Spring Break is on its way and we are all ready for a breather from classes and our ordinary commitments. But it’s short and precious, and can slip away so fast! So let’s talk about how to use it effectively so we’re not lamenting lost time when classes begin again.
When it comes right down to it, you can use your break for three things: (1) a true vacation from work; (2) catching up; or (3) getting ahead. But how to decide? Here are some things to consider when making your decision to help you get the most out of Spring Break.
1. Vacation from Work
There’s nothing wrong with taking a true break from schoolwork. Maybe you have an exotic vacation planned, are off to see family or friends, or just want to putter about at home. A vacation from schoolwork can be very beneficial, but if you are going to take a break, be deliberate about it.
Decide in advance that you are going to take time off, don’t just casually slide into it. If you want to spend all week watching reruns of The Office, that is OK, but decide that you will do that, don’t wake up planning to be productive and accidentally watch Jim and Pam for 12 hours instead.
Being deliberate about the decision requires you to be honest with yourself. In making your decision, think about the following:
Do you need a break?
We’re not machines, we all need a break sometimes. And we can often be more productive and more focused after we’ve given ourselves a chance to rest, recover, and reflect.
This semester may have been particularly difficult. You may be behind on sleep. You may have a newborn baby, or a new puppy, or a sick relative, or… only you know. Life happens, even while we are in law school. But it is important to be self-reflective, honest with yourself, and recognize when you need time off.
Can you Afford to Take a Break?
Again, this question requires you to be honest with yourself. Are you terribly behind on all of your schoolwork? Did you overcommit this semester? If you take all week off, can you still fulfill all of your obligations?
Even if you decide that you can’t afford to take the whole week off, if you need a break, think about taking just a deliberate day or two off. If you do need this time off, recognize that, balance your needs (just like the judges do!), and commit to splitting your time between schoolwork and rest.
If you are honest with yourself about your needs and make a plan, you can maximize the usefulness of your time off and avoid the guilt and panic that an inadvertent and accidental week of aimlessness can produce.
2. Catching Up
Let’s be honest, it’s easy to get behind at the beginning of the semester! By the time Spring Break arrives you might be a bit behind on reading, papers, memos, or a host of other things and Spring Break can seem like a panacea.
And maybe it is. But before you use Spring Break to catch up on every little thing you’ve neglected for the first half of the semester, take an honest look at what will benefit you the most. Remember that only certain things are graded in law school and some grades are weighted more, or will matter more, in the long-run. But also remember that law school is meant to teach you to “think” like a lawyer. An important part of this is learning to read and process cases. When you are deciding how to spend your Spring Break, weigh these different goals. Will reading every assigned page for that one class help you most on the exam, or will working through sample problems and beginning to outline and put concepts into conversation with one another benefit you more?
Again, only you can answer these questions for yourself. But thinking through these questions can help you decide how to make your Spring Break work for you.
3. Getting Ahead
If you are well-rested, don’t need a mental break, are up-to-date on all of your reading and assignments you might be a robot – no! I mean, getting ahead is the natural choice!
But even those of us who can’t check all of those boxes might decide to spend our breaks getting ahead. The end of the semester is stressful with deadlines and exams piling up. Even if you aren’t caught up on every page of reading, it might be worth getting a jump start on that writing assignment that is due in a few weeks or on studying for one or more of your exams.
This may sound like heresy, but hear me out. All of the research shows that the experts advise that we learn better when we don’t study at the last minute or write a large assignment in one sitting, without time for editing. By starting on some of these tasks now you may be more successful in the long-run. You may also “break up” the type of work you are doing, giving your brain a rest from repeated activity (like reading), without losing study time, and improve your ultimate performance.
Only you can decide how to best use your Spring Break. Be honest with yourself. Then go forth and make your Spring Break work for you!
And check out these helpful posts:
- Dealing with Law School “Time Regret”
- How Being a Law Student and a Functional Human Being Don’t Have to Be Mutually Exclusive – Finding Balance
- Ahead of the Curve: How to Ensure You’re Getting Things Done in Law School
- Time for a Mid-semester Reality Check
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.
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