its intuitive interface makes it easy to create tasks, break them into subtasks, and of course, check them off. In addition, the combo of voice integration and natural-language processing allows you to speak your tasks into your phone as they occur to you, which is valuable when you inevitably recall a critical but heretofore forgotten task while knocking out your household chores.

Next, you’ll want a dedicated note-taking app for creating and organizing notes and materials that won’t fit into a list format, such as class notes. In this category, I’m a fan of Evernote. It has excellent optical character recognition, allowing you to, say, take a picture of that maddening Pennoyer v. Neff case, annotate it during your WebEx lecture, and then search it all by keyword later in the semester when you’re pulling all of that personal jurisdiction material together for your Civ Pro outline.

habitica screenshot

The final element in your productivity suite should be a habit tracker. Habit trackers, which are designed to directly incentivize your healthiest and most productive behaviors, really help to keep you on track in a world full of distractions and diversions. For its considerable fun factor, I like Habitica here, which gamifies your habitual behaviors and presents them as a SNES-style RPG. So, yeah, you can totally earn experience points, find some sweet magical armor, and slay dragons just by washing your dishes, wrapping up those Con Law readings, and getting your steps in.  It also allows you to create even more accountability by questing with your real-life friends (while maintaining social distance) in a party of habit-forming adventurers.

Are there any other productivity apps you find to be especially helpful in organizing your law-school life at home? Let us know in the comments.

True Crime at the Law Library

Looking for a frightful distraction from the stress of law school? Perhaps you should investigate the law library’s true crime collection, currently on display. But don’t forget to think critically about the power of these depictions to shape perceptions of the law.

For the increasing numbers of readers, viewers, and listeners who have fallen victim to the thrills of true crime, the genre is an important source of exposure to criminal justice. So it’s no surprise that many scholars have explored the relationship between the consumption of true crime media, fear of crime, and attitudes towards the legal system.

Some have bemoaned the purported link between the public demand for punitive criminal laws in the late 80s/early 90s and the increased popularity of true crime books. More recently, however, commentators are encouraged by the genre’s capacity for informing the public about our system’s shortcomings (such as the prevalence of wrongful convictions), but wary of risks that that same informative quality could also misinform the public. But those risks might be overstated: when it comes to legal concepts like the insanity defense, true crime addicts are no less informed than the general public.

Others have focused on the genre’s effects on the fear of crime. Compared to viewers of fictional crime dramas, true crime viewers are more fearful of crime, and that fear even appears to undermine their confidence in the criminal justice system. That lack of confidence might even mean that true crime viewers are more likely to acquit criminal defendants. And these effects can vary depending on viewers’ race and ethnicity, perhaps due to the genre’s overrepresentation of white female victims.

As an important actor within the legal system, these intriguing findings should give you something to ponder as you probe our ref-section ‘crime scene’ (pictured). Our display includes some of the genre’s most notorious works, while also highlighting accounts of crimes that occurred here in Georgia, such as the infamous Atlanta Child Murders (depicted in the most recent season of Netflix’s Mindhunter). Check them out!