If you’re in law school, you can probably relate to the feeling of getting into the zone with an assignment or preparing for exams and completely forgetting about something important: someone’s birthday, the fact that you have a dog that needs walking, when your credit card bill is due, etc. It’s understandable—you have a lot going on! This is one of the reasons we here at the Law School Toolbox encourage our students to keep detailed calendars—not so much to remember holidays and things like that, but to make sure that nothing important is falling by the wayside. What qualifies as “important,” you might ask? Well, scheduling time to write practice hypos, going to your professor’s office hours, deadlines for applying to jobs, or following up on ongoing projects.
Students often tell me things like, “Thanks for following up about the hypo,” or “I was surprised you remembered when my legal writing memo. was due, thanks for the encouragement.” Well, I’m here to let you in on a little secret: If I had to remember every single thing going on in every student’s life, that would be impossible. However, thanks to a handy trick, you can keep everything on your radar. It’s called Follow Up Then.
Follow Up Then . . . My Secret Productivity Manager.
What is Follow Up Then? Basically, it’s a free email reminder program that you personalize and then it sends you an email on the date/time you specify. For example, my Follow Up Then reminders to myself might say things like: “Ask James where his hypo is if you haven’t gotten it yet,” or “Alice wanted to talk about starting the new semester, email her today.”
In law school, you could remind yourself of things like, “Write a one-hour hypo today,” or “Come up with a list of questions before tomorrow’s office hour.” You can even set reminders for things in your personal life that are so easy to forget when you get really swamped. For example, you might set up a reminder for yourself to check your credit card statement every month, or pay your rent or return your library books on time. It might sound odd that you would forget important, no-brainer things like paying your rent, but stranger things have happened! Like I said, law school is busy! The last thing you want to worry about when preparing for midterms is your landlord, bank, or credit score.
How Do Automatic Reminders Work?
It’s simple really. You put your reminder in the subject line of an email (just type whatever text you want to see), and then you email it to the date and time when you want to be reminded. So, for example, you could put “Pay rent” in the subject line, and then send the email to: email@example.com (“fut” stands for Follow Up Then). That entry will send you a reminder on the 25th of every month to pay your rent.
You can also play around with some other time frames like sending: “Congratulate Nikki on her first year as a lawyer” to firstname.lastname@example.org That will remind you to tell Nikki congrats one year from today. There are a lot of different abbreviations to work with. And, don’t tell my significant other, but I may or may not use this to remember our anniversary every year!
Any Tips to Up Your Follow Up Then Game? Yes, Specificity.
When scheduling reminders like the ones above—especially those that are pretty far out in the future, you’ll want to be specific. Notice, I didn’t just write “Congratulate Nikki.” Otherwise, a year from now, I’d probably be asking myself, “Congratulate Nikki on what?” And then, I’d probably never end up sending the email because you could imagine it would be pretty embarrassing to get a note that says “Congrats on the birth of your son” or “Good job finishing college” when in reality you know Nikki doesn’t have any kids and finished college a long time ago. The more specific you can be, the better. Put people’s names, dates, and details. That way, you can remember what you wrote the reminder about in the first place.
How to Become a Follow-Up Master.
Even if you’re not the most productive or organized person, using a tool like this can help you at least appear to be. Plus, it’s a great way to practice improving in these areas. Start off by telling the person you’re going to follow up with that you plan to follow up. Be specific about a date or date range. Then, go stealthily set yourself a detailed reminder and impress all the world when you show up super on point and ready on the day in question.
We’ve all probably worked with someone who drops the ball, let’s call him Floyd. Floyd says things like, “Hmm… that suggestion is a good idea, let me think about it and get back to you.” And then they never do. And then you forget. Or, you feel weird bringing it up again. And then it’s like the whole conversation never happened. Instead, your response to that could be. “Great! You give it some thought and I will check in with you next week if I haven’t heard anything by then.”
Then, when next week rolls around, you get a reminder in your inbox that says, “Ask Floyd if he’s had a chance to think about your idea yet if you haven’t heard from him.” Then you can send an email: Dear Floyd, As we discussed last week, I wanted to check in and see if you had given my idea any thought yet. From, You.” Easy peasy lemon squeazy! You are organized. Floyd is glad someone has a calendar that works, because he certainly didn’t remember. And, your idea gets implemented. Hooray for everyone!
The good news is, this can work with everyone from professors, study groups, prospective employers, co-workers and bosses to friends and family. It really is a one-size-fits-all memory system. I have definitely seen it improve my work. How about you? Have you tried any automatic reminder programs yourself?
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And check out these helpful posts:
- How to Stick to Your Goals in Law School
- How to Organize Your To-Do List in Law School
- Do You Need a Sponsor to Stay Productive in Law School
- Dealing With Law School Time Regret
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