Sunday, August 19, 2018
It is very easy with the excitement and busyness of a new semester to develop some bad habits or lose some good ones. First-year students especially are likely to feel pulled in a million directions by the new experiences and expectations of law school. Not only do 1Ls need to learn new study strategies, but they often need to cope with a new city, first apartment, and increased responsibilities for daily chores. 2Ls and 3Ls may have gotten out of the study-life routine over the summer while they slid into a 9 to 5 summer clerkship routine of evenings and weekends off.
It does not take long for the workload to become a bit overwhelming, and for life-law-school balance to get out of whack. Students start burning the proverbial candle at both ends. Before long, late nights, junk food, and caffeine jitters seem unavoidable. A downward spiral begins: stress, fatigue, lack of motivation, sadness, and more.
By implementing some simple steps for wellness and study-life balance at the beginning of the semester, law students can avoid that overwhelmed feeling and the downward spiral. Consider these steps as "preventative medicine" for law students:
- Set up a weekly routine with blocks of time marked off for study tasks for each course (class prep, outlines, review, practice questions, other assignments) as well as for life's tasks (laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, errands). If you are married or have children, life tasks may include family dinners, bedtime stories, and other tasks. By having repetitive blocks already scheduled to cover all of these tasks, you see where you will get things done.
- Enter 7-8 hours of sleep per night into your schedule blocks. Proper sleep combats fatigue, stress, depression, and lack of motivation. Proper sleep increases focus, concentration, productivity, retention/recall, and mental agility.
- Enter blocks into your schedule for meals. Proper nutrition combats fatigue, stress, depression, hypoglycemia, and more. Proper nutrition supports brain function. Planned meal times aid digestion and relaxation.
- Enter blocks into your schedule for exercise. Exercise not only has physical benefits, but it does wonders for combating stress. You only need 30 minutes 5 times a week to get the boost.
- Enter blocks into that weekly routine for "down time" when you have permission to relax fully because you have already completed the other tasks for the week in the scheduled blocks. Most law students want the most down time Friday and Saturday nights, but it varies with lifestyle. Knowing you will have time off provides greater motivation to get things done to enjoy guilt-free time off. Scheduled down time also allows spouses and children to plan fun activities with you.
- Complete meal prep on the weekends as much as possible. You will save time during the week while avoiding the temptations of junk food. Cook a main entree that will last several nights in a crockpot. Cut up raw fruit and vegetables for healthy snacks during the week. Make sandwiches ahead in single-serve containers to grab and go. Portion out nuts, raisins, trail mix for energy snack packs.
- Group errands together by location. Grocery shop when the store is less crowded. Spread laundry or cleaning over several different days or weeks (Saturday clothes laundry and Sunday sheets and towels laundry; dust one Saturday and vacuum the next Saturday).
- Use a "to do" list to prioritize the tasks for the time blocks you have in your schedule for the day. The class prep for Contracts block translates to "read pages 28-41 and complete problems 5-7" on your daily list. You know exactly what tasks need completion and lower your stress as you cross tasks off your list.
- Take small breaks throughout the day to practice relaxation, meditation, or mindfulness. These mini-breaks can rejuvenate your body and mind.
If you take control over these basic areas of your life, law school falls into place and allows you balance. You do not have to fall victim to the often-heard rant that "law school does not allow time for anything else." (Amy Jarmon)