Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Teaching Time Management

There are a couple of skills that feel more akin to life management or corporate training that academic support.  One of them is time management.  It is essential to doing well in law school, and it is a skill most students come to law school believing they already have in their repetoire.  After teaching this skill many times, I have a few helpful suggestions that make the lesson more effective.

1) Tell them it is a new skill set. They may have academic time management down to a science, but academic time management doesn't require you to measure your work in 6-minute increments. By reinforcing the idea that time management is a professional skill, not remedial training, students are more likely to buy-in to the lesson. Using old billable hour time sheets can help students visualize the change.

2) One of the best books I have found for lessons that support time management as a professional skill is Dennis Tonsings 1000 Days to the Bar (HEIN).  There is an excellent chapter on scheduling, with wonderful charts, that help students map how they use their time.

3) There are fewer external checkpoints in law school to help students benchmark their studying. With academic time management, students have formative assessments (quizzes, midterms) that serve as a check throughout the semester. After each checkpoint, students could reassess their study system and make adjustments. Many times, a test or a midterm covers the material up to that point in the semester, and the final only covers material from the midterm to the final. Not the case at most law schools; the entire grade rests on one test.  Therefore, students need to create checkpoints early in the semester to benchmark their work.  The only way to hold oneself accountable is to plan early; scheduling is critical.  Law school won't provide external checkpoints, so students need to learn how to schedule them into studying.

4) Students should try using multiple calendars. A semester calendar can help students map their overall study schedule. A monthly or weekly calendar can help students see smaller, essential engagements. A daily calendar or a to-do list can help students stay on track throughout the day.  For many people, checking things off of a to-do list or crossing them off a calendar provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Law school doesn't provide many things students can feel good about, but this is one small way students can reward themselves. 

(RCF) 

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