To say law school is hard is an understatement. Not only is it intellectually challenging, it is a huge time commitment. I have classes, reading and writing assignments, outlining, job interviews, extracurricular activities, and (somehow) a social and family life to cram into one week. Sometimes it feels like I can never get it all done. But success in law school requires me to get as much of it done as I can. That’s why effective time management is the key to law school success. Here’s a list of 7 things you can do to help you manage your time more effectively in law school and in your life.
- Get a planner or calendar. You can’t get by in law school without some sort of calendar or planner. There are tons of options for one to choose from. You can go with a paper based system or a digital one. Each one has their pros and cons. You can find good paper based planners at any office supply store or you can make your own like I did. If you want to go digital, Microsoft Outlook, iCal for Mac, and Google Calendar are great applications for planning. Find what works for you.
- Plan and review weekly. After you get your calendar, pick a day each week to review the past week and plan the upcoming one. When you plan, first start with scheduling “hard” appointments. These are items that you have to go to like classes, interviews, or Dr. appointments. Second, plan when you’re going to read each day. Set aside enough time to finish the assignment. Third, plan when you’re going to outline and review notes. Finally, plan when you’re going to work on any writing assignments. At the end of the week, review what you got done, what didn’t get done, and how you can improve next week.
- Plan and review daily. Because you’ve already planned your week out, daily planning shouldn’t take that long. It’s basically to review what you got going on that day so you can prepare yourself accordingly. You’ll also be able to make changes to your plan if circumstances have changed.
- Write everything down. Don’t trust your brain to remember assignments. Always write things down. Create a place where you can collect information in one spot. If you have notes everywhere, your brain has to remember where you put each one. It does you no good to write things down if you can’t remember where you wrote it down. If you use a planner, that’s a perfect place to collect information. If a planner isn’t your thing, carry around a couple of 3×5 index cards in your back pocket. Whenever you want to remember something, write it down. At the end of the day, review the notes you’ve collected and sync them with some sort of calendar.
- Practice the 45/15 rule. If you have trouble with procrastinating or if the thought of reading for 2 hours straight makes you want to stab yourself in the eye, try implementing the 45/15 rule. What you do is make a commitment to work 45 minutes straight without distractions. After 45 minutes, reward yourself by taking a 15 minute break. Surf the web, go to the vending machine and buy a pop, or go talk to someone. After the 15 minutes is up, get back to work for another 45. By breaking up your time like this, you’ll avoid feeling overwhelmed. It also aids in beating fatigue, so you’ll be even more productive when you’re actually working.
- Avoid distractions. Distractions can kill any well thought out plan. Find out what your distractions are and kill them. Mine is surfing the web. That’s why whenever I need to get something done, I’ll turn off my wireless so I’m not tempted to surf the web.
- Read up on productivity and time management. There are tons of great resources out there on how to be more productive. Two great books are Getting Things Done by David Allen and First Things First by Stephen Covey. They’re both easy reads and filled with practical tips on how to be more effective with your time. On the web, there are tons of blogs dedicated to productivity and time management. Three of the best resources include lifehacker.com, zenhabits.net, and lifehack.org. Also make sure to check out Legal Andrew for articles on productivity from the law student’s perspective. I also write quite a bit about productivity here at The Frugal Law Student, so make sure to subcribe to my RSS feed.
What do you all do to get more done during the day? Please share with the rest of us!