Thursday, April 7, 2011

Making time when there seems to be none

A common theme in my discussion with students this week is that there are not enough hours in the day.  Many of them are starting to get stressed over the amount of work to fit into the amount of time left in the semester. 

Part of the problem is that they are trying to juggled end-of-the-semester assignments and papers with ongoing daily tasks and review for final exams.  It can seem overwhelming if one does not use good time management skills.

Here are some tips:

  • Realize that you control your time.  With intentional behavior, a student can take control of the remainder of the semester rather than feeling as though it is a roller coaster ride. Make time for what really matters.
  • Work for progress in every course.  If one focuses on one course to the detriment of the other courses, it creates a cycle of catch-up and stress.  A brief might be due in legal writing, but that should not mean dropping everything else for one or two weeks.  Space out work on a major assignment over the days available and continue with daily work in all other courses.
  • Use small pockets of time for small tasks.  Even 15 minutes can be used effectively!  Small amounts of time are useful for memory drills with flashcards or through rule recitation out loud.  20 minutes can be used to review class notes and begin to condense the material for an outline.  30 minutes can be used for a few multiple-choice practice questions or to review a sub-topic for a course.
  • Capture wasted time and consolidate it.  Students often waste up to an hour at a time chatting with friends, playing computer games,  watching You Tube, answering unimportant e-mails, and more.  Look for time that can be used more productively.  If several wasted blocks of time during a day can be re-captured and consolidated into a longer block, a great deal can be accomplished!  For example, reading for class can often be shifted in the day to capture several separate, wasted 30-minute slots and consolidate them into another block of perhaps 1 1/2 hours. 
  • Use windfall time well.  It is not unusual in a day to benefit from unexpected blocks of time that could be used.  A ride is late.  A professor lets the class out early.  A study group meets for less time than expected.  An appointment with a professor is shorter than scheduled.  Rather than consider the time as free time, use it for a study task.
  • Realize the power of salvaged blocks of time.  If a student captures 1/2 hour of study time a day, that is 3 1/2 extra hours per week.  An hour per day adds up to 7 hours per week.  Time suddenly is there that seemed to be unavailable.
  • Break down exam review into sub-topics.  You may not be able to find time to review the entire topic of adverse possession intensely, but you can likely find time to review its first element intensely.  By avoiding the "all or nothing mentality" in exam review,  progress is made in smaller increments.  It still gets the job done!
  • Evaluate your priorities and use of time three times a day.  Every morning look at your tasks for the day and evaluate the most effective and efficient ways to accomplish everything.  Schedule when you will get things done during the day.  Do the same thing at lunch time and make any necessary changes.  Repeat the exercise at dinner time.
  • Cut out the non-essentials in life.  Save shopping for shoes for that August wedding (unless perhaps you are the bride) until after exams.  Stock up on non-perishable food staples now rather than shop for them every week.  Run errands in a group now and get it over with to allow concentrating on studies for the rest of the semester.
  • Exercise in appropriate amounts.  If you are an exercise fanatic spending more than 7 hours a week on workouts, it is time to re-prioritize.  You may have the best abs among law students at your school, but you need to workout your brain cells at this point in the semester.
  • Boost your brain power in the time you have.  Sleep at least 7 hours a night.  Eat nutritional meals.  Your brain cells will be able to do the academic heavy lifting in less time if you do these simple things.

So, take a deep breath.  Take control of your time.  And good luck with the remainder of the semester. (Amy Jarmon)          

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