Law school doesn’t just train you in the law you’ll need to know when you start practicing, it also introduces you to many of the attributes you’ll need to be a successful lawyer. Just like lawyers, law students need to produce high quality work on a consistent basis, while managing lots of different projects, deadlines, and responsibilities. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, here’s the really tricky part: many, if not most, of the tasks law students and lawyers have to complete aren’t particularly fun. Sure, there are times when the work is interesting, and thought-provoking, and challenging in a good way, but there are also a lot of times when the work is boring, tedious, or just plain difficult. But part of being a professional means you have to find a way to get it all done, even the boring, tedious, difficult stuff.
That’s where routines come in. A good routine will help you get all of your work done promptly and effectively, including the assignments you’re dreading. If you’re relying purely on your own willpower to complete your assignments, you’re much more likely to procrastinate and experience unnecessary stress. But if your relying on a good routine, you’ll be removing the possibility of delaying studying time, which will lead to better time management, improved focus, and increased productivity.
But what does a good routine really mean? A good routine means you’ve created a detailed, comprehensive schedule for your day and your week that assigns a specific time for completing everything that needs to get done. To the extent you can, each day and week should be as consistent as possible. You should strive to get up at the same time each day, perform the same morning ritual, and start studying at the same time and place. Your study breaks should be the same length and at the same time each day and you should try to end your work day at the same time.
When you’re creating your routine, consider scheduling your most difficult tasks for early in the morning, when you have more energy and motivation. To the extent you can, incorporate your non-law school related responsibilities (like exercise, chores, etc.) into your routine to make each day as seamless as possible. Of course, some flexibility and variability is fine, but try to keep your schedule as consistent as you can. You’re essentially creating a system that you can follow without thinking – one that will automate your actions and make you less vulnerable to any distractions.
You may find that following such a rigid routine is difficult at first and you may even feel like you’re not being particularly efficient during your study periods, but force yourself stick to it. It takes a few weeks to form a new habit, so you need to follow your new schedule for a while before it becomes truly routine. So if you’ve scheduled to study for two hours at the library, go sit at the library for two hours, even if you don’t get anything done (although chances are you’ll get so bored that you’ll do something). Eventually, your ability to focus will improve as your mind gets used to working at those times each day. You want to get to the point where studying at certain times of the day and certain days of the week becomes the default mode, so that completing your work no longer becomes a chore that you can put off, but instead becomes a necessary part of your day.
You’ve got to get a lot of stuff done, and done well, as a law student. The demands on your time and the difficulty of the work will only increase when you start practicing law, so it’s absolutely essential that you learn strategies for dealing with this work load now. Relying on a routine – and really sticking to it – is a great strategy to help you complete everything you need to, even those tasks that you’re not particularly looking forward to. Create your schedule, commit to following it, and try to routinize your day to improve your efficiency and get stuff done!