Is it that time of year? During the past week, I have received a disturbing number of angsty emails and direct messages from 1Ls along the line of “oh my god I’m drowning.”
Obviously my advice to “calm down, breathe, and just do” is falling on deaf ears so I’m going to give the panic crew an assignment, due by the end of next week: 5 steps to productivity.
1. Ditch the laptop.
Typically you do not need a computer to complete your reading assignments. Write the page numbers down on a piece of paper and leave the laptop in your locker. This way you can focus on Torts and Contracts, and not the fug blog, which is only mildly related to the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
2. Ditch the briefing.
Some students cannot comprehend the material without awkwardly outlining the procedural posture of a case…which is fine. Judge free zone. Really.
But unless you are one of those people, you should consider book briefing.
Also cut the elaborate highlighting system. You’re a law student, not Rainbow Brite. It is much quicker to just write “BEST-INTERESTS ANALYSIS” or “PROCEDURAL POSTURE” in caps the margin than to color every-other sentence.
3. Make health non-negotiable.
Get eight hours of sleep, every day, or you will get swine flu. I promise.
I treat sleep like a non-negotiable appointment with a very unforgiving boss and schedule accordingly.
4. Monitor your time.
I use Windows Calendar to schedule my week.2
Like most people, I have reoccurring appointments scheduled for my classes, work, sleep, and buffer times.
What is equally important to scheduling your time is to record how you actually spent your time. I use a dark purple color to indicate “wasted time” and then write exactly what I “did” during those unproductive hours.
When I don’t get enough sleep, I can guarantee that my evening will be covered with the purple “crap time” designation. The blotches on my calendar alert me to the trend and help me correct course and avoid a self-reinforcing1 unproductive cycle.
5. Be conscious of what you are doing.
Do not try to convince yourself that you are working when you are not. Take your breaks, and then focus.
And don’t let characterizations fool you: a distraction is anything that halts your progress on what your are working on. For example, it took a long time for me to realize that news is entertainment, and just as much of a distraction. It was somehow unacceptable to spent 30 minutes on Bitter Lawyer or gossip blogs, but okay to spend two hours reading Gretawire or CNN.
I eventually realized that a suicide bombing in Afghanistan is about as relevant to me as Rihanna’s new dress and my professors do not care whether I am unprepared because I was reading a blawg, ABA News, or Above The Law.
These five steps should improve things. If you still feel stuck after a week or two, then you can email/dm me again and I’ll either try to help or refer you to wiser students.
More advice on No.634 is here.
1 Not getting enough sleep because I didn’t get my reading done, not getting the reading done because I’m tired…
2 Windows Calendar is similar to iCal and Outlook.