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Work Smarter, Not Harder


If you know me at all you might be wondering, “why is Alicia writing a blog about time management? I’m pretty sure she pulled another all-nighter last week?”.

I asked some other final year law students (who don’t always leave their assignments to the last minute) to share some of the tips and techniques they’ve learnt along the way that have gotten them through Law School so far!

1. EAT THE FROG!

Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Prioritisation is the number one technique to master during law school. The logic behind ‘eating the frog’ is that by tackling your biggest tasks first, you can be satisfied knowing the worst part of your day is already over! When deciding how to prioritise your tasks you should consider how important or urgent the task is.

You can also think of it this way: you’ve got tasks which are urgent and important (Rocks), tasks which are important but not urgent (Pebbles), and tasks which are neither important or urgent (Sand). When filling up a glass jar, to fit the most in you want to fill it first with the biggest rocks, and then with pebbles and sand to fill in the gaps. If you fill your jar with sand and pebbles first, not only will it fill quicker, there won’t be enough room for the rocks!

2. Chunking

Go bigger than writing your deadlines down on a calendar! Everyone enjoys making their diaries look pretty at the start of semester; and if you’re like me, you probably spend more time creating the illusion of organisation than actually being organised! Chunking can be a great way to turn that to do list into action. You can better manage your time by breaking up your day into large chunks. Scheduling your day into two- or three-hour chunks dedicated to one task means there should be less interruptions from having to stop and start a task again, improving your productivity.

If you’re one to get bogged down on timings, don’t set yourself a start time. If I say I will stop watching TV at 8pm and it’s now 8:01, you bet I will have to wait until 8:30pm to start working. It is better to say I will spend two hours on my readings, do it when you I am ready, and get it done sooner.

3. The Pomodoro Technique

I can 100% vouch for this technique – if it can keep me focused on a task, it can help you too! First, you need to decide on a task you wish to focus on (I have found it helpful when writing essays and problem questions!). You then need to find a timer and set it for 25 minutes (your phone will work but I prefer to use an egg timer #oldschool). You work on the task until the timer rings; this means no snacks, no bathroom breaks, no texting, and no trawling the internet! Once the 25 minutes are up, have a 5-minute break (make sure you get up and move around!). When you have repeated this process four times, you will have successfully remained productive on your task for two hours! You have truly earnt a longer break (an hour max!) before you repeat the process again! Sometimes if I am on a roll I might work through or delay the break until I start to lose focus. Also, when you can see the timer ticking away it can be a good motivator to want to get some words onto the page.

4. Visualise It!

Visualisation can be an important tool to help you realise how efficiently you have been using your time. Colouring in a goal you have achieved, or crossing off an item of your to do list that you have completed can help you to feel rewarded for completing a task. Along with tasks that are urgent and important, including small simple tasks, such as making your bed, can help you to gain a sense of accomplishment and encourage you to want to complete more tasks on your list. Don’t be disheartened it you cannot complete every task on your list. Move them to another day, but if you continuously don’t complete a task make a note to draw your attention.

My Law Mentor recommended to me that when completing extremely large tasks, a great way to stay focused is to track how you spend your time. For my thesis, I am writing all my notes in a journal to keep everything in one place, making sure to date each page to track my progress. I also keep a running total of the hours that I have spent on my thesis (it is even colour-coded!).

5. Eliminate Distractions

Personally, I would hate to know how much time I waste watching strangers dance on Instagram Reels. Knowing what distracts you can help you significantly when trying to better manage your time. Taking some time away from your phone can be the first step! You might want to block certain apps (or websites) during study time, set screen time limits, or keep your phone away from your study space – these are better alternatives than deleting distracting apps entirely! Technology can also be used to help with productivity; there are a number of great apps to help with scheduling, but you can also use Flora to grow plants when you don’t use your phone!

Another key distraction could be the environment that you are trying to work in. Knowing what time of day you work best should be taken into consideration when you create your study schedule. It is also important to know where you work best. I find that in order to work productively I need to have a neutral space with great lighting!

6. Use Stress to Your Advantage

For me, stress is my biggest motivator to get a task completed. Use deadlines to your advantage - whether it is 1 week away or due in 24 hours. Think of all the other tasks that you have to complete within that time period, factoring in time for working, eating and sleeping, and your schedule is starting to look chaotic. I find that thinking in this way forces me to start completing a task; otherwise, I will overthink it too much!

7. Keep Each Other Accountable

For some, working with or around other people can help them to work productively. Whether it be working with a study group (in the library or on Zoom) where you can float ideas or ask questions if you become stuck, or the pressure of having to remain quiet and productive while working in the library’s quiet study space – keeping each other accountable may be the motivation you need to stay focused on a task.

8. Reward Yourself – You Deserve It!

Avoid motivational burn out by making time each day to look after yourself. If rewarding yourself with an episode of Grey’s Anatomy is what it will take to get you to write 500 words of your assignment, so be it! You shouldn’t feel guilty for having a break every now and then – what is important is making sure that you do get back to your studies (eventually).


Perhaps I should take my own advice?

Alicia

About the Author Alicia is studying her fifth year of a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts (Applied Psychology). In addition to her position on the NDSLS as Education Director, Alicia has a passion for reading, rules, and roses. #law #studentlife #timemanagement #studytips #uni #Notredameuni #notredamesyd #ndsls #lawstudent #lawschool #productivity #studysession

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