[UPDATED REBLOG FROM JAN. 2019]
By Sara Landeryou, Reference GRA
Whether you just survived your first semester, are beginning your last, or are somewhere in between, YOU ARE BUSY. And no one but other law students or lawyers really gets it. So how do you make time to do everything you need to do, some of the things you want to do, and the things your family and friends expect of you? You could stretch yourself so thin that you snap. You could stop sleeping or eating to gain extra time. You could let the exercise go. Or, you can keep reading (if you have the time) and learn some tricks for using your time wisely while in law school.
There is no way to add hours to your day, so we need to learn how to use the time we have more effectively. The ideas below are geared toward the time that we are in school, but good habits will hopefully spill over into our lives after school and will be helpful as our responsibilities change.
Your future may include working in big law and billing lots of hours for several years, getting married and having children, opening your own firm, you just never know. Learning how to manage your time effectively now will help with all those things that are coming more quickly than you think!
So what can you do?
Get more and better sleep. It seems counterintuitive when you are trying to save time, but getting more and better quality sleep will actually save you time in the long run. When you are well-rested, you have more energy, your mind is clearer (for studying), and your body is healthier, so you don’t risk getting sick when finals roll around.
Exercise. Yes, it takes time, and maybe you can’t carve out an hour a day, but even a little will help you to feel better. You can add exercise or at least extra movement during the day. It will keep your body and brain energized and you will feel better for it at the end of the day. Take the stairs, do your reading while you’re on the treadmill or the elliptical, do a few relaxing yoga poses five minutes before bed. Even increasing your movement 15 minutes in bits throughout the day is a win.
Mix your studying and social time. Really. Study (virtually) with your friends. Have a glass of wine or a beer. Work through hypos in a more relaxed and social scene. You can’t study drunk, but you’ll actually learn more by talking through hypos with friends than by rereading a case book. Yes, you’ve got to practice writing, but the most important part of learning is really “getting” it. That is done by talking it through and practicing applying the law. Who better to do that with than the people at school that you like the most.
Give family and non-law friends 100% of your attention. This is tough. You’ve got so much on your mind, you really don’t have time to hang out, and now you’re being told to give 100% of your attention? It can be done. In fact, one of the reasons they are frustrated is that when you are with them, you aren’t “with” them. So, you can actually get away with less time as long as the time you give is quality time. Do a movie night with friends or video chat with mom/dad during lunch. But don’t think about law school at all. You need the break and so do they!
If you are working…. This is a little harder but worth a try. If you are a student that is working and going to law school, try to work in the legal field. First, your colleagues will understand the struggle better than non-law colleagues and they’ll cut you some slack. Second, you’ll be learning more about the law while you are at work, and you’ll be learning a lot of the things you don’t learn in law school. You’ll also be networking to some extent and may work yourself right into a post-law school job which will save you a lot of interviewing time.
Turn off your phone. Not all the time, but for at least an hour of reading/studying time. It is so easy, especially when you have a boring class and/or terrible reading, to keep peeking at your phone or listening for that little buzz that lets you set the book down and check out something more interesting. Just shut it down! Give yourself an hour and power through all of that reading instead of dragging it out and never finishing it all.
Plan. Set a plan for yourself. This doesn’t mean that you have to make an hourly calendar of what you are going to do, but it does mean taking 5 now to look ahead. If you’ve read your syllabus and you know that you’re going to have a project due at the end of February, right about the same time that your best friend has her annual birthday party that leaves you in bed for three days after, start working on it as soon as possible. Outline as you go instead of waiting until the end of the semester, set monthly goals for that big paper so that you can turn it in before it is due instead of cranking it out at the end.
Reflect. At least for a few minutes, each day, week, or month. Look at what has been working for you, and what hasn’t, and change it.
Have any other ideas for saving time? Share them with your friends!