6 tips for law students to get things done this year

[1] Stop procrastinating.

You always hear law students complaining about how much they procrastinate. Etymologically, "procrastination" is derived from the Latin verb procrastinare — to put off until tomorrow. But it’s more than just voluntarily delaying. Procrastination is also derived from the ancient Greek word akrasia — doing something against our better judgment. (Tim Herrera. 6 Tips to Getting Things Done in 2020. Published Dec. 24, 2019 Updated Dec. 26, 2019. www.nytimes.com/2019/12/24/smarter-living/6-tips-to-getting-things-done-in-2020.html)

Although it is unhealthy to punish yourself too much for procrastinating (because most people do procrastinate), you should also not tolerate yourself either. As a law student, you have many pages more to read and more and more cases to update yourself on as the Supreme Court releases decisions almost every day. Get things done.

[2] Stop precrastinating.

David Rosenbaum, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, published a study in 2014 in which he coined the term "precrastination," which he defines as the tendency to tackle subgoals at the earliest opportunity — even at the expense of extra effort. (Herrera, 2019)

In a similar study from 2018, led by Lisa Fournier, a professor of psychology at Washington State University, subjects were tasked with retrieving two buckets of balls. One was 6 to 12 feet in front of them, and the other was another 6 to 10 feet farther. Eighty percent of the subjects picked up the first bucket, carried it with them all the way to the second one, and then carried both back to the starting point. (Tim Herrera. 6 Tips to Getting Things Done in 2020. Published Dec. 24, 2019 Updated Dec. 26, 2019. www.nytimes.com/2019/12/24/smarter-living/6-tips-to-getting-things-done-in-2020.html)

For law students, this piece of advice has a very practical application. Some of us, when we see other students holding an updated book, panic and bend over backwards to have the same book. When we see other law students performing well in recitations and exams, we ask them what book or reviewer they use and buy it without even finishing the book we already have.

During the enrollment period, many law students enroll subjects offered for upperclassmen in the hopes of graduating "on time" even though they are not yet ready. As a result, they tend to juggle too many books at the same time and fail in mastering the subjects they are currently expected to focus on.

The reason for this mentality to "precrastinate" is our wrong definition of progress. We see progress as a matter of leaps and bounds. We tend to forget that progress, more often, is gradual and imperceptible (like accretion in property law). We prevent life to take its natural course.

[3] Do attention management.

They always say we should be good at time management but what it teaches us is to do things as fast as we can. This can sometimes be unhealthy as we cannot all do the same thing at the same pace. "Attention management is the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, in the right places and at the right moments. Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes." (Herrera, 2019)

"Attention management is the practice of controlling distractions, being present in the moment, finding flow, and maximizing focus, so that you can unleash your genius. It's about being intentional instead of reactive." (Maura Thomas, March 15, 2018. To Control Your Life, Control What You Pay Attention To. hbr.org)Attention management refers to models and tools for supporting the management of attention at the individual or at the collective level, and at the short-term (quasi real time) or at a longer term (over periods of weeks or months). (Attention management. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention_management)

[4] Do deep work.

"Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It's a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there's a better way." (Cal Newport, January 5, 2016. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. www.amazon.com/Deep-Work-Focused-Success-Distracted/dp/1455586692)

[5] Disconnect.

"Making ourselves inaccessible from time to time is essential to boosting our focus. A 2017 survey from the American Psychological Association found that being constantly and permanently reachable on an electronic device — checking work emails on your day off; continuously cycling through social media feeds; responding to text messages at all hours — is associated with higher stress levels. Half-paying attention to everything means you’re not able to fully pay attention to anything. And that kind of task switching comes with a cost." (Tim Herrera. 6 Tips to Getting Things Done in 2020. Published Dec. 24, 2019 Updated Dec. 26, 2019. www.nytimes.com/2019/12/24/smarter-living/6-tips-to-getting-things-done-in-2020.html)

[6] Accept minimum outcomes.

Progress, no matter how small, is still progress. The problem is we always forget this and castigate ourselves when improvement is too small or too slow.

We tend to compare ourselves with those who are already living our dream. Law students compare themselves with lawyers, judges, justices and law experts. This is unhealthy because we expect too much from ourselves and we can only do so much within a a day.

This is why we should accept minimum outcomes. If you set a goal to read 10 pages a day, do it but do not read 11 pages. Celebrate once you finish reading the tenth page and congratulate yourself. The next day, set a bit of a higher goal and repeat.

"This idea of making "Mostly Fine Decisions" (or MFDs) is addictive if you think about it. You’re not giving up your ambition or your goals, but you are getting things done. "The MFD is the minimum outcome you’re willing to accept as a consequence of a decision. It’s what you’d be perfectly fine with, rather than the outcome that would be perfect," writes Smarter Living editor Tim Herrera at The New York Times." (Shine. November 13, 2019. Why You Should Make More ‘Mostly Fine Decisions’. www.success.com/why-you-should-make-more-mostly-fine-decisions)

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