Many law students do not have a system for keeping themselves accountable in law school. They should know what happens if they skip over something or miss an item on their to-do list. And we are consistently surprised that many law students do not manage their time at all.
When law students show up in class and do the readings and merely mark off “studying” on their calendar, they usually will not get the results they want. An unplanned calendar does not help the student see where their time is actually being spent, it does not give them accountability, and it does not help them prioritize.
Start using the calendar programs that your devices provide, including your e-mail, laptops and phones. Place specific tasks within 30 minute blocks of time and then place longer, separate blocks of time on weekends for outlining, memorizing, and writing hypos. Students just merely using a linear to-do list will often not accomplish the same level of productivity. An entire day can get away from you by just doing quick activities like coffee breaks, checking your e-mail, and making phone calls.
Here is how you can stay focused with calendaring: block off half an hour for lunch, a study group from 1-1:30pm, two hours of Contracts reading from 2:00-4:00pm and dinner with family at 7pm. If you have a calendar, you are more likely to get these things done and you can still grab coffee and check your e-mail on break time, or extend your calendar blocks to account for variation. If you set aside an entire day for eight hours of outlining, you are likely to stay on track so that you do not stay up too late and mess up that day which was supposed to be productive.
Having structure can even allow you to have spontaneity. If you schedule for everything, then you are not missing the unexpected. So if a friend comes in with an impromptu concert ticket or you need to get your car repaired, you can probably adjust and shift around that block of time that was reserved for other things.
Having guidelines will give you boundaries. Students are more likely to get the things they do not necessarily enjoy doing done first and then enjoy their fun extracurricular activities later. Remember the saying “you should finish your dinner before you have dessert.” Try to keep that mindset. Finish your practice exams with us before you go out with your friends.
The best way to tackle a semester in law school is to map out your final exams and work backwards. Insert important deadlines like a due date for a paper. Then look to see how many weeks you have left to learn a topic. Yes, that’s right! Do not convince yourself that you have months and months. Remind yourself that you only have so many weeks. Yes, weeks! If you do not do this, your tasks are likely to pile up at the end of the semester.
Reading week is important to use for last minute review and memorization. This is not the time to be re-reading cases, or hustling with a bunch of practice exams last minute. If you practice throughout the semester, you will begin to see how to use rules for facts patterns and how to improve your analysis. But if you are trying to just learn and memorize early in the semester, you are taking away the valuable learning lessons of practice exams and you are also trying to shove a bunch of information in your brain that you are likely to forget anyway by the time you get into your final exams.
If you think you need help, contact us. We regularly place students on a schedule and hold them accountable. When students have sessions scheduled with us, they know they need to produce something to discuss. Otherwise our discussion will be useless. This forces the student to turn in an exam and be prepared each time.
Use a stopwatch to calculate your time. If you take a break for any reason, stop the clock. You may notice that it might take you five hours to do two hours of real, earnest, outlining. This will tell you that you need to be blocking off five hours in your calendar instead of two in order to be realistic. And it will show you the kind of unaccounted for time that might be wrecking your productivity. This could be social media, TV, eating at a restaurant, and speaking with classmates. Remember that it is difficult to solve a problem if you do not know what that problem is or why it exists in your life.
The first step to being more efficient is taking stock of the things that contribute to your inefficiency. Here is a good real-life example: if you are a boss and the time you track is for someone else who is your employee, you will be more strict with what you are doing when the clock is running. This is particularly true if the person you hired is taking money out of your pocket, in the form of a salary. So why not expect the same of yourself and see what is efficient and productive?
LST – Law School Tutor assists students in achieving high grades during law school, in order to ensure that they have better academic opportunities during law school and better job opportunities after law school.
For more information, please contact LST at firstname.lastname@example.org