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School of Law

Time Management and Calendar Resources

Managing time is one of the greatest challenges for law students. When law students feel in control of their time, their stress level is generally also manageable. However, when "stress levels" increase, time demands seem to lead the student around instead of the student making choices about allocations of time. Which comes first, the stress or the feelings of being out of control of one's time? It is difficult to say, but, we do know that taking charge of time is often a first step in decreasing generalized feelings of anxiety for students.

Since law study is so time demanding, time and study choices are linked. Good time management must address a study schedule. However, more than a "study schedule" must be included in a time schedule. Balance is important for practicing lawyers, and the time to develop the discipline involved in attending to time choices and to leading a balanced life is now. While the pressures of study goals usually require great time commitments, carving out time for family and friends, for healthy living (exercise and regular meals), and for recreation will actually help students study more effectively and learn better. It is a matter of balance.

The key to time management is taking responsibility for choices and being accountable to yourself for meeting your goals.

In general, there are two successful ways to manage time. For some students being scheduled on an hourly basis is liberating. That way, the student knows that everything is getting accomplished in its own time slot. For other students being scheduled runs counter to their general process of working in spurts when the inspiration or deadline drives them. Scheduling can work for each type of student, but it must be done differently for each.

For those students who gravitate toward schedules, a calendar can be very useful. It will help the student know when and where they should be in their day. If this describes you, you may even want to color code your study times to reflect the times you are studying each class, to insure that you are planning your time to cover all of your courses in relation to their demands. See the calendars that are included at this site and the directions for using them.

For those students who resist schedules, or make them, but do not use them, one factor that must be taken into account is wiggle time. If this describes you, you will need to have flexible times in a schedule that you can trade around. The trick for you will be not to take all of your reward time first, but to use these times for relaxation and recreation to reward yourself for doing the tasks you avoid! It may also be very important for you to not over- commit yourself.

My motto is "Something is Better than Nothing!" In terms of time spent studying, doing any work is better than not doing it. Even taking a few minutes to review your notes in a short time period between other activities is another valuable repetition of the information. While there is much more than learning the information to law study, it is necessary to learn the language of law and the material that was covered in class.

Finding multiple approaches to studying is another way to energize yourself to be efficient with your time. For example, there is more to studying than reading for class. Discussing cases and relating them to hypotheticals is a way to learn to apply law to facts. It can also be a way to get to know other students and to learn the different ways they interpret and understand class material. Writing out the problems that are often presented in case books is another way to study more actively. Look up what you do not know. Think how much homework in the form of practice problems has been a part of your learning patterns before. This is a wonderfully active approach to learning to apply in a written format. Pulling the main points from your notes at the end of the week will help you see the big picture! And, while we are talking about being time efficient, remember to consult your table of contents daily as you read for class to remind yourself of the topic about which you are reading!

All of these techniques can help you feel more in control of your time. That increased control of time will not only help reduce the uncertainties that generate stress, but will help you toward a more balanced, healthy approach to law study.

© Martha M. Peters, Ph.D. 1999.

Calendar Resources