Wednesday, September 13, 2017
We are in the third week of classes, a time when many first-year law students start to feel overwhelmed and upper-level students recognize it is time for them to follow a routine. This is, therefore, an ideal time for me to discuss time management with both groups of students. The upper-level students have experience in the law school environment so they are more likely to know exactly what they need to do to get on task, stay on task, and complete tasks. First-year law students are still adjusting to the environment and sorting through what will be most effective for them to do, often unlearning some habits such as procrastination that previously made them successful.
A routine is very helpful to first-year law students for a few primary reasons. First, it limits the agony of lacking time; second, it takes the decision making out of the process of accomplishing tasks; third, it saves time. A routine removes concern and internal conversation about what to do and when to do it because the decision is already made and the plan is established; thus, only implementation is required. Having no plan can be quite overwhelming for first-year law students, leaving them lost and confused. They usually simply complete tasks that have immediate deadlines, spend an exorbitant amount of time on minute inconsequential details and tasks, and take longer than necessary on other tasks. Even students who are accustom to planning and organizing their lives struggle with this.
Of course, classic organizational tools, processes, and workshops are available through academic support programs at various law schools to assist students. Some of the typical time management steps include:
(1) Brain dumping - gathering information one needs to complete a task in a day or on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis
(2) Ranking or compartmentalizing tasks – distinguishing between tasks that take ample time and those that take less; those that you dread or would avoid at all costs and those that you prefer, assessing the time factor of each task
(3) Creating a time table for completion of each task - morning, afternoon, or evening, but also remembering to include buffer times for tasks that might consume more time than projected and for emergencies. Most importantly, pretest the pan and be open to making adjustments
Issues to consider are whether or not students attend such programming, heed the advice, and/or are open to testing new strategies. For a few consecutive years, we held an in-person time management workshop but it was very poorly attended even though students consistently complained about struggling with time management. So we spent a lot of time working with students on an individual basis. Nowadays, we post a video of the time management workshop and direct students to it at various points during the semester as well as work with students individually. Most first-year law students wonder why things they did in other academic environments are not effective nor efficient for them in law school. Their concern is typically a cue to change habits but are they simply resistant to giving up the familiar?
Develop a plan, get into a routine, and implement it. You can manage all you have to do but you need to first understand your goals, available time, and how to put it all together. Many before you have successfully sorted through this; therefore, you too can do the same but it might take a few different tries so be patient. (Goldie Pritchard)