i The Frugal Law Student | Productivity

Law School
Personal Finance

Getting Clean Done: Effortless House Cleaning For Busy People

Written by Brett McKay


One of my reoccurring goals is to do a better job keeping our living area clean. But because my wife and I are so busy, house cleaning usually gets brushed to the side. Before we know it, the place is a pig pen. Keeping a clean working/living area helps keep stress down and productivity up. Here’s some tricks to help you maintain a clean house with little effort.

  1. Use a timer. You would be amazed how much you can get clean in five minutes. Make it a game. Pick a room, set the timer for 10 minutes, and try to finish cleaning it within the time period. Because you’ll probably running around more than usual, you might actually get a workout from doing this!
  2. Break up house cleaning throughout the week. Instead of doing all your cleaning on the same day, make the task less daunting by breaking it up throughout the week. Make one day bathroom day, another kitchen day, and another bedroom day.
  3. Nightly pickup. Set aside 15 minutes each night to go through the house and pick things up. Once you have everything together, start putting stuff away where it belongs.
  4. Clean as you go. Make cleaning a part of your daily routine so when big cleaning days come up they’re not as hard. For example, after getting ready in the morning take a minute to wipe down the bathroom counter, sinks, and shower. That two minute investment can save you 30 minutes on cleaning day.
  5. Put items where they belong. Develop a habit of putting stuff where it belongs instead of dropping it off in random places. Not only will this help maintain a clean home, it will save you time when you’re trying to find things. No more frantically searching for your car keys when you’re late.
  6. Declutter. Take a weekend to go through your house and declutter. Throw out stuff you don’t use. Less clutter, less to clean.
  7. Clean in between TV commercials. If you watch TV to wind down at night, whenever a commercial comes on, do some simple cleaning. For example, wipe down the kitchen, put things away, or even vacuum. Instead of watching commercials, you can get stuff done, and enjoy your favorite show.
  8. Establish a keep it clean plan. Real Simple has a page with a great plan that shows you how to clean each room in your home in less than 10 minutes. My wife and I are working on establishing this habit. We’re having a hard time, but we’ve noticed that we save lots of time whenever we keep to the plan.

4 Things To Do When You Don’t Want To Do Anything

Written by Brett McKay


Every now and then I’ll have a day when I’m completely apathetic about everything. The idea of being productive makes my brain hurt. These little funks can be extremely frustrating, especially when I have tons to do. For example, last Monday I was up at school trying to get stuff done, when a sudden wave of “don’t-want-to-do-anything-itis” hit hard. This state of mind came at a really inconvenient time, seeing that I had a law review article draft to finish as well as some outlining to do. Consequently, I became frustrated and even more apathetic about wanting to do anything.

Have you ever had one of these days? Here are 4 things you can do that will help get you back on track when you don’t want to do anything.

  1. Take a walk outside. By taking a walk outside, you can clear your head of all the frustration and angst you might be feeling. It gives you time to think and to work off some of that apathy that has consumed your soul. I also think being outside in the fresh air and sun resyncs’s your body and mind to a more natural state. Being cooped up in a building with florescent lighting probably isn’t conducive to apathy free living.
  2. Journal. Writing about why you’re not in the mood to do anything is a great way to work through apathy. Just bust out a notebook and start writing about how you don’t want to do anything and why you feel that way. Don’t think about it too hard. Just free write. After about 10 minutes, you’ll see the source of your “don’t-want-to-do-anything-itis” and you’ll feel much better. Maybe those teenage emo kids are on to something…
  3. Review your goals. When apathy strikes, take some time review your goals. This will help motivate you to get started again.
  4. Do less demanding tasks. Instead of trying to use brute force to get an important task done when you’re not in the mood to work, try easing yourself into work mode by doing less demanding tasks first. For example, you could organize your desk, schedule your week, or respond to emails. By doing less demanding tasks first, you benefit in two ways: 1) it will help ease you into the working state of mind and 2) you’ll at least get some stuff done.

What do you all do when apathy strikes? Drop a line in the comment box and let us know!

Image from Amel Hanan.

Hack Your Pocket Moleskine Into A Wallet

Written by Brett McKay

If you’re like me, you love your Moleskine, but hate having to lug around one more thing in your pants pockets. With a cell phone and wallet already occupying valuable pocket real estate, the addition of the Moleskine can make your bottom half start to feel bulky. I thought about getting one of David Allen’s NoteTaker Wallets, in order to combine my wallet with the note taking functionality of the Moleskine, but they’re $90! As a law student who’s taking on student debt, I can not bring myself to drop $90 for a wallet.

So, here’s the next best thing. Hack your Pocket Moleskine into a fully functioning wallet. The Moleskine already has a folder in the back that serves as a great place to keep paper money and receipts. What it’s lacking is a convenient place to store your credit cards. This hack fixes that. By combining your wallet with the Moleskine, you’ll have one less things to carry.

What We’re Going For



Pretty cool, huh? Let’s get started on your Moleskine wallet.

The Materials


1. Print off the credit card holder template that I’ve provided. Cut them out.

2. Fold the tabs on the cutout. I usually fold the tabs around a credit card to make sure I get precise and snug fold.

3. Apply glue on the side of the tab facing out, like this.


4. Place the first holder at the top of your Moleskine. I placed my credit card holders next the folder on the back cover. You can put your’s where ever you want.


5. Layer the subsequent holders in a stagnated fashion until you get to the bottom, so it will look like this.


6. Let dry. You’re done!

Here’s what it looks like closed:


It’s a little full, but has worked out for me pretty well for me. Now, I never forget to have my Moleskine with me. If anybody else has suggestions, please feel free add them to the comments.

7 Tips To Getting Things Done In Law School (And In Life!)

Written by Brett McKay


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!

The Frugal Law Student’s Free Soundtrack For Maximum Productivity

Written by Brett McKay

I’m always looking for different ways to maximize my productivity and effectiveness during law school. One of the things that I’ve discovered that helps is blocking distractions and stimulating my brain with productivity soundtracks. Depending on the task, I’ll listen to something that will help me focus my attention and get the most out of my time. Here’s the breakdown of my productivity soundtrack.

  1. Trance Music. I used to hate trance music. I always thought it was for a weirdos tripping out on Ecstasy and sucking on binkies. But I started reading on different productivity blogs that computer programmers listen to it while banging out code because it helps them focus. I gave it a try this past week while I’ve been writing my law review article and was surprised that it helped me focus in on my writing. The beats put me in some sort of zen like state that helps the words flow from my brain to the keyboard. To get my fix of trance music for free, I’ve created a trance channel on Pandora. Whenever it’s time for writing and research, I just open up my browser to Pandora and let the music play softly in my headphones. In about 10 minutes I’m in the zone.
  2. Nature white noise. When ever I’m reading or outlining my classes, I like to be a little more relaxed and not as jazzed up as I am when I’m listening to trance. So, I pop on my headphones and listen to some soothing nature sounds like a running stream and birds chirping. It’s the perfect white noise to keep me from getting distracted by people wandering around the library. To create this soothing soundscape, I use Atmosphere Lite, a free nature sound generator for your PC. Atmosphere Lite is pretty robust for a free program. There’s different premade settings like “woodland forest” or “fireside.” You can also create your own soundscape easily. I usually just use the running stream file. Atmosphere lite also lets you add binaural beats to the sound mix. Some people claim binaural beats can help boost learning levels. I’m not so sure about it, but it can’t hurt having them in there.

What is your soundtrack for maximum productivity? Drop a line in the comment box.

Don’t forget to enter into my Chambermaid giveaway! Contest ends September 13!

Top CEOs Don’t Read Getting Things Done

Written by Brett McKay


The New York Times ran an article about the books that sit on the shelves of America’s Top C.E.Os. Surprisingly, there’s not many business or productivity books like Getting Things Done or The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Instead top C.E.Os fill their libraries with fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Take Apple CEO, Steve Jobs. Mr. Jobs has an extensive collection of works by William Blake, an 18th century mystic poet and artist. Michael Moritz, the venture capitalist who took PayPal, Google, and YouTube public, reads T. E. Lawrence’s ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom.’ The article reports C.E.Os with an interest in climate change aren’t reading Al Gore, but rather books from the 15th century about the weather, Egyptian droughts, and even replicas of Sumerian tablets recording extraordinary changes in climate.

Why C.E.Os read fiction, poetry, philosophy, and biographies

It teaches you how to think. Most business books set everything out for the reader in a step-by-step fashion which doesn’t require much mental participation. Fiction, on the other hand, requires the reader to actively take part with the author in order to synthesize the message. The same is true with philosophy or poetry.

New ideas. Reading fiction or the classics from antiquity can help C.E.Os make idea connections they couldn’t make just by reading business books. Perhaps Aristotle could shed light on how to lead or maybe Crime and Punishment can give a marketing director an idea for a new ad campaign.

Learn success from the lives of successful people. If you want to be successful, read about the lives of successful people. Biographies are the original self improvement books. From biographies you can learn how history’s most successful people thought and worked. Take what you read from biographies and apply it in your life.

This article reminded me of the value of reading fiction and other non-business/financial books. I think reading fiction and other genres of literature will help me get new insights for law school and my blog. Perhaps Ovid has something to say about personal finance or maybe Joseph Heller has an insight on how to succeed on law school exams. It’s time I go to the library and find out.

Hat tip my wonderful wife Kate for the article.