We at the Law School Toolbox have extolled the virtues of prioritizing your to do list. We have also discussed how to calendar your way to better grades. However, even if you’re the type of person who derives some modicum of satisfaction from checking off your day planner throughout the day (and you’re a law student, so you probably do!), being in law school can make otherwise well-intentioned checklists seem overwhelming and unmanageable.
As a law student, it can seem that there is just too much to do — every second of every day! To make matters worse, oftentimes, your schedule will include various parts and sub-parts, and span weeks, or even months, with multiple long- and short-term projects, goals and deadlines throughout. So, how do you keep everything in order? In this post, you will see some of our favorite online tools and apps to help keep you organized this semester.
The List Organizers
Among some top apps and programs that can help you organize your to do list are: Wunderlist, Anydo, Ticktick, and Todoist. Sure, your smart phone has a built-in task list you can check off, but what makes these tools special is all of their added features, such as the ability to create sub-lists for particular projects, re-prioritize, and even day planning routines — whereby you decide each morning what items to keep on your list for the day and which to postpone until tomorrow or next week. Some even have date and place reminders. That way, not only can you be reminded to return your library books when they’re due, you’ll also get a reminder when you’re actually near the library (which, let’s face it, is probably all the time anyway). Other nifty features include automatic syncing with your other devices, and even the ability to interactively collaborate and cooperatively compile and complete checklists you’ve shared with others — for instance, your study group.
The Project Managers
Some key competitors in this category are Trello, Asana, Onenote, and Evernote. Some of these tools work well for longer term projects and document storage and organization, and others for short-term tasks, but they are all great at putting the info. you need in one place so you can keep track of it. We particularly like Trello because it is super straightforward and remarkably helpful! It’s sort of like playing solitaire on a virtual bulletin board—there are lots of cards that you can add (one for each of your tasks). These are cascaded in a list, and you can move them from one category, e.g. “to do” to another, e.g. “done” (or whatever you want to call your categories). You can also make your own lists, share with friends and study partners, set timed reminders, and attach and link files to various cards. If you need to re-prioritize something on your cascade of cards, no problem! You can just drag it to the top. And, since you can see all the cards on your board at once, it’s easier to keep everything on your radar.
The Task Reminders
Have you ever read an e-mail or gotten an assignment and mentally added the item to your to do list, but then closed your computer or notebook and promptly forgotten it? Maybe you keep action items in your e-mail marked as “unread,” but this can get overwhelming pretty quickly too. Perhaps you use a paper day planner or a good old-fashioned post-it note stuck to your bathroom mirror? There’s a better way! Using automated e-mail reminders, you can quickly set a date and time that you want to receive a new reminder e-mail regarding just about anything.
One such tool is Followupthen. So, how does it work? Basically, you can take anything, from an office hour appointment to your final paper in legal writing, to something more incremental like double checking all of your citations or tabbing your Bluebook. Put it in the subject line of an e-mail, and send it to, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org. Then, on Thursday morning, you will get a reminder with the text of the subject line you input, such as “did you double check all of your citations yet?” You can even postpone, edit or delete items if your priorities or deadlines change. This tool can be a fantastic way to keep your to do list organized, especially if you have trouble refreshing your recollection about the multitude of items on your list.
This list is by no means exhaustive. If you are looking for similar tools, there are lots of both free and paid options (most of the ones above have free versions) that you can use on your phone, computer or tablet, no matter where you are. We encourage you to explore which ones might work best for you!
Here’s a caveat, though. If you tend to get caught up in shiny new details and fun colorful projects that seem infinitely more interesting than your Legislation or Property homework that is due tomorrow, you should set a time limit for yourself when researching these options. It’s easy to feel like you’re being “productive” when doing the leg work to organize your semester, but remember, your outlines and hypos are what you should be focusing on right now! If you want to learn more about these tools, I would recommend using something like the circles method to manage your study time now, and then going to look up some of these organizational ideas on your break time — after you’ve filled in a few circles and checked off the to do list you already have.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- How Being a Law Student and a Functional Human Don’t Have to Be Mutually Exclusive
- The 2L Slip: Balancing On-Campus Interviews and Extra Curricular Activities
- Need More Time? Study Smart Before Your Law School Class
- Dealing With Law School Time Regret
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