Thursday, March 8, 2007
Spring Break is almost upon us. Although some of my students are of the cruise contingent, most students are planning to spend a major portion of their time away on law school tasks. So, I have been handing out tips all week to those who are trying to decide how to balance fun with studying.
The following items seem to assist many students in their planning:
- Be realistic in plans for studying. Do not vow to study 15 hours a day for the entire break period. Be realistic about travel plans. Be realistic about when one will get up. Be realistic about what family events will be required. Be realistic about friends who will be home for break. Be realistic about law student stamina at this point in the semester. Be realistic about what must be done before you return to school.
- Plan ahead for studying during break as much as possible before leaving town. Consider each day and determine when studying is going to take place. For example, Monday may be morning and afternoon;Tuesday may be afternoon and evening; Wednesday may be an all-day event; and so forth. Write in the tasks to accomplish each day. Then, organize the materials that are needed to complete those tasks so that nothing will be left behind by mistake.
- Consider how to streamline and prioritize the study materials that need to be packed. It may be easier to photocopy casebook readings rather than carry all of the books on the trip. Flashcards may be useful additions for time waiting in airports. Outlines printed out may be easier than taking a lap top along. Take the one or two study aids that will actually be used rather than every study aid owned.
- Decide whether travel time can be used for studying. Some students will have long lay-overs in airports or long flights when they can get some studying done. Law students who are driving or flying may want to listen to audio-tapes or CD's for their courses. Some law students who car pool recommend quizzing with flashcards on the drive or group solving of practice questions.
- Plan what to say to family and friends. Family and friends may remember the relaxed and play-time atmosphere of college breaks. They may not be prepared for law school breaks and the need to study. At the beginning of the break period, let them know why it is important to complete certain tasks before returning to school. Share the study plan you have made and ask for understanding.
- Build in some fun time with family or friends. If family and friends know when they will have time with their reclusive law student, they will be more understanding about supporting study efforts. Look for compromises. If dinner with Aunt Bessie is a command performance, then carve out other study time and ask for cooperation. Some law students put the study plan on the refrigerator so the entire family knows what to expect.
- Break down study tasks into smaller chunks. It is easier to stay focused and feel a sense of accomplishment if a 50-page reading assignment is broken down into 5-page chunks or one-case-chunks. Likewise, small research, writing, or editing tasks seem less onerous than doing all of the research or writing or editing.
- Complete the hardest or least liked tasks first. This way, the onerous tasks do not make the entire day miserable as they are avoided and left until last.
- Build in rewards. Use little rewards for little tasks: a cup of coffee; reading a bed-time story to a little brother; a 10-minute phone call. Use big rewards for bigger tasks: a movie with a friend; a dinner out; an afternoon walk with the family dog.
- Build up a storehouse of sleep and nuitrition. The last weeks of the semester will be very hectic. Get on a good sleep and nuitrition regimen during Spring Break and stick to it during the remainder of the semester. Brain cells will function better for studying and in exams.
Of course, most of all, we hope that our students have safe travels. (alj)