Thursday, November 21, 2013

Time, Time, Time...

Sometimes, timing is everything.  Law students need to learn to use their time wisely to effectively manage the demands of law school while balancing jobs, families, and self-care.  Being at the right place at the right time makes a significant difference for law students who are networking for job opportunities and seeking support systems. Also, timing and pacing during a final exam (or the bar exam) can mean the difference between a passing grade and a failing one.  In this post, I have referenced song lyrics that incorporate the theme of time while relating them to the law school experience.

“If I could save time in a bottle…”  I know I may be dating myself with this one, but I had to begin with this classic line from Jim Croce’s hit love song “Time in a Bottle”.  Ask your students what they would do if they could save time in a bottle.  Are they making the most of each moment?  Are they being intentional with how they plan their schedules, spend their time, and balance their commitments?  We all want more time (especially law students), but instead of focusing on the lack of time we have, highlight ways to use time more efficiently and encourage your students to be present when free moments avail themselves.

“I’ve got too much time on my hands…”  This classic rock song by Styx was written as a reflection on the unemployment crisis in the 70’s.  The underlying theme in the lyrics rings true in many respects for today’s law students.  They are worried about their careers, finding a job, and performing well on exams.  They may not be able to tighten their focus when they actually do find that they have “time on their hands."  Time management does not always come naturally.  Providing students with tools and resources to help them manage their time will help them prioritize, use their free time wisely, and establish effective routines.

Similar to the melancholy quality of Styx’s lyrics, Otis Redding hits a few low notes when he croons about… “sitting on the dock of the bay…wasting time….”  Students sometimes sit and feel like they cannot catch a break.  Redding’s hit resonates with students who are feeling like they have left the life they knew only to find that law school is challenging, competitive, and sometimes disappointing.  When they feel like “nothing's gonna change”, we step in to give them hope.  Providing the tools for success to law students empowers them to make necessary changes to ensure their success.  Especially at the close of the semester, we need to recognize that law students are exhausted, overloaded, and feeling lost.   As Cyndi Lauper so aptly sings in “Time After Time”, when law students "are lost, they turn and they will find [us]", Academic Support Professionals.  We catch them and lift them back up.

After exams or a when facing a rough patch during the semester, students may need to turn to ASP for this lift or for help with creating a new plan for their upcoming semester.  If their study strategies or exam performance are subpar, they begin humming, “If I could turn back time” (with Cher’s iconic diva-ness echoing in their minds).  Reflecting on study habits, legal analysis skills, and exam performance are key components to succeeding in law school.  Everyone has moments in their past that they wish they could replay (or delete).  Using these moments as opportunities for growth instead of moments of failure, helps students see beyond their initial shock, shame, or disappointment. 

Like the Stones, we want our students to sing (and feel) that "time is on my side, yes it is...."  While this may not always be realistic, there are many ways to get closer to that dream.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Create sample study schedules for your students
  • Give them calendars and checklists to help them plan their time
  • Ask them to keep a journal that tracks how they use their time during a typical day or week and then ask them to reflect on their time management
  • Provide a time management workshop or webinar
  • Have them draft a to do list at the start of each day and evaluate their progress at the end of each day
  • Pair 1L students up with a 2L or 3L mentor to discuss how to effectively schedule their time
  • Challenge students to unplug for a block of time each day (This is a good one for all of us!)
  • Teach students the art of delegation
  • Encourage students to take time each day to recharge. 

By establishing routine time management practices, students will feel more balanced and be more productive.  Because as Pete Seeger so aptly wrote, there is "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance."  We should all spend more time dancing.

(Lisa Young)

 

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