Archive for April, 2013

Ten Ways to Improve your Class Presentations

April 3, 2013

By using technology to aid, rather than deliver your presentations, you’ll be able to focus on delivering your message clearly and in a memorable way… which brings me to my ten hot tips for improving your use of technology in class presentations:

1.Let your prepared notes guide your presentation, not your PowerPoint. Be tempted to not even look at your PowerPoint.
2.Remember that you’re talking to a human audience, not to PowerPoint. People like to hear you speak slowly, clearly, and with a bit of expression and body language.
3.Invite your audience to think, rather than absorb your content.
4.To that effect, use simple and thought-provoking media. Short quotes, an interesting picture or video, an anecdote, or a funny slide titles will bring your audience’s attention to the topic.
5.Use less text on your slides. There’s nothing worse than having to read an entire paragraph of a judgment from a projector screen, or listening to someone read what’s already in plain sight.
6.For that matter, use less everything on your slides. I don’t want to see tables, graphs, text, some vaguely relevant picture, and a surprise clip-art man exploding onto the screen. I just want to be able to think about what you’re saying without being distracted.
7.An interesting presentation does not need garish colours, designs, animations, or fonts. At the same time, it does need to be more interesting to look at than a plain Word document.
8.Be consistent in your slide designs. Yes, PowerPoint is so flexible, but I really want to focus on your content, not your skills in data layout or graphic design.
9.Try something different to PowerPoint altogether. Check out Prezi, a popular alternative to PP.
10.Remember the Golden Rule: use technology to aid your presentation, not to actually deliver it!

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How to Prepare for a Tutorial at the Last Minute

April 3, 2013

Needed to catch up on the latest episode of Suits? Participated in a procrastibaking marathon? Spent more than a few minutes giggling at memes? Did that looming property assignment mean that tutorial preparation took a back seat? Or did you just forget that you had a tutorial until it was too late to commit to any meaningful study?

I’m not going to give you a lecture on how terrible your study habits are… After all, the saying “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”, isn’t always gospel law.

Few law students can say that they’ve fully prepared for every tutorial since the start of law school Despite how invincible and perfect you perceive your law student self to be, you’re only human. As you know, required readings can, and often do, exceed 100 pages when you’re studying numerous law subjects. If you only have a few hours before your tutorial, don’t try to read all of the pages. In fact, don’t even touch your textbook… yet.

Firstly, read over the tutorial problems. These will tell you which aspects of the readings require more focus. Next to the questions, make notes as to the area of law you need to look into, and the elements required, if you know them. If not, look up the legislation or go find the elements in your textbook. Skim read the relevant tests and some case authority, and you’re good to go.

If your readings require you to read cases, consult case notes first. This way, you’ll get the general gist of the case without having to trawl through a tower of pages. Then, make a brief note of the facts, and skim through until you find the ratio of the relevant judgment(s). While obiter is important too, don’t dwell on it unless the tutorial question specifically asks you to discuss it.

You’re in a rush so bullet points for answers are understandable, but you should go back and fix these up after your tutorial. This way, you won’t form a bad habit, and you’ll thank yourself come exam time.

Obviously your answers won’t be super detailed and meticulously formed, so don’t be afraid to be honest with your tutor if you cannot expand on them. Your tutor won’t kill you (let’s be honest, a murder charge doesn’t look good on anyone’s record!) Whilst he/she won’t be impressed, you’ll scrape through the tutorial and receive some marks for attendance and limited participation… Every little helps, right? Plus, if your tutor grills you on something, at least once the burn soothes, you won’t be forgetting that point any time soon.

While some tutorial preparation is better than none at all, you can’t survive the semester on emergency prep alone, so make sure you step up your game for next class. Also, ensure you catch up on anything you missed in your studious haste, or risk drawing blanks in your final exams

How to Be More Productive

April 3, 2013

It’s the pointy end of semester, that terrifying couple of weeks each year where exams seem like they might actually become a reality. But when you’ve been coasting for most of the semester, discipline seems to elude you, and you get the sense that you’re losing a lot of study time, although you’re not sure where it all goes. Here are some productivity tips to help you find more hours in the day…

Plan and prioritise
A study timetable helps to ensure that you’ll finish studying in time for exams, but it will also help you to prioritise your commitments and makes it easier to say no to fun distractions that could probably wait until after exams.

Whenever you think of an activity that you’d rather be doing (such as watching all four seasons of a TV series or procrastibaking five different kinds of cake) put it on a list. You’ll be able to do some of these activities as a study break, and the things that have to wait until post-exams will help to motivate you.

Work out where you can share the workload or where things can be delayed
Law students tend to be pretty determined to do everything on their own, but it’s just not necessary. Write notes with a study group and find other ways to share the work.

People often say that tasks are urgent, but it’s rare that everything on your ‘do now’ list actually has to be done straight away. People are generally understanding of your study commitments and are happy to wait; all you have to do is explain the circumstances to them.

Avoid Technology
This may be a bit controversial, but technology isn’t 100% essential to a lot of study tasks. You need a laptop to research and write an essay, but you can print off journal articles to read and draft essays to edit.

Working on a computer brings temptation, namely from the chirping noises of Facebook and Gmail chat, so wherever possible turn off your laptop and focus on the task at hand.

Most of us are in the habit of opening Facebook/Twitter/email every time we sit down to start working on a computer. This is a massive time waster. By the time you’ve finished answering emails or updating your status, the study motivation has disappeared. Schedule technology as a reward and put an end time on it. If Facebook is set as your homepage, change it.

Take care of yourself
All work and no play makes for a moody, unproductive law student. Always make time to sleep, eat properly, exercise, shower, and do the things you love. Time out is important, even when exams are days away, so set aside an hour or two for relaxation.

Taking regular breaks is important, and you may also need to vary where you study to stay refreshed and motivated.

Focus on one thing at a time
Multi-tasking seems incredibly productive, but while it feels like you’re doing everything nothing is actually finished. Focus on individual tasks and it will take less time.

Group similar tasks together
Some tasks are repetitive. Whether it’s writing sort case summaries, or answering emails, group them together and get it done quicker.

Do some easy tasks
If you’re feeling like you’re not making a lot of progress, do a couple of quick, easy tasks to help you feel like you’re powering through the work.

Know when to stop
You want that set of notes to be perfect but you have two other subjects to write exam notes for, and you haven’t even looked at practice questions yet. Average preparation in all subjects is better than perfect preparation for one exam. Don’t be a perfectionist and give your other topics some attention.

Give in to procrastination
Even with all that willpower, sometimes you just have to get it out of your system. Watch the rest of that series or finish reading that book. Chances are you’ll feel guilty the whole time and be totally motivated to get back into study.

Five Tips for Making Study Sessions more Exciting

April 3, 2013

At the start of semester, there’s nothing more exciting than getting back into all of those readings and assessments… right? But once you’re back in study mode, holding on to that study motivation becomes a challenge. Here are some tips (bribery methods) that I’ve discovered over the years…

1. Have the best stationery anyone has ever seen
All law students love stationery, and you only get to experience the true awesomeness of the various colours and applications of stationery by using them. So every semester I get a ‘kit’ of brand new stationery that I use only for law school. Feeling organised and supported by my assortment of pens and page tabs, those thick textbooks suddenly don’t feel like a challenge anymore.

2. Don’t rush for deadlines: sometimes you have assessments, but remember that learning is for your lifetime
Avoid tunnel vision that comes with orientating your study just around assessment due dates. You will never regret doing your readings properly (that does include skim and speed reading where appropriate) and understanding concepts well the first time round.

Remember that your core subjects do have a fair amount of overlap – think of time saving as a big picture challenge and study actually becomes easier as you progress into your degree. That’s right – you can make law school easier.

It’s also worth considering summer or winter school. The shorter teaching period means you can focus on only one or two subjects. While it’s intensive, keeping yourself in study mode means it’ll be easier to get back into university life after a break.

3. Study a topic of personal passion
Don’t take elective choices for granted. It’s all too easy to select electives that appear to have ‘easier’ assessment or that involve less contact time. But ask yourself: will you enjoy the subject? Will it engage you? Studying something that you have a genuine curiosity about turns study into a pleasure (and typically, into higher grades).

Also, if the subject area is a long-held passion of yours, chances are that you’ve already done a lot of reading about it and will grasp the topics quicker.

4. Know what you need to be studying and prioritise
It’s something all students are told, but following it is another thing. Knowing for certain that you are checking off a list of items that must be studied and reaching each as a separate goal is actually kind of exciting when you think about.

Why? Because you have set yourself an end point for each main topic or task. This takes away the gloomy feeling of ‘this will never end!’. Plus, when you have accomplished one of your goals, you now have some time for a break to catch up on your TV viewing.

5. Exercise, Healthy Snacks and Breaks
A healthy body and mind is the foundation for a less torturous study session. Studying when you’re feeling well allows you to get the work done more efficiently and to produce work of a better quality.

So always remember: sleep for energy (no energy drinks!), regular short breaks to de-stress and snacks for brain fuel (you can have a bit of chocolate, it’s okay!). Admittedly, I’ve completed study sessions while working my way through a large pizza by myself a number of times. So I understand how hard keeping to healthy brain foods can be.

If these tips don’t help you to get through your weekly workload, remember that effective study sessions lead to more spare time for doing fun things. Keeping yourself motivated and setting goals that help you to get through your study efficiently leads to spare time for shopping/eating/sleeping/partying, without the guilt that accompanies procrastination.

ORGANISED CHAOS – KEEPING EVERYTHING TOGETHER

April 2, 2013

Here at Survive Law, we’re yet to meet a genuinely organised student. The problem with student life is that study seems to consistently get in the way of a good time. Although you could easily avoid that stressful last-minute scramble to complete your constitutional law essay, you’re about as likely to plan ahead and stick to that plan as you are to be hit by a hovercraft.

Planning ahead and allowing time to study/research/write/etc does yield better marks. If we all spent a little bit more time studying and a little bit less time at the pub we’d probably all have glowing academic transcripts. Despite learning this through an occasional bout of self-discipline (brought on by a moment of guilt) most of us have failed to become consistently organised in the long term.

The majority of law students tend to prefer the mantra “why do today something that you could put off until tomorrow?” The problem is that once you’ve exhausted all the fun activities, that assignment is still there and now the deadline is closer. Even if you manage to cobble together an acceptable piece of work to turn in, you can feel your sanity eroding one frantic last-minute assignment at a time.

Regardless of whether you’re an organisational sinner or saint (and we’re certainly not holier than thou) here are a few pointers to get you obsessively organised…

 

1. GET A CALENDAR OR DIARY

Thank you, Captain Obvious. I know it’s a basic step, but it’s seriously helpful for getting on top of things. Take a moment to have a quick read of all your subject outlines and write all the key assessment dates in your calendar or diary. At the very least this will help you to remember deadlines.

On the other hand, this sort of “getting organised” activity is also a fantastic way of procrastinating when you should be working. Remember, colour-coding calendar entries for each of your different subjects is a great way to avoid actual study.

 

2. WHAT’S INVOLVED?

Read and re-read assessment advice for each subject and make a note of what tasks you will have to do for each assignment. It is much easier to get that assessment done when it is broken into smaller, more manageable tasks. Once you know the tasks you have to do, set a deadline for completing each of these.

 

3. AN EXERCISE IN SELF-DECEPTION

You know you will probably fail to meet some/ all of these mini-deadlines you’ve created. The thing to do now is to bring all of these deadlines forward by at least a few days and popping those dates in your diary.

By taking your procrastination tendencies into account, you have now created a buffer zone so that you don’t run out of time for pesky things like checking footnotes, grammar, spelling and filling out a cover sheet. The added bonus of this is that the guilt of an approaching and hitherto neglected deadline will probably spur you on to complete the assignment before the real life due date. Lucky!

 

4. PRIORITISATION

Not doing assignments is usually far more enjoyable than doing assignments, and it seems that procrastination is just about the most fun you can have.

Years ago my dad gave me a copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey. As the title suggests, it was the sort of book parents bought for their kids, rather than a book that a teenager would buy for themselves and then read of their own free will. One thing did stick with me though. There was a section about prioritisation that included a table like this:

 

Important Not Important
Urgent 1 2
Not Urgent 3 4

 

I’ve found this table to be a useful way of prioritising the things that I do, particularly around assessment time. For example, watching re-runs of Friends on TV would probably fall into the Not Important and Not Urgent box. My media law essay that is due in a few days would come under the Important and Urgent category. The numbers in each section of the table denote the order of priority. When you have lots of things on your plate, this table is a handy way of working out what comes first. And it has the added bonus of making you feel guilty for doing something that falls under 4 when you have things on your list in category 1.

In lieu of a better, purer form of motivation, most of us will happily accept guilt as a means of achieving what has to be done.

 

5. BIGGER PICTURE

So you know when your assignment is due and what you have to do by when. Unfortunately, most planning for completion of assessments is done in a sort of social vacuum. Most of us forget to look at the bigger picture. We typically fail to take other activities such as work, social activities, eating, sleeping and even assessments for other uni subjects into account.

Any timetable for completing assessments should be made with a healthy dose or realism. Keeping a to-do list usually will not help you to adequately assess what other demands there will be on your time around an assessment due date. Diaries in a day to a page format can also be deceptive when it comes to planning your time. The one planning tool that has helped me to realistically manage competing demands is this table:

 

Week Legal Skills Ethics Estate Law Law Revue Social
1 Lead class discussion Camping Trip
2 Online Reflection Learn lines
3 Presentation
4 Weekend away
5 Negotiation Assessment Essay 1 due Dress rehearsal

 

This is just a sample but I have found it works really well. The first column indicates the weeks of the semester. All subsequent columns represent different commitments. There is one column for each uni subject and you can also have columns for work, social and extra-curricular commitments.

I keep this table to one page and I am completely dependent on it during semester. It really helps me to predict when the quiet and busy times will be and allows me to plan ahead for these.

When it comes to getting organised, the best tip is to find what works for you and go with it. Your system won’t be perfect, let alone procrastination proof, but even if it is only half-effective your sanity will thank you for it.

CATCHING UP IN TIME FOR EXAMS

April 1, 2013

Sometimes the promises made in first week about doing all the readings, starting assignments early and getting to every class just aren’t possible. As we find ourselves in the later stages of semester, with exams not far away, we begin to fret a little… okay, a lot. 

But fear not! If you’ve fallen behind on the course there’s plenty you can do to catch up in time for exams. To get started, you’ll need organisation, discipline and many delicious study snacks…

 

KNOW HOW YOU LEARN

There’s no point attempting to learn in a hurry if you don’t know how you learn. I’m a visual learner, so diagrams, pictures and colour coordination are the most effective ways for me to learn. To maximize your limited study time and increase your speed of learning, take five minutes to work out what type of learner you are and you’ll soon be able to study at speed.

 

CREATE A CALENDAR

Download and print some free monthly calendars from the Internet that cover the period from now until the end of exams. Make sure you leave some calendar space at the end of exams so you can write ‘Yay exams are done’ or ‘going overseas’ for motivation. Then add (with colour coordination as you please):

  1. Exam dates, times, seat & room numbers (this saves last minute panic)
  2. Commitments such as work and extra curricular activities
  3. Add the dates by which you need to have completed notes, revision, etc. Don’t forget to factor in some time for you can test out your finished notes on a few practice exams.
  4. Add in a few fun things! Make sure your calendar doesn’t totally depress you or you will never study.

Don’t forget to factor in things like:

  • How many lectures do I need to listen to?
  • How many weeks of reading do I need to catch up on?
  • Are there any assignments outstanding? If so, consider what these are worth and how long you need to spend on them.
  • How much paid work do I need to fit in and can this be minimised/ should I take any leave?

 

LEARN TO SAY ‘NO’ OR RESCHEDULE

If your calendar is too full you may need to reorganise, drop a commitment or compromise the grade you’re expecting. Your calendar should look do-able or else it will be too hard to begin studying. You need to trick your brain into thinking this exam period is going to be easy.

Once you have a manageable calendar, learn to say no to commitments that don’t fit in. Can the coffee date you’re trying to fit in be allocated to a time when you will need a study break? If not, can you do it after exams?

 

ORGANISE TO STUDY IN DIFFERENT PLACES AND WITH DIFFERENT PEOPLE

Studying at home can be good, but sometimes it’s boring, lonely and prone to making us a little nutty. Mixing up the way you study can increase effectives and motivation all the while keeping you relatively sane.

 

STUDY WITH FRIENDS IN A STUDY GROUP

Debating how the law works, fighting about which case is the authority and working through problems can be a quick and slightly more fun way to study. A study groupis a terrific way to learn the material, especially for closed book exams.

 

STUDY WITH FRIENDS BUT SEPARATELY

The bonus of this study method is that you usually get a lot done and you can keep each other motivated with study snacks, breaks and (most importantly) keep each other off YouTube and Facebook! Consider keeping yourselves on track with aStudy Contract.

 

STUDY IN THE LIBRARY

The library has fewer distractions than home and having people around you studying often makes you feel guilty if you’re sitting on Facebook.

 

STUDY OUTSIDE

If it’s a nice day do yourself a favour and find some way to get outside – even if only for 15mins to drink your coffee. The sun will make you feel instantly chirpier, even though the sunlight may burn your library eyes a little at first. If you really can’t tear yourself away from study, grab your headphones and listen to your lecturer or draw diagrams of what you just learnt.

 

STUDY WHILE EXERCISING

A simple change to your posture can do amazing things for your figure and your mind! Studying on an exercise ball, reading while lifting weights, doing crunches and push-ups while looking at diagrams, or quizzing yourself while doing wall squats can help you to escape a dull study routine. Even just listening to a lecture while you walk around the block a few times will work wonders.

 

IF ALL ELSE FAILS…

Get someone you trust to change your Facebook password. It sounds extreme but it’s amazing how much extra time you’ll discover!

WHICH LEARNING TYPE AM I?

April 1, 2013

When we struggle to engage with a topic, we tend to fall back on excuses like, “I just wasn’t interested in it” or “I’m never going to need to know what a trust is anyway.” A more likely reason for not understanding something is simply that you’re not learning it the right way.

Understanding the different learning styles and figuring out which one best suits you will allow you to tailor the material to your needs and likely reduce the time and effort you spend studying.

So, which type of learner are you?

There are four primary learning styles: visual, auditory, read-write and kinaesthetic. People learn using a variety of these methods, but one is usually predominant.

 

VISUAL

Visual learners learn by seeing: writing notes, looking at diagrams, illustrations, flowcharts and handouts and by painting mental pictures of issues. Visual learners tend to speak quickly and have a tendency to interrupt.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

  • Writing notes in lectures and from textbooks
  • Drawing flowcharts and diagrams connecting issues
  • Drawing characters in problem scenarios and writing out corresponding issues in dot points

 

AUDITORY

Auditory learners learn by listening: having things explained to them, discussions, talking things through and listening to what other people have to say. Auditory learners interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

  • Reading notes out loud or into a tape recorder
  • Discussing and debating topics with others
  • Listening to lectures over writing notes from textbooks

 

READ-WRITE

Read-write learners prefer information to be displayed in writing and learn by traditional classroom methods of (you guessed it) reading and writing. Read-write learners often work independently and quietly and take exhaustive notes in class.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

  • Writing out key ideas in list form
  • Writing out ideas in your own words
  • Organising diagrams, graphs and other visuals into statements (eg “the trend is…”) or putting actions and flowcharts into words

 

KINAESTHETIC

Kinaesthetic learners learn through moving, doing and touching. Kinaesthetic learners use all senses to engage in learning and learn by doing and solving real-life problems.

LEARNING STRATEGIES

  • Studying for short periods of time to prevent distraction
  • Learning by solving real-life problems as opposed to studying abstract theories
  • Trial and error

 

WHICH LEARNING TYPE ARE YOU?

If you want a more comprehensive analysis of your learning style, look at the skills you use while learning: what helps you absorb the most amount of information? What keeps you going with a topic for longer? Talking to a lecturer may help you identify the best learning strategies for you. There are also free tests available online.

Don’t worry if you don’t fall neatly into one particular learning style: most people use a combination of methods and the key is to find out what works best for you and when, rather than desperately trying to force yourself into one box.

HOW TO MAKE A STUDY TIMETABLE FOR EXAMS

April 1, 2013

Uh-oh. It’s that time of semester. You’ve spent a little too much time watching re-runs of How I Met Your Mother and now exams are only WEEKS AWAY. Gasp! Luckily, an exam study timetable might just save your skin. Here’s how to make one…

 

GETTING STARTED

Check your exam times and download a weekly timetable template from Google Images. If exams are a few weeks away, you may need to print several copies.

Start by filling in exam dates and other commitments such as work, classes, soccer, your best friend’s birthday party, etc. Keeping up extra-curricular activities and social commitments during exam time will help keep you motivated and sane. Also enter the times of your favourite TV shows, etc. If you don’t feel like you’re missing out on everything, it will be easier to stick to your timetable. Plus it’s important to have waking hours where you’re not studying.

Also block out time for essential tasks like sleeping, eating and showering. Maintaining regular sleeping and eating patterns will help you to focus better.

You don’t need to plan your life during STUVAC down to the nearest minute, but an unrealistic timetable will fail within the first few days.

 

PLANNING YOUR STUDY

Work out which subject(s) need the most work. This will depend on how close the exam is, your current level of understanding, and how much the exam is worth as a percentage of your overall subject mark.

Working back from the exam dates, allocate time to study for each subject every day. Like a high school class timetable, you should be covering multiple subjects each day. The closer it gets to an exam, the more time you should spend studying for that particular subject.

Why do it this way? Cramming for your exams in a few days is hell, and not very effective either. It is theoretically possible to study one subject for 18 hours non-stop a day, but how much are you going to take in?

By doing little bits each day, you’ll avoid information overload and make the most of both your short-term and long-term memories. Plus, studying one subject for days on end gets boring fast. Having different subjects to work through means that when you get sick of one, you can switch to another. It gives your brain a change of scenery while still getting work done.

Instead of simply allocating a few hours to “equity study” each day, specify what you want to achieve: “read constructive trusts chapter”, “do 2010 past paper”, etc. This will help you to ensure that you have time to thoroughly study for each subject.

 

PUTTING THE PLAN INTO ACTION

Regular breaks will help you to stay focussed and motivated. Depending on how dense the material is, take a short break every 20-45 minutes. Unlike meal breaks, don’t schedule these breaks into your timetable, simply take them as needed: whenever you feel your focus declining. You’ll only need a short break from your work – long enough to make yourself a cup of coffee, go sit outside for a few minutes, play a round of spider solitaire, etc.

Don’t forget to tick items off your study timetable as you finish them – it’ll make you feel like a study saint.

STAYING MOTIVATED IN THE LEAD UP TO EXAMS

April 1, 2013

Mid-semester break and the week before exams are the times when you’re at your best. After all, it’s easy to find motivation when you really have to work. But what about the weeks in between? How do you stay on track during those grey weeks sandwiched between post-mid-semester break and exams?

 

TAKE STOCK

You’ve just finished your last assignments for the semester: all completed, submitted and presented. You can’t remember not being in the library and what you consider your last decent sleep was an open-mouthed drool on the train coming home. Because you don’t have anything else due before exams there’s every temptation to reward your hard work with a bit of time off. Surely the work you put into your assignments means you can skip just one class, right?

While I’m all for justifying missing lecturers, letting yourself off the hook “just this once” can be dangerous. One lecture becomes two, missing a reading means missing a tute (because you won’t understand the material anyway) and soon enough a week has gone by, you’re behind in everything, you have no desire to play catch up and instead you waste your time and energy on feeling guilty.

To avoid falling into the guilt trap, take stock of your situation. How are you feeling? What do you have to do this week? What are your priorities?

Make a list of the things that are weighing on you: feeling tired, feeling unmotivated, lectures to attend, readings to do, part-time work, sleep, your general health and exercise routine. From this list, identify the things that are non-negotiable, like your health and sleep patterns, and the things that can be postponed or reduced, like part-time work.

 

PLAN

You’ve identified the things that are most important to you; now make them happen. Feeling tired and languid? Pencil eight hours into your daily timetable. Feeling lethargic? Draw little boxes in your diary and tick off your fruits and vegetables for the day and hold yourself accountable for your health. Feeling unmotivated? Create a study timetable, sort out your to-do list and cull what’s least important.

 

HANG IN THERE

Think of these four weeks not as another chunk of semester, but as a challenge for you to overcome. It’s not supposed to be easy but planning will help. Identify what you need to do, and think of strategies to get it done. Staying on top of lectures and readings will be challenging, but planning will allow you to avoid falling into the trap of feeling guilty, disorganised and unmotivated.

Most importantly, take care of yourself and remember that holidays will be here soon enough!

HOW TO STOP PROCRASTINATING

April 1, 2013

Although law students have a knack for legal things, our real talent is procrastination. We put things off until tomorrow, and if we can avoid doing something altogether, even better.

A little bit of procrastination is normal but when you’re consistently trying to do your class readings in the tutorial you should’ve prepared for earlier, maybe it’s time to change your habits.

Here are a few tips for beating procrastination…

 

CONSIDER WHY YOU PROCRASTINATE

Some people say that the thing you do when you procrastinate is the thing you should do for your career. That sounds good, but I’m yet to find a job that requires me to spend my working day watching funny videos and giggling at memes.

If your procrastinatory ways are stopping you achieving the things you need to get done, it could be a good idea to consider the cause. If it’s a particular subject that you consistently put off, it may be a sign that your interests lie elsewhere. Consider the subjects that you’ve really enjoyed and try to enroll in more like it.

If you’re interested in the work but can’t seem to find the motivation to do it, it could be that other factors in your life are behind it. Consider the stresses and distractions you’re experiencing and see what you can do to address these.

 

STOP BEING A PERFECTIONIST

I know this is probably like asking a law student to only own one colour of highlighter, but over-planning and over-finessing are a real procrastination problem.

Organisation is a good thing, but the process of ‘getting organised’ is a great way to put off the work that gets done when you’re actually organised. You know what I mean: spending hours creating the perfect, colour-coded study timetable instead of actually studying, or constantly writing comprehensive to do lists that rarely get shorter.

Plus, perfectionist planning can make a project seem overly complicated and intimidating, which means you’ll put it off for longer. It’s like that episode of How I Met Your Mother when Ted tried to start his own architecture firm. He spent so much time designing the office letterhead and organising the corporate retreat that he never got around to calling potential clients.

Perfectionism also means that law students will often spend a long time perfecting one assignment, while other equally important assessments are neglected. It’s important to know when the law of diminishing marks has kicked in and accept that the work you have done is good enough, and move on to your other assignments.

 

MANAGE DISTRACTIONS

When it comes to procrastination, everyone has a weakness. Work out what yours is and try to limit its impact. There are some great concentration apps available that track how you really use your time there, or that block your favourite procrastination websites.

 

STAY ON TRACK

Commit to a realistic daily to-do list and use your favourite procrastination tasks as a reward for doing those boring yet essential things. Be sure to grab a timer to make sure that your ‘reward time’ doesn’t take over.

Another option for staying on task is to get a study buddy (one who is more disciplined than you), or you could make some sort of grand announcement on Facebook/Twitter that you’ll have finished your notes by the end of the day. Sometimes having an audience means you’re more likely to get that pesky case summary done.

 

WORST THINGS FIRST

Certain tasks are put off for so long that they seem impossible and become entrenched on your to do list, but when necessity forces you to complete it, you realise how simple it actually was. Sound familiar?

Another way to beat procrastination is to start the day with the trickiest, least-appealing job. When that’s completed the rest of the day’s tasks will be way more appealing (and you’ll feel pretty good too).

As a friend once put it to me: “It’s okay to have a ‘too hard’ basket, but don’t let it get too full.” The worst things first approach is a great way to avoid things on your to do list becoming stale.

 

SET DEADLINES AND FOCUS

Deadlines are the procrastinator’s friend; if it weren’t for due dates, nothing would get done. Create some artificial deadlines and try to get that dreaded essay referencing done in the set time period.

When I have a tight deadline to meet, it’s easier to focus. I’m not a massive fan of cleaning the house, so I do a regular ‘hour of power’ and try to get everything done in that time. You end up focusing on being efficient, rather than on how much you detest the job in front of you.

 

JUST START ALREADY!

No matter what it is, starting is the hardest part, but once you’re into it, it’s not that bad. The longer you leave something (even if it’s just a tiny job) the bigger and more complex it will seem.

Don’t make the mistake of planning to start at 3:00pm, because you know exactly how that will pan out: “Oops! It’s 3:03pm now… I’ll start studying at 4pm.”

No more excuses, just start already!