At this point in the semester, I always have law students coming to my office, stressed out because they feel that they just do not have enough time to get everything done. First-year law students have just started believing that they understand at least part of what they’re studying, but then the need to fit time in to outline course materials or complete a legal writing assignment undermines that new confidence and increases their stress. Upper-level law students think that they have law school under control, but then they realize that they’ve committed themselves to too many extracurricular activities, and there’s that one course (or more!) that’s much more difficult than anticipated.
Students often respond to these demands on their time by staying up even later to study. As a result, they do not get enough sleep. Because students are sleep-deprived, it takes longer to get reading and other assignments done, and they’re more likely to make mistakes in their work—less sleep does not translate into more productivity! Moreover, because they are not taking care of their health, these students may catch that cold or flu bug that’s going around, adding even more stress and potentially leading to missed classes that have to be made up somehow on top of everything else.
So if less sleep is not the answer, what is? There are two key things that students can do at this point in the semester to make sure they stay on track.
First, reevaluate your study schedule. It may be time to revisit the weekly schedule you created for yourself at the beginning of the semester. What worked for you at the beginning of the semester may not be the right approach now—you should tweak your schedule to make sure that you are devoting the right amount of time to each task. When students reevaluate their study schedules, they often find that they have more time than they thought they did—they just aren’t making the best use of that time. Once you have a working schedule, hold yourself to it. Don’t allow distractions keep you from getting your school work done during the time you’ve set aside for it.
Second, revisit your priorities. If you recall, a few months ago I explained that it is important to keep priorities in focus during law school. It is easy to get off track and commit to things that do not relate to your most important priorities in life. Look at your schedule and make sure that things that are not on your priority list are not taking over—if you aren’t careful, those commitments can prevent you from spending the time on the things that you’ve decided are most important to you.
This is the point of the semester where getting back to basics can help you to deal with law school stress—keep your focus on the things that you find most important, and use time management to stay on track!