All week, I’ve been experimenting with a new time management technique, which I thought you might find useful.
It’s pretty simple (in theory): Only have one goal for the day.
Before you flip out and start telling me you’ve got 14 different things that all need to be done — note that I didn’t say only DO one thing every day. No, you’ll still do “standard” stuff that just has to be done, such as your class reading. But given that you do that basically every day, it’s not really a “goal” (it’s more of a habit).
So, what’s a goal, in this context? I’ll give you two:
- Complete a draft of one section of an outline.
- Write out a practice answer to a simple hypo.
Do you internally recoil at the thought of doing either of these things? Good, that’s your goal for today (or at least one day in the next week).
What I’ve Learned with this Technique
When I first came across this technique on Monday, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake.
One goal?!? I’ll have all my work done in an hour. This is going to be awesome!
What I found was quite different.
- As it turns out, I am terrible at getting things done.
It’s true, I admit it. I’m quite good at doing things as they occur to me (writing a blog post when I’m inspired, sending out Tweets, etc.). But I’m really, really bad at accomplishing the tasks I assign myself.
For example, I had a backlog of posts for The Girl’s Guide to Law School, which were ready to go as soon as I formatted them. Some of these — I kid you not — had been sitting around for a month. (I guess this should have been my first indication the task might be more challenging than expected, given that I’d put it off for a month already.)
Getting these ready to go isn’t hard, it’s just tedious. So, on the assigned day, I procrastinated for the ENTIRE day! When I finally got started, it only took two hours, but I was late to dinner at my friend’s house, because I couldn’t go until I finished.
It did eventually get done, however. Why? Because I knew that was my only goal for the day, and I couldn’t live with the shame of failure!
How this Time-Management Technique Can Help You
If you think about the example above, you’ll probably see some similarities to life as a law student.
- What are you putting off that you know you should do? Chances are good you’ve been planning to start outlining and working on practice questions for the last few weeks. How’s that going? Based on what I’m hearing from students, it’s not really happening.
- Where are you focusing your energies? Odds are that you’re still spending most of your time reading and preparing for class. Those are important, but they cannot be the only thing you’re working on (just like my social media stream can’t be the only thing I do). It’s too easy to get caught up in the tedium of the day-to-day, and lose sight of the bigger picture items, which are actually more important.
Unless you’re exactly where you want to be with your exam prep (in which case, keep doing exactly what you’re doing), try this experiment for the next week.
- For each day, write down ONE achievable goal. It doesn’t even have to be fancy or ambitious. It could literally be “work on Torts outline for one hour.” And then just see how you react when you wake up, and you know that’s your goal for the day.
If you find your goal hanging over you, and you don’t want to do it, don’t panic. Just observe the sensation with curiosity. Examine the reluctance, and get curious about it. Why is it so unappealing to start this task?
Generally, you’re reluctant because the task is either hard, or boring. (Or, rarely, both.) But what you’ll eventually find is that hard and boring things won’t kill you. You just have to get them done.
At least for me, at some point the annoyance of knowing I won’t accomplish the one stupid goal I set for the day is enough to make me get started.
Try it and see how it works for you!
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Looking for more time management tips? Check out our new Members’ area, or read on:
- Time Management Tip: Think of Law School Like a Law Job
- Video Quick Tip: How Much Time Should You Spend on Class?
- Pay Attention in Class — It Can Save You Time!
- The Circles (My Favorite Time Management Technique) (The Girl’s Guide)
What’s your favorite time management tip? Share in the comments!
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