But when you are in law school, procrastination can cause serious problems.
Why is Procrastination Such an Issue in Law School?
Law school is a marathon — not a sprint. It takes hard work and discipline to study daily (and to take much needed breaks) and generally you are the only one setting up the study schedule. The only accountability is the test looming far in the future.
If you have a tendency to procrastinate, this is a recipe for disaster that can lead to disappointing exam results. Why?
Because you CAN’T CRAM for a law school test! To succeed, you must study regularly, learn the law, and practice. This cannot be done in one day or even in a couple of days. Steady work is required throughout the semester.
What Can You Do to Combat Procrastination?
Here are several techniques you can use to help fight law school procrastination:
- Set up a study schedule. Everyone should do this — it’s very helpful to plan out your day, week, or even month of studying. For example, you might assign each week a subject focus on and set specific goals for that week. What if next week was designated as “Torts Week”? My goals for the week would be to update my Torts outline, write at least one practice exam on Torts, and do two hours of Torts multiple-choice questions. Notice how specific these goals are! Once you’ve set tangible goals, it’s much easier to see if you’re accomplishing what you planned to do.
- Set up an accountability structure for yourself. Sometimes it’s just too difficult to make yourself write that practice exam (we all know how exciting that can be). Want to get it done? Set a deadline for yourself. Talk to your friends and set a time to get together and review the practice exam as a group. This way you’ll have to do it. Or if you don’t want to meet with your classmates, set an appointment with a professor to review your work. Having external deadlines will keep you on track.
- Keep a journal. Journaling is an interesting technique that can help manage your law school workload. Keeping a journal can reduce anxiety and create a sense of accountability. By tracking the work you do every day, you can highlight what you did that you are proud of on a given day and what you wish you had done better. For more details on journaling (in the context of bar exam preparation) check out Matt Racine’s book, The Bar Exam Mind: A Strategy Guide For An Anxiety-Free Bar Exam.
- Take breaks to reward yourself. Breaks are very important to maintain a productive study schedule. You cannot study all day, every day! You need to take breaks to re-fuel yourself and re-focus. But these breaks need to be planned, so they don’t get out of control. Maybe you want to take a break on a given Sunday morning for hiking with friends, or for a dinner out on a Friday night. Not a problem! But don’t become overly indulgent with your breaks, or they’ll just become another way to procrastinate. Make sure you’re getting quality study time in, between your breaks!
- Go to a place that is conducive to studying. When I was in law school, I was never very good at studying at home. Home was full of distractions even though I lived alone (laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, phone calls, bills — you name it, I could come up with something non-school-related to do). So I used to study at locations where I could intensely focus. Sometimes this was the law school library. However, during finals I frequently found the library too busy, crowded, and full of nervous energy. Eventually a friend and I started studying at a library near a medical school in town. The library was open to the public but had no public Internet. (And this was before smart phones.) When you were in a place with no Internet, there really was no Internet, which was great because all you could do was study! You can also take steps to make wherever you study more conducive to studying. Turn off the wireless on your computer. Turn off your cell phone. Avoid the temptation of getting sucked into checking Twitter or Facebook or responding to e-mails. Keeping yourself focused will help with procrastination.
Procrastination is a beast, but you can slay it!
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