If you haven’t heard of Trello, buckle up and be prepared to be blown away. With time always at a premium in law school, and law students constantly on the lookout for pain-free ways to stay organized, Trello may be the best thing to happen to law students since the § symbol or those two ships called Peerless arrived in Liverpool two months apart.
According to its website, “Trello is the easy, free, flexible, and visual way to manage your projects and organize anything. . .” Translation, Trello is free and can help even the most beleaguered law student wrestle control of their coursework, exam prep, and law school schedule. This post provides a quick overview of the ways that Trello can help increase efficiency, be better prepared for class, and crush exams throughout law school.
Baby Steps to Good Habits
The key to success in law school is developing good habits. Habits related to case briefing, maintaining outlines, and exam prep developed early on and maintained throughout the semester can have a significant impact on a law student’s success and absolutely result in higher grades in classes. You can start by creating a goals board in Trello. If you first set goals for yourself in each class, then develop daily habits or tasks to achieve those goals, before you know it, your habits will become rote. By using Trello to track both the overarching goals and the daily, weekly, and monthly habits to achieve those goals, you will see big results in a relatively short period of time.
Start With the 10,000-Foot View: Goal Setting
Trello uses cards to keep things organized. The first row of cards should be the big-picture things. For example, cards for upcoming dates (exams, homework, co-curricular dates, etc.), your big semester-long or year-long goals as well as your personal mantra or vision to keep you motivated. You should revisit this column of cards regularly to ensure the things that you are doing are supporting your overarching goals and to ensure that nothing gets missed. Things like “brief each case,” or “outline through the semester for each class” might be helpful, but the sky is the limit.
The Tasks to Achieve Your Goals
The next column of cards should include all of the one-off activities that shouldn’t take more than an hour or two. These are not massive projects and should fit within the overall vision listed in the first column of your board. These are the little things that keep you productive but are small enough that they don’t need to be repeated. Maybe something like organize your Contracts notes or binder is a good example of this. Trello has lots of customizable labels one can use to identify categories of tasks. If an item doesn’t fit into one of the labels you’ve created for this productivity board, either find an appropriate category and give it a label, or it doesn’t belong in this column.
To Do or Not To Do? That is the Question!
The next column of cards is populated with a series of cards that contain checklists (one of the many cool customizations that Trello provides) for the week. These to-do items should come from the column to the left of this one, and the objective with each card is ultimately to move it to the “Done” column. But, before you get there, the magic occurs as you complete the checklist items on each card. This is a visual representation of each supporting item pushing you toward the completion of each goal.
This might be easier to visualize with an example of the workflow described:
- Big-Picture Item 1: Get an A in Torts. Measure success by briefing all cases, passing all quizzes, developing outline early, and crushing the final exam.
This can be done with each class, co-curricular activity, work, etc. Once you have these daily and weekly cards created, it’s possible to create a Monthly Checklist card that includes every discrete task for the month. These should be the small actions that help you reach your overarching goals. These monthly cards would include information from all classes, activities, etc. These should be all the little tasks you need to complete by the end of each month. It’s a good idea to make similar checklists for each week as well. The satisfaction of checking the boxes off each day, week, and month is amazing, and when things aren’t checked off, you know you need to budget some time to get things done.
The Daily Events board contains cards on which you can list the daily activities you know happen each day and also a place to document thoughts or ideas. I don’t think of this as a journal per se, but it functions in a similar fashion. It’s a place with a dated card on which you can reflect on you day, new things you heard or learned, etc. This might also result in new daily, weekly, or monthly tasks to add to the other boards.
Trello Has Extras!
There is so much functionality within the Trello platform that make this productivity tracker so powerful. For instance, there are countless customizable fields that can be added to the cards on your tracker. In addition, the checklists in Trello look amazing, are easy to build, and as you check things off, Trello crosses them off (so satisfying). It may take you some time to play with the capabilities of Trello to make your productivity tracker work for you, but with a little effort on the front end, Trello can help law students ramp up their levels of productivity.
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