• School of Law

  • Time Management

    The big picture: why is time management important?

    There is a reason students are constantly asking the ASP staff for help in managing their time.  Time management is essential for success in law school.  Studies have shown that students who prepare and stick to written schedules get better grades.  Moreover, students who control their time have lower levels of anxiety and stress.  Students who are under less stress are able to use their time more effectively. 

    Time management is especially important in law school because there are so few externally-imposed deadlines.  You are given a schedule of legal writing assignments and, of course, regular reading assignments.  But aside from the general obligation to be prepared and attend class, nothing much really happens in terms of evaluation until the final exam. The possibility of being called on in class provides some incentive not to fall behind, but for the most part you are expected to keep up without any one telling you to do so, or checking (via an assignment or a quiz) to see that you are staying on track.  

    General guidelines for managing your time

    Some people are natural time managers.  You know them.  These are the people who never let their toast burn, who never leave a pile of clothes wrinkling in the dryer, who never leave their children stranded at day care while the after-hours charges accumulate.  Other people have to work at time management.  If you fall into this second category, here are some general guidelines for managing your time.

    1.   Take responsibility for your choices.  This guideline is the most important.  You have chosen to be here.  Law school is an enormous commitment of time and money.  For many of you, law school is a detour off of a successful career path; others of you have moved not just yourselves but your families to a new place and a new life in the Twin Cities.  You have already made the big choice to be here.  Time management just means following through on the smaller choices it takes every day to succeed.  Succeeding in law school DOES NOT mean you have to spend every minute studying.  It does mean that when you choose not to study, you recognize that decision as a conscious choice.

    2.   Be accountable to yourself for meeting your goals.  This guideline goes hand in hand with the first.  YOU take responsibility; YOU pay the price for your choices.  Imagine you have set the goal of outlining personal jurisdiction over the weekend.  You planned to work Friday night, but a friend invites you to a movie.  You can go to the movie, but you have to pay the price.  The "price" does not have to be onerous--it can be as simple spending Saturday afternoon in the library so that you get your outline done.  The "price" should not be failing to complete the outline. 

    3.  A principle from budgeting--pay your bills first.  Many people pay their bills these days by automatic withdrawals.  That way, they know they have met their obligations before they start spending the extra.  Time management works the same way.  Certain time is spoken for each day.  That may include class time, a job, child care time, etc.  Reading, outlining and time to complete legal writing assignments need to take priority right after the scheduled obligations.  TREAT STUDYING LIKE AN APPOINTMENT.  Put it on your calendar, just like a bill you must pay on a regular basis.  That way, when the friend invites you to that movie on Friday night, you will know clearly that you ARE MAKING A CHOICE, either to forego your "appointment" with your civil procdure outline (and "reschedule" it for later in the weekend) or to say no to your friend and follow the original plan.

    4.  Also from budgeting--plan for emergencies.  Financial planners everywhere tell people to set aside a "rainy day" fund.  You need to treat your time the same way.  DO NOT SCHEDULE EVERY MINUTE.  Leave some slack in your schedule for a flat tire, a sick child, or an assignment that ended up taking twice as long as you thought it would.  If the emergency doesn't happen, then you have the happy choice of using that extra time to get ahead in school or to kick back and enjoy the benefits of your new efficient lifestyle.  Whatever you choose is fine; just make it a conscious choice.

    5.  And a tip from dieting--save dessert for last.  Again, being a law student does not mean you have to spend every moment studying.  And, sometimes a social opportunity arises that is just too good to pass up (yes, this can happen, even to law students).  But, in general, save the fun for last.  See guideline number 3.  Pay your bills; eat the healthy, balanced meals; DO YOUR HOMEWORK.  Then, if you have money, calories, or time left over, by all means enjoy yourself.  In fact, you will undoubtedly enjoy yourself more if you are not burdened with the guilt of knowing you have left important tasks unfinished.

    6.  Set realistic goals.  Outlining personal jurisdiction may be a realistic goal for a weekend.  Outlining all four classes and completing your legal writing memo probably is not.  No one starts a fitness regime by running a marathon.  People who set unrealistic goals for themselves usually end up discouraged, defeated and unlikely to keep trying.  There will be times you won't make your goal, but you'll come closer and have a greater chance of success if you keep those goals realistic.  Over time, success at each small goal will add up achieving your ultimate goal--success in law school.

    Creating a Weekly Schedule

    Creating a Semester Schedule

    Sample Planners